The Canadian Civil Liberties Association is a national non-profit organization that has been at the forefront of protecting fundamental freedoms and democratic life in Canada since 1964. To learn more about the history of CCLA, click here.
Currently, CCLA’s work is focused on the following thematic areas: Fundamental Freedoms, Public Safety, National Security and Equality. We have developed a unique model of advocacy that supports five core activities: public education, citizens’ engagement, monitoring, research, and litigation.
1. Public Education
Through its foundation, the Canadian Civil Liberties Education Trust (CCLET), CCLA has been engaged in public education since its inception. It participates regularly in conferences and public events on civil liberties issues. Over the last ten years, CCLET and CCLA have been implementing two seminal public education programs in Ontario: a program dedicated to teaching in schools throughout the Ontario English public school system and a program teaching future teachers in Faculties of Education in Ontario. The objectives of these programs are to build a culture of human rights and civil liberties and engage youth and future educators in thinking critically about issues. Each year, these programs reach thousands of high school students and teacher candidates across Ontario.
2. Citizens’ engagement
CCLA representatives are often invited to participate in conferences, offer keynote addresses, and make contributions to journals and newspapers. CCLA is a regular commentator in the media on civil liberties issues, and has also appeared on numerous occasions at Parliamentary Committees, Legislative Hearings, Municipal Councils, and Public Inquiries to offer submissions on proposed legislation, regulations and reports. In addition, CCLA organizes regular public meetings and conferences on a variety of civil liberties issues. On occasions, CCLA mobilizes its membership in letter-writing campaigns, petition-writing and other participatory actions on civil liberties issues. CCLA believes that a democracy demands a participatory and vigilant citizenry converse in the habits of democracy and critical thinking, and it welcomes and supports debates within the organization and elsewhere.
CCLA is a watchdog for civil liberties, and engages volunteers to stay abreast and informed of the reality of the observance of civil liberties throughout the country. It has organized special monitoring programs in different contexts. It also benefits from a partnership with Pro Bono Students Canada (PBSC) which supports a network to monitor activities and issues across Canada. The Network uses student volunteers throughout the country to review the issues that arise in courts, municipal councils, legislative assemblies, media and civil society groups across the ten provinces and three territories. In addition, periodic reviews of cases at the European Court and US courts are done through the Network. The Network regularly informs CCLA of its findings and is crucial to its watchdog role.
In addition, CCLA has a number of interns and volunteers from the fields of communications, business, social sciences and humanities who help carry out CCLA’s mission to monitor the state of protection of democratic values.
CCLA also has a daily news clipping service, and informal connections with legal clinics for the identification of particular cases. To complete the picture, CCLA receives many inquiries and complaints from individuals and groups which allow it to keep its “ear to the ground.”
CCLA has several partnerships to allow it to conduct its research. It benefits from the contributions of several law firms and many academics who serve in various capacities, from advisory group members to members of the CCLA’s Board. The issues that are brought to the Association’s attention through the Monitoring Network are appraised and evaluated through research processes. Our ongoing research, performed by legal staff, volunteers and students, enables all of our advocacy strategies.
Since the 1960s, CCLA has intervened and acted in hundreds of court cases, including many at the Supreme Court of Canada. In each of its interventions, CCLA represents a civil liberties perspective on the case, allowing for a judgment that fully appreciates and takes into account fundamental democratic values.
Over the years, CCLA has developed an unparalleled expertise on civil liberties issues, and is uniquely placed to conduct high-impact interventions in legal cases.
To carry out this extensive litigation, CCLA partners with top law firms across Canada. Firms such as Torys, Osler, Blakes, Gowlings, Borden Ladner Gervais, McCarthy Tetrault, are among those that provide pro bono counsel to CCLA on a regular basis. These ongoing, key partnerships with law firms are essential to CCLA’s ability to intervene in cases and bring a civil liberties perspective before Canadian courts.