Interview with Daniel J. Baum

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Interview with Daniel J. Baum

Posted on December 29 by Daniel J. Baum
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Daniel J. Baum talks to us today about his series Understanding Canadian Law, and more specifically his book Freedom of Expression.

Tell us about your book.  

In Freedom of Expression, the second book in the series “Understanding Canadian Law,” two chapters discuss cases dealing with freedom of religion and indecency. Both focus on expression. But neither, as such, articulates freedom of expression as the underlying reason for the decision made. 

Yet, the right of a young Sikh student to wear a kirpan (dagger) was recognized as an expression important to his religious belief. And, the Court found a way to accommodate that right while, at the same time, recognizing the need for community safety. (The dagger had to be sewed to his clothing.) 

The chapter on indecency discusses the operators of a club who were charged with violation of the indecency provisions of the Criminal Code -- the very nature of which is a limitation on freedom of expression. The charges related to club behaviour, including advertising. The Court, as is the general rule for criminal offences, construed the code violation narrowly and placed the burden on the Crown to prove the charges. Implicit in the positive values set out by the Court was freedom of expression. But, such right had to be read against the need to protect the public.

How did you come up with the idea for this work?

Too often, freedom of expression is conflated with freedom of speech. It is important for readers to understand that there are other kinds of expression important to the individual, such as the clothes one wears and religious adornments. 

How did you come up with the title?

The law should be understood by the citizenry. It is more important that we as citizens understand the law than that its meaning is derived solely by lawyers, law professors and, yes, even the courts.

Tell us a little about the overarching theme of your work, and why you felt compelled to explore it.

It was a wintry night and I was in my office at Osgoode Hall Law School reviewing student essays. Nearly all of my colleagues had left. There was a knock at the door. An elderly man asked if he might speak with me. He was a secondary school teacher and he wanted help in finding good materials for his law course. 

I asked what it was he wanted to teach in terms of law. His answer: “I don’t want to teach them how to become lawyers. I don’t know enough for that. But, I would like to help them understand what it means to be good citizens.”

This was the start of what was to become a quest of more than twenty-five years -- one that led to the series “Understanding Canadian Law.”

What is Your New Project?

My next book deals with the subject of terrorism. It will follow the format of the first four titles in the "Understanding Canadian Law" series. Focus will be on anti-terror legislation and the role of courts not just in determining guilt or innocence, but also in a new role as "investigator." Beyond the courts, the role of citizens, acting in defence of their rights, will be explored, especially where courts and law-enforcement authorities are unable to act expeditiously. 


Daniel J. Baum

Posted by Kendra on October 30, 2014

Daniel J. Baum

Daniel J. Baum is the author of nineteen books, most of which deal with important public policy issues. He draws on his experience as a professor of law for more than forty years. Baum is the author of the Understanding Canadian Law series and the Building Your Future series for young people. He lives in Toronto.