Sedition is the use of speech or words to incite others to rebel against the government or governing authority. According to Section 59 of the Criminal Code, it is a crime to speak seditious words, publish a seditious libel, or be part of a seditious conspiracy. The Supreme Court of Canada has defined sedition as any practice that is calculated to disturb the tranquillity of the state and lead ignorant persons to subvert the government and the laws of the empire. Seditious words, libel, and conspiracy are punishable by a maximum of 14 years in prison. However, peaceful and lawful protests against the government or its policies are not considered sedition.
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What Is Sedition?
Sedition is commonly defined as words or speech that cause citizens to rebel against the government or governing authority. According to s.59 of the Criminal Code, it is a crime to speak seditious words, publish a seditious libel or being party to a seditious conspiracy. The Supreme of Canada (SCC) has defined sedition (Boucher v. the King, 1950 CanLII 2 (SCC),  SCR 265) as any practice, "whether by word, deed or in writing - calculated to disturb the tranquillity of the State, and lead ignorant persons to endeavour to subvert the Government and the laws of the empire." The Court adds that the objective of sedition is to induce discontent and insurrection and bring the administration of justice into contempt.
What Are Seditious Words?
According to s.59 (1) of the Code, seditious words are those that "express a seditious intention." The SCC has ruled that anyone can "freely criticize the proceedings of courts of justice and of individual judges - in a free, and fair, and liberal spirit. But it must be without malignity, and not imputing corrupt or malicious motives."
What Is a Seditious Libel?
According to s.59 (2) of the Code, seditious libel is one "that expresses a seditious intention." The SCC has stated it is a libel that "brings into hatred or contempt, or excites disaffection" with the government or the Crown through unlawful means.
What Is a Seditious Conspiracy?
According to s.59 (3) of the Code, this is an agreement between two or more persons to carry out an act with seditious intention. According to the SCC, this occurs when people work together to "raise discontent and disaffection [and] stir up jealousies, hatred and ill-will" against the government.
What Is ‘Seditious Intention’?
According to s.59 (4) of the Code, seditious intention can be generally defined as advocating any course of action with the intent of "accomplishing a governmental change within Canada" without the authority of law.
What the Crown Must Prove
To win a conviction the Crown prosecutor must show that you used written words or speech to stir up opposition to the government or a governing body with the intent or overthrowing it. However, s.60 of the Code makes it clear that citizens are allowed to "point out errors or defects" in the government and its policies or in the administration of justice in Canada, as long as that is done peacefully and lawfully.
The Penalty for Sedition
Sedition is treated as an indictable offence with a maximum punishment of 14 years in prison.