Doomed to Fail: Ag-gag and the Canadian Charter

Samantha Skinner, Doomed to Fail: Ag-gag and the Canadian Charter, (LLM Thesis, 2021) Available online here.

Abstract: In late 2019, ag-gag laws began being introduced in Canada. Ag-gag laws are named for their intended effect of gagging activists from exposing the realities of the animal agriculture industry. Animal activists seek to gather and publicly disseminate information using means of bearing witness, undercover investigations, and civil disobedience. Ag-gag laws originated in the US in the 1990s, but saw a revival in the 2010s. In the US, animal law organizations such as the Animal Legal Defense Fund have been successfully challenging the constitutionality of ag-gag laws, with courts in six states finding ag-gag laws to violate the First Amendment right to free speech. Despite the failures of ag-gag laws in US courts, various governments in Canada began introducing ag-gag laws to shield the animal agriculture industry from the growing activism in Canada. In drawing parallels between the US right to free speech and the Canadian Charter’s s. 2(b) freedom of expression, this thesis argues that Canadian ag-gag laws must also be found to unconstitutionally violate the Charter. To be sure, ag-gag laws suppress important activist expression in a way that cannot be justified in a free and democratic society. This thesis seeks to capture the current picture of ag-gag laws in Canada as of June 2021 in anticipation of the impending Charter challenges by Animal Justice et al.