Freedom of Speech: International Perspective

By Nicholas Perugini, Trending Writer

In the United States, we pride ourselves on certain unalienable rights that are protected by our Constitution. One of these rights is freedom of speech. It is actually surprising how special this right is when compared to the other nations around the world. Our neighbor, Canada, does not have freedom of speech in their Constitution. The nation does protect freedom of expression, but speech itself is not mentioned in that document. This may seem like a minor difference, but the implications can be massive. This grey zone in Canada’s Constitution in now being debated at the University of Toronto.

Professor Jordan B. Peterson at the University has caused much controversy since September by rebelling against a new Canadian Bill that was, introduced over the summer, called C-16. The bill plans to protect gender identity and expression from discrimination under Canada’s Human Rights Code and Criminal Code. This bill would allow trans-gender individuals to request being called by gender neutral pronouns instead of the traditional words of ‘he’ or ‘she’. If an individual were to refuse this request, they may face legal trouble. Professor Peterson has stood up against this bill with determination by refusing to call transgendered individuals by their requested pronouns.

Peterson sees this potential new law as an infringement of his right to freedom of speech. To him, this is a potential slippery slope where future rights could become stripped away by the Canadian government. This is what Peterson had to say to BBC News: “I’ve studied authoritarianism for a very long time – for 40 years – and they’re started by people’s attempts to control the ideological and linguistic territory.” Some students have rallied behind his cause, but others have reacted against it. The University plans on having a “civil and respectful” regarding the issue, according to BBC News.

Another area of the world that grapples with issues of freedom of speech versus expression is Europe. Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights allows expression but there is no mention of speech. This has become an issue with the current immigration crisis sweeping through Europe. According to Foreign Policy, all but two European nations have ranked lower on the freedom of press scale from 2013 to 2016. This is worrisome. How can college students and citizens of these countries properly learn about the world around them if the news they are receiving is being somewhat censored? There is a chance that critical information could be lost or intentionally left out.

It is interesting to see that other nations that are similar to the United States in many values, but when it comes to freedom of speech there are some slight differences.

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, November 22nd print edition.

Contact Nicholas at


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