Freedom of expression protects listeners as well as speakers, particularly in the context of members of the public receiving information about the activities of public institutions.

Langenfeld v. TPSB, 2018 ONSC 3447, at para. 51.

Where the law provides that a meeting of a government body is open to the public, the right of an individual to attend the meeting and listen to the deliberations, and if the procedures of the government body permit public participation, to make submissions, is protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms by the s. 2(b)  right of freedom of expression.

Langenfeld v. TPSB, 2018 ONSC 3447, at para. 51.

A search of the person can have the effect of imposing a limit on the exercise of one’s right to freedom of expression that will, subject to s. 1, infringe s. 2(b) of the Charter, for instance, when a public authority requires a person to submit to a search as a precondition to that person engaging in an expressive activity, such as attendance at a public meeting of a government body. 

Langenfeld v. Toronto Police Services Board, 2019 ONCA 716.

In June 2017 the Chief of Police of the Toronto Police Service implemented a security protocol requiring all members of the public who wish to enter the police headquarters building at 40 College Street to submit to a search.  The search involves the individual being “wanded” with a metal detecting wand, and having any bags manually searched. Importantly, 40 College Street building is also where the Toronto Police Services Board holds its monthly public meetings.

 In Langenfeld v. Toronto Police Services Board, 2019 ONCA 716 the appellant, who sought to attend the monthly public meetings of the TPSB, argued that the search at the entrance of the building violated his right of freedom of expression.  The Court of Appeal for Ontario agreed, but held that the violation was saved by section 1 of the Charter, being a reasonable limit on the appellant’s right to freedom of expression, demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.

Written by Stuart O’Connell, O’Connell Law Group.