I Fought the Law and The CCLA Won

Canadian Civil Rights Liberties Association

As the old Sonny Curtis song goes, “I fought the law and the law won.” It’s true. It’s not everyday that you fightI fought the Law the law and win. It’s not everyday that you change the law. 

By you, I don’t mean the generic you, as in ‘it’s not everyday that one changes the law.’ I mean you. Changed. The law.

Last month’s decision by the Ontario Superior Court in CCLA v. Ontario (gas stickers) is an important and persuasive statement on the law of free speech in Canada. Other than the case law arising from tobacco advertising restrictions, the law on compelled speech in Canada was thin. No longer.

It wasn’t official until this week, but when the Ontario Government declined to appeal our successful challenge to the government’s compelled speech law (anti-carbon-tax gas stickers, required by law, or face a penalty of $10,000), the law changed. No longer can Canadians be forced by governments to adopt and display a political message of the government’s choosing, using their law-making powers. 

That law would still be doing its unconstitutional work but for this legal challenge. Staff at CCLA looked high and low for a gas retailer to join us, but none were willing. So we brought the application alone, and faced serious legal opposition from Ontario’s finest among the ranks of Crown attorneys. They fought our standing to be there as a litigant, they fought our ability to obtain the remedies sought, and they fought our arguments tooth and nail. They fought CCLA and CCLA won.

This is a huge accomplishment. CCLA has many accomplishments, in the courts and classrooms across Canada. But actually changing the law, so explicitly and single-handedly — this is a special achievement. We changed the law. As said by our legendary, long-time leader, Alan Borovoy, “Our whole mandate is to change the law.”

But you know that there is so much more to do. There are so many more laws to be changed. We have to do this critical, democracy-building work and we must do more of it. 

You also know, because we’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: CCLA staff and pro bono lawyers literally cannot do this work without you. Your donations and your support pay the salaries of CCLA staff and the infrastructure needed to run a legal charity, a public interest litigant. So if we are to do more and to change more unjust laws, and to right more wrongs, then we need more of “us.”  

We really need your help today in stretching out our numbers — of supporters like you.

If you could do one thing for CCLA, to mark this occasion, it is to forward this email to three people — family or friends or colleagues — with a view to increasing our numbers, increasing our support, to change more laws, more often. 

When you forward it, please personalize it with a note at the beginning, above the message itself, asking your potential CCLA recruit why you joined CCLA and why you support it and why you hope they join you in our effort to change unjust laws. Ask them if they would join you in in this effort by clicking on a link (below) that permits them to get onto our mailing list, to join CCLA as a member, and to donate to the cause. 

To mark this great victory for freedom of speech and Canadian civil liberties and a just society, please pass this along. Congratulation and thank you.


Michael Bryant


*IFoughtTheLawBF4single.jpg, Fair Use, Cover art copyright unknown but may belong to Mustang or graphic artist(s).

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Canadian Civil Liberties Association | 90 Eglinton Ave. E, Suite 900, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3 Canada

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