Morrell Andrews (left), winner of the 2023 Freedom of Expression Award. Presenting the award was Lisa Taylor CMLA member.
The CMLA Freedom of Expression Award is awarded every year to a person who has promoted and protected freedom of expression and freedom of the press in Canada. This year, the award has been given to Morrell Andrews for her dedication and advocacy in changing the law of sexual assault publication bans.
Morrell Andrews has tirelessly advocated so that sexual assault victims can talk publicly about their own experiences.
As a sexual assault survivor, Morrell first successfully fought to lift an unwanted publication ban over her own identity. During that process, she made the following statement to the court:
“The only words that matter today are mine. I am the victim, I don’t need protection, the defence counsel has no standing, I have never wanted this publication ban, and I demand attention to leverage my experience and fix the system for the others who bravely come after me. So much good will come out of this pain and trust me when I say that I’ve got big plans. So, your Honour: Lift this publication ban today, and just watch me.”
Since then, Morrell has lobbied for amendments to the Criminal Code that would require the Crown to consult with sexual assault complainants before asking the court for a publication ban, and that would allow a sexual assault victim to ask the court to lift such a publication ban at a later point in time. Bill S-12 received Royal Assent on October 26, 2023, largely thanks to Morrell Andrews’ efforts.