How Ottawa’s new terrorism act could chill free speech

By Kent Roach and Craig Forcese, The Globe & Mail, 5 February 2015

Kent Roach teaches at the University of Toronto law faculty and worked with both the Arar and Air India commissions. Craig Forcese is a law professor teaching national security law at the University of Ottawa and a participant in the Canadian Network for Research on Terrorism, Security and Society.

The government wants to jail people who, by speaking, writing, recording, gesturing, or through other visible representations, knowingly advocate or promote the commission of terrorism offences in general, while aware of the possibility that the offences may be committed. We have completed and posted a 10,000 word legal analysis of this provision, and its constitutionality.

We have concerns. We do not accept as credible the claims that its scope is clear. We do not believe that it is confined to the objectives cited by the government’s official backgrounder (penalizing someone who “instructs others to ‘carry out attacks on Canada’”). Indeed, we think that this sort of statement is already criminal in most situations.

We regard the proposed provision as potentially sweeping. We have serious doubts as to its constitutionality. Meanwhile, we have precisely no doubts that it is capable of chilling constitutionally protected speech. (...)

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Image: Chris Wattie, Reuters