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Landmark Case: Freedom of Expression, Wilful Promotion of Hatred, and the Charter – R. v. Keegstra

Each OJEN Landmark Case includes a case summary, classroom discussion questions and worksheets that encourage students to explore both the legal and societal importance of the case.

Mr. Keegstra started teaching high school in the early 1970s in Eckville, Alberta. He had been a teacher in the town for about 10 years when he came under scrutiny for teaching his students racially prejudiced material targeting Jewish people.

In 1984, Mr. Keegstra was charged under section 319(2) of the Criminal Code of Canada with wilfully promoting hatred against an identifiable group. Mr. Keegstra challenged this on the grounds that s. 319(2) of the Criminal Code violated his right to freedom of expression under s. 2(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that s. 319 violated freedom of expression but it was justifiable under s. 1 of the Charter.

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