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OpenMedia submits intervention to critical Supreme Court of Canada case that could shape the future of free expression online

Today’s deadline sees all intervenors submit arguments in a case that Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin has called one of the most important the Court will hear this year

October 5, 2016OpenMedia, an intervenor in an upcoming landmark case to be heard at the Supreme Court of Canada this year, submitted its written arguments in advance of oral hearings later this year. Today marked a key deadline by which all intervenors had to submit detailed arguments in the case of Google Inc. v. Equustek Solutions Inc., et al. The Court will be considering an appeal of a 2014 case that required Google to delist results from its global index.

OpenMedia was granted leave to intervene in this critical case and will make arguments defending free expression online and the rights of global Internet users to access information. While it will not take sides on the original ruling, OpenMedia argues that free expression and the core mechanisms of the Internet should be explicitly considered by the Court when it comes to restricting access to online content. OpenMedia also argues that the Internet should be a protected medium of communication under Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

“Search engines are a core mechanism of the Internet – and restricting what they can show in their results represents a significant limitation on access to information and freedom of expression online,” said OpenMedia’s Communications Specialist Meghan Sali. “That’s why we’re working to help create a framework that recognizes this unique aspect of the Internet, by crafting a test that can guide courts about when it’s appropriate to limit expression online.”

OpenMedia’s external legal team includes Edmonton-based Avnish Nanda and Ottawa-based Cynthia Khoo acting as co-counsel. Among other groups granted intervenor status are the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The case has been flagged by intervenors as having global implications because:

  • It is one of an increasing number of cases worldwide where web platforms are being asked to implement restrictions on expression online that reach far beyond the borders of the country where the case was heard;

  • The online free expression legal safeguard OpenMedia is working to establish will set a new standard we hope will be looked to as a model when courts in other countries consider censoring content on the Internet;

  • If this case goes badly, then it could lead to a domino effect, where foreign governments and commercial entities justify censorship of search results by pointing to the precedent set in Canada;

  • If this case goes well, Canada will show leadership and set a positive example for other nations wrestling with these issues.

OpenMedia's application to appear before the Court to submit oral arguments will be considered before the hearing commences on December 6, 2016.

People can learn more about this important case at OpenMedia.org/en/SupremeCourt

 

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