Constitutional Challenges May Save Calgarians from New Law

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Constitutional Challenges May Save Calgarians from New Law

Bill C-51, which passed into law last month as the Canadian Anti-Terrorism Act, has been controversial since its inception. Among other provisions, it allows for broader and more clandestine—that is, less transparent—"monitoring" activities by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, and enables all law enforcement agencies to break up any gathering or protest that they deem is disruptive to Canada's economic interests.

The language of the law is so broad that it essentially legalizes CSIS spying on Canadian citizens who aren't even legitimate suspects of crimes, and it enables the police to determine what does and doesn't constitute a lawful gathering or even lawful speech and publication of ideas. In short, this law strikes at the core of the civil liberties that have helped make Canada one of the greatest nations on the planet, and despite being decried as unconstitutional by many citizens and legislators, it was still passed into law by Parliament.

Now, however, the constitutional challenges have been taken out of the media and away from the debates taking place in our legislature, and have moved into the courts, where there is the potential for the law to be struck down.

Legal Challenges Brought By Canada's Defenders of Civil Rights and Liberties

Two different organizations, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) and the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) filed a legal application in Ontario Superior Court on the morning of July 21, marking the beginning of what will no doubt be a very long road towards testing this law's constitutionality in the Canadian Supreme Court.

"We only bring a constitutional challenge for the most serious cases, and this is one of those," said Sukanya Pillay, executive director and general counsel at CCLA. "We felt that this was getting straight to the marrow of the issue. Many of the powers that are in this new legislation would be wielded in secret. The people who are affected might never know that these powers, that we argue are unconstitutional, were used against them, but they might have to deal with the consequences. And these consequences may be very serious."

The criminal justice system is already more than most citizens of Calgary and of Canada at large can contend with on their own. The amount of knowledge and experience it requires to successfully mount a defence even against a completely erroneous criminal charge is the primary reason that all those accused of crimes have the right to consult with a defence lawyer—our Charter recognizes that the law itself is too complex to be truly transparent for all concerned. This new bill makes the problem much worse, and I hope you'll join me in wishing it a quick demise once these challenges reach the Supreme Court.

A Calgary Defence Lawyer Who Defends Your Rights

For a passionate, experienced defence lawyer who isn't shy when it comes to fighting for your rights, please contact the office of David G. Chow today.