Legal scholars across the country are protesting Prime Minister Harper’s new anti-terror bill, Bill C-51. We explain why. Further, we speak with Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau, and we take you to protests all across Canada.


How do Canadian academics feel about Bill C-51?

Not so good. On February 23rd, 100 academics–the majority of whom are Canadian law professors–submitted an open letter to parliament. It reads: “Please accept this collective, open letter as an expression of the signatories’ deep concern that Bill C-51 (which the government is calling the Anti-terrorism Act, 2015) is a dangerous piece of legislation in terms of its potential impacts on the rule of law, on constitutionality and internationally protected rights, and on the health of Canada’s democracy.”

How will the law effect freedom of speech?

Professors of law, Craig Forcese and Kent Roach, have written extensively about Bill C-51 over the past month on their blog. They say that, if enacted, Bill C-51 would walk back Canada’s freedom of speech legislation by giving police and prosecutors the power to prohibit speech that promotes terrorism. Ultimately, the courts may decide this provision infringes on Canadians’ charter rights. But–Forcese and Roach argue–“in the meantime, the speech provisions of Bill C-51 will cast a chill on any opinion touching upon the issue of terrorism–including opinions that are politically extreme and irresponsible, but that are far removed from actual or threatened terroristic violence. ”

Like in other areas, this provision serves to strengthen legislation that civil liberties advocates say was already too strong.

Craig Forcese and Kent Roach, “Bill C-51: The Good, the Bad . . . and the Truly Ugly,” The Walrus, February 13, 2015

How will this bill impact civil liberties?

The BC Civil Liberties Association has raised serious concerns over a number of provisions in Bill C-51. They say that new measures allow law enforcement arrest an individual when a terrorist attack “may be carried out.” Previously, law enforcement could only make an arrest when they determined a terrorist attack “will be carried out.” The Bill also allows the RCMP and CSIS to hold prisoners in “preventative detention” (that is, without formally charging them with a crime) for seven days. Previously the limit was set at three days.

The BCCLA argues that these provisions seriously undermine Canadian civil liberties. “Stripping an individual’s liberty where no criminal offence is committed–or where no offence is even suspected to have been committed–runs against the most basic principles of fundamental justice and, in our opinion, is unconstitutional.”


Produced by: Gordon Katic and Sam Fenn.

With Research and Production Support from: Kamil Somaratne, Rebekah Parker, and Sophie Comyn.

Thanks to the rest of the Cited team: Amy Do, Cherrie Lam, Eric Bing, Hailey Froese, Mel Resoso, Kerria Gray and Jane Young.

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