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This blog comments on Canadian (and occasionally comparative) national security law to update my National Security Law textbook and now also my 2015 book, False Security: The Radicalization of Anti-terrorism, co-authored with Kent Roach.

Please also see www.antiterrorlaw.ca for Bill C-51-related analyses by Craig Forcese and Kent Roach.

For narrated lectures on various topics in national security law, please visit my 2017 "national security nutshell" series, available through iTunes.

Please also visit my archive of "secret law" in the security area.

By Craig Forcese

Full Professor
Faculty of Law

Email: cforcese[at]uottawa.ca

Twitter: @cforcese

 

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Most Recent Blog Postings
Thursday
Jan222015

Terrorist Words & The Long Arm of the Law: The Existing Record

As already noted this morning, Kent Roach and I have posted our working paper on terrorism glorification offences.  In it, we emphasize that the existing anti-terrorism offences (those enacted post-9/11 in Bill C-36) already criminalize a substantial amount of speech.  Put another way, we already have terrorist speech crimes.  We then posit that going one step further and criminalizing (in addition) "glorification" or "apologie" of terrorism (aka, "Hurray the terrorists!") would be constitutionally suspect, and likely counterproductive from a counter-radicalization and security investigation perspective.

Kent and I are now working on a "report card" on the 20+ terrorism trials we have had in Canada since 9/11, in an effort to place current debates into an empirical context.

In this post, I anticipate that report by returning to the point made above on reach of the current laws.  We have had a terrorism trial in Canada in which a person was convicted of, among other things, terrorist propaganda: R. v. Namouh, 2010 QCCQ 943.

This case involved (in part) a transnational bombing plot in association with the Global Islamic Media Front, which the court found to be a terrorist group under the Criminal Code because of its activities in Europe. The accused was convicted of conspiracy to detonate explosive device (s.465(1)(c)); participating in terrorist group activities (s.83.18(1)); facilitating terrorist activity (s.83.19(1)); extortion in association with a terrorist group (ss.83.2, 346).  He was sentenced to life for the bombing plot.  But his participation and facilitation activities also attracted sentences of 4 and 8 years respectively.

What were these activities?  The accused "enthusiastically participated in most of the GIMF’s propaganda activities".  Among other things, the accused participated in conveying "a message to Austria and Germany threatening terrorist action if their soldiers are not withdrawn from Afghanistan".  The accused also participated in most of GIMF more clearly propagandistic activities, including (as described by the court):

  • analyzing the speeches of Al Qaeda leaders
  • inciting violent jihad
  • calling for support for jihadist groups
  • redistributing Al Qaeda materials
  • acting as a spokesperson for captured jihadists
  • singing the praises of jihadist leaders who died for the cause 
  • ensuring the security of online communications between jihadists
  • taking part in psychological warfare
  • providing military training with the purpose of implementing violent jihad 
  • producing a series of videos called the “Califate Voice Channel,” with the aim of transmitting news from the jihadist front
  • publishing jihadist magazines online
  • acting as an official media outlet for two groups taking part in terrorism. 

The accused was deeply invested in his cause and was not an idle apologist of things terroristic.  This undoubtedly contributed to the ultimate outcome.  But still, the behaviour cited by the Court in support of the participation and facilitation convictions ranges from outright threats to propaganda more distantly linked to violence.  Nevertheless, this propaganda style speech contributed to the convictions. 

All of this is to say that our current laws are very far reaching: terrorist propagandists may be prosecuted and convictions obtained in Canada, assuming you can find and arrest the propagandists in the first place.

Thursday
Jan222015

Terrorist Babble & the Limits of Law: Assessing a Prospective Canadian Terrorism Glorification Offence

Kent Roach and I have posted our working paper issued by the Canadian Network for Research on Terrorism, Security and Society and dealing with terrorism glorification offences.  The article is currently in peer review.  It can be downloaded from SSRN.  The abstract is as follows:

Since 2007, the Canadian government has repeatedly expressed interest in a terrorism ‘glorification’ offence, responding to internet materials regarded by officials as terrorist propaganda and as promoting ‘radicalization’. In the wake of the October 2014 attacks, this idea clearly remains on the government’s shortlist of responses. This article addresses the merits of such a criminal offence. It include analyses of: the sociological data concerning ‘radicalization’ and ‘radicalization to violence’; existing offences that apply to speech associated with terrorism; comparative experience with glorification crimes; and, the restraints that the Charter would place on any similar Canadian law. We conclude that a glorification offence would be ill-suited to Canada’s social and legal environment. This is especially true for Charter purposes, given the less restrictive alternative of applying existing terrorism and other criminal offences to hate speech and speech that incites, threatens or facilitates terrorism. We are also concerned that new glorification offences could have counter-productive practical public safety effects. Instead, we recommend modest amendments to the existing criminal law allowing the government to respond effectively to speech that is already criminal under existing Canadian terrorism or other criminal offences. Specifically, we favour a carefully constructed means of deleting (or at least ‘hiding’) the most dangerous forms of already criminal internet speech.

Wednesday
Jan142015

10 Minutes Primer: Terrorism Offences in Canadian Law

I am renewing efforts to create 10 Minutes (or so) primers on various issues in Canadian national security law, largely for use in my course, but posted here as well.  This is the second in a series on terrorism criminal law, and is of immediate relevance because of all the talk about a new Bill at the end of this month.  Interested viewers should first view the first "chapter" before watching this screencast.  Click on the arrow symbols in the embedded video to expand to full screen, and click HD for better resolution.

 

10 Minute Primer: Terrorism Offences in Canadian Criminal Law from Craig Forcese on Vimeo.