In The News

Cops seeking public input on expanded Taser use

Simcoe – May/1/2014

MIDLAND – The Midland Police Service is taking steps toward tripling the number of conducted-energy weapons (CEWs) in its arsenal.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) has expressed concern about the province’s decision, stating it would prefer forces to invest in de-escalation training and mental health and disability crisis response teams.

“In certain extreme cases, there may be legitimate law enforcement uses of CEWs,” said the organization’s interim general counsel, Sukanya Pillay. “However, CCLA is also aware and seriously concerned that CEWs have been misused in the past.”

In addition to the survey of Midland residents, the matter will be discussed at a June 18 police services board meeting.

Toronto concert sampler: Angel Haze, Chromeo, EMA

The Star  – April/ 30/ 2014

Of more significance is that the concert is but part of the 50th anniversary celebrations for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, an organization that in these days of the Fair Elections Act deserves to celebrate that birthday with gusto and needs our support more than ever. (Trinity St. Paul’s, doors 7 p.m.)

Ottawa Police Services Board approves plan to give Tasers to more officers

Metro – April/28/2014

The Ottawa Police Services Board unanimously approved the expanded rollout and purchase of additional Conducted Energy Weapons (CEWs), also referred to as Tasers, to front-line patrol officers during a two-year study.

The plan will greenlight the purchase of up to 100 more Tasers to be rolled out in 2015. The first year of the study will be devoted to developing a policy that will include training on Taser deployment.

The two-year plan will need city council approval. It comes after police organized several consultation initiatives with the public and key stakeholders, such as the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention.


Law Times  – April/28/2014

In honour of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association’s 50th anniversary, Canadian Artists for Civil Liberties will throw a concert on May 3.

The CCLA promises it will be a night of music, dance, and spoken word performance celebrating the organization and the “freedoms it has worked so tirelessly to promote and defend.”

“We’re very excited about this concert,” said Sukanya Pillay, general counsel of the CCLA.

“You can’t separate the arts from civil liberties advocacy. Musicians, writers, artists have always been at the forefront of civil liberties campaigns across the world and in Canada — in fact, CCLA has always had strong representatives of the arts on our board — we are grateful to Nathan Lawr and the artists he has brought together to celebrate the 50th anniversary of CCLA.”

The concert will take place at Trinity St. Paul’s United Church at 427 Bloor St. W. in Toronto at 7 p.m.

OPS report on proposed CEW deployment to be discussed Monday

Ottawa Start – April 25, 2014

An Ottawa Police Service (OPS) report outlining a proposed two-year plan to improve ready access to Conducted Energy Weapons (CEWs) to front line patrol was released this morning. The Ottawa Police Services Board (Board) will consider the recommendations in the report Monday night.

The OPS received a total of 1200 public responses to its online CEW questionnaire, and 645 from its members. Face to face meetings were also held with a variety of stakeholders including the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention, the Ontario Civil Liberties Association, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law, the Canadian Mental Health Association, COMPAC, the Elizabeth Fry Society and the John Howard Society.

OPS report on proposed CEW deployment to be discussed Monday

Ottawa Start  – April 25, 2014

An Ottawa Police Service (OPS) report outlining a proposed two-year plan to improve ready access to Conducted Energy Weapons (CEWs) to front line patrol was released this morning. The Ottawa Police Services Board (Board) will consider the recommendations in the report Monday night.

The OPS received a total of 1200 public responses to its online CEW questionnaire, and 645 from its members. Face to face meetings were also held with a variety of stakeholders including the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention, the Ontario Civil Liberties Association, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law, the Canadian Mental Health Association, COMPAC, the Elizabeth Fry Society and the John Howard Society.

How one Jewish leader defended a neo-Nazi and stayed true to his community

The Globe and Mail – April/20/2014

What do you do when your most strongly held beliefs come into conflict with your deepest loyalties?

Defending the free-speech rights of hatemonger and Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel both epitomized the career of Alan Borovoy, Canada’s best-known defender of civil rights, and confronted this very question. In a new memoir, Mr. Borovoy writes poignantly of his deep conflict with the Jewish community in this ultimate conflict between free speech and hate speech.

His roots in this community were deep. This was where Mr. Borovoy, famous as a human-rights champion after he became General Cousel of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, first began to ply his trade as an activist. Having studied at the University of Toronto, he recounts, in his new memoir At the Barricades, his anger at the development of communism as a destructive force. It was during this time that political schisms most dominated the Canadian Jewish scene.

Do Schools Need Record Checks?

Huffington Post Canada  – April/17/2014

In the life of many elementary schools comes the day when the whole class goes to the zoo. Weeks of planning, permission slip signing, fund raising, and volunteer wrangling are finally complete and the kids get on the bus. What a great day for everyone.

But wait. In certain school boards and police jurisdictions, such class trips, guest speakers and artists in the schools, visiting performers, and other wonderful and special learning experiences may well be a thing of the past — and all because of “safety.”

And what about families who have had other bad experiences? Grandma may have been living in an apartment with other family members when police raided the home. Grandma has done nothing wrong, but she was arrested along with the rest of the family. She was never charged, but now has a record of arrest that, according to a Canadian Civil Liberties Association report, can be revealed by a police records check. Will the students on the trip to the zoo be safer because Grandma isn’t there? Or will the class trip be cancelled because Grandma can’t volunteer?

Commissioner Cavoukian calls for Ontario Police Services to stop the indiscriminate disclosure of attempted suicide information

Digital Journal  – April/14/2014

TORONTO, April 14, 2014 /CNW/ – Ontario’s Information and Privacy Commissioner Dr. Ann Cavoukian has released the findings of her Special Investigation into sensitive information about attempted suicides by Ontarians being shared with U.S. border officials. The Report, “Crossing the Line: The Indiscriminate Disclosure of Attempted Suicide Information to U.S. Border Officials via CPIC,” recommends that Ontario police services cease the routine disclosure of suicide-related information via CPIC.

As part of the investigation, the Commissioner consulted with several Ontario Police Services, the Ontario Provincial Police, and the RCMP. In addition, interviews and consultations were conducted with several leading mental health organizations and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. Although there is no legal requirement that information related to a suicide attempt must be recorded on CPIC, significant variations were found in the way that different police services treated this information.

Conservatives suffer another Supreme Court setback

CTV News  – April/11/2014

OTTAWA — The bell has sounded ending one more round in what is shaping up to be a long-running bout between the county’s highest court and the Harper government.

The latest skirmish erupted Friday when the Supreme Court of Canada once again softened the Conservative government’s tough-on-crime agenda.

Lawyers for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, which was granted intervener status in the case, said the ruling restores the discretion that judges need at sentencing.

“The court has recognized that without clear language from Parliament to limit a long-standing approach to sentencing, offenders should not be punished more severely solely because they were not released on bail,” the group said in a statement.

Ontario SLAPP Schtick: Bill 83 levels the playing field

Financial Post  – April/11/ 2014

The idea behind Ontario’s proposed anti-SLAPP legislation (Bill 83) has been around for many years, has been the subject of careful study by a group of experts who solicited comments from the public, and has been recommended to protect the public’s right to participate in debates and discussions on issues that affect their lives. Despite apparent agreement by all three political parties, the Bill has been debated for over eight hours and still hasn’t been sent to Committee. If the Bill doesn’t move forward soon, it will likely die when an election is called.

Cara Faith Zwibel is a lawyer and Director of the Fundamental Freedoms Program at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. 

One voice on free speech

The Australian  – April/9/2014

Now in his 80s, Alan ­Borovoy, the  founder of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, helped push for the creation of human rights commissions in Canada in the 1960s and 70s in his then job at Canada’s Labor Committee for Human Rights. In ­recent years, Borovoy has also ­become a critic of how these commissions have overreached.

A Canadian-born writer on everything from theatre and music to politics and demog­raphy, Mark Steyn was the subject of complaints made to three human rights commissions in Canada for 18 articles he wrote about Islam in Maclean’s magazine between 2005 and 2007. Those actions against Maclean’s led the Canadian federal government to support a private member’s bill to repeal section 13, the hate laws provision, of the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Giving back

Canadian Lawyer Mag  – April/7/2014

The findings highlight the complexity of the debate around wherepro bono services fit in in the quest to achieve greater access to justice, as well as raising broader questions around professional ethics in the legal industry.

Successful pro bono cases have helped to overturn injustices and raise important public policy issues. Last December, Dentons Canada LLP secured victory for someone who was unlawfully arrested in Toronto during the 2010 G20 clashes while walking to a church service. Lawyers are scheduled to represent two more complainants in upcoming G20 police disciplinary hearings. Koch Thornton LLP represented the Canadian Civil Liberties Association in the inquest of the death of Ashley Smith, the 19-year-old who strangled herself in a segregation cell. More than 700 hours were devoted to the case — a “significant undertaking” for the three-lawyer firm, says co-founder Allison Thornton.

However, the Canadian Bar Association and others caution against over-reliance on pro bonoservices to fill gaps left by declining levels of legal aid funding, as the demand for legal services has steadily grown. Melina Buckley, chairwoman of the Canadian Bar Association’s access to justice committee, told Legal Feeds blog last August the organization had “a problem with it [pro bono] being used to fill the gaps,” adding: “We don’t think it’s sustainable to build a system like a food bank.”

Alan Borovoy: a troublemaker who made history: Goar

The Star  – April/07/2014

Too disruptive to be a hero, too self-effacing to be a celebrity, and too irreverent to be a national icon, Alan Borovoy defies categorization.

He is used to it. “I’ve gone through much of my life in the belief that I was being perceived as some kind of weirdo,” says the long-time head of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) in his engaging new memoir, At the Barricades.

The 81-year-old old lawyer, human rights activist and unflinching advocate of free speech — even when he disagreed with the speaker — certainly doesn’t claim to be a luminary. He sees himself as a scrappy Jewish kid from Grace Street, in a working-class Toronto, who happened to have a hand in changing Canadian history.

Rather than addressing my family’s concerns, this hospital denied any errors ever occurred and claimed my mother’s care was completely appropriate. The hospital then used scarce public health care dollars (at the same time it was closing hospital beds and cutting staff) to hire an expensive Toronto law firm which threatened to sue the family if any of our experience was made public. It actually commenced defamation proceedings but was forced to back off after a rare intervention by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, which accused the hospital of improperly attempting to muzzle a family on a subject about which there is considerable interest in a democratic society.

Why We Need To Speak Up For Safer Care in Hospitals

Huffington Post Canada  – April/ 05/2014

Standing up for safer care after a hospital has inflicted harm is never easy for a family. In many cases, the patient does not get to be part of that discussion because the damage to them is severe and often fatal. Karl and Marlene Kollinger, the elderly couple who have gone public with their experience at Winnipeg’s Health Sciences Centre, were among the fortunate ones. It could have cost Mr. Kollinger his life after he was given medication intended for another patient. They say they came forward to help others avoid similar mishaps by making the hospital exercise greater caution in the future. Hopefully, this hospital will be more forthcoming about the incident than the two that were entrusted with my elderly mother’s care a few years back.

Hidden camera in YMCA locker prompts privacy questions

CBC – April/3/2014

The discovery of a camera hidden in the men’s locker room of the Fredericton YMCA is prompting questions about where and when video cameras can be used.

The new chief executive of the Fredericton YMCA, Barb Ramsay, discovered the camera in a routine operational review, had it removed and contacted police.

Abby Deshman, director of public safety programs, for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, called the discovery of the Fredericton locker room camera “really creepy.”

Police cited sealed files, says privacy watchdog

Ottawa Citizen - March/ 27/ 2014

An investigation by the office of Ontario’s privacy commissioner has found that while issuing a reference check, Guelph police cited sealed files from when a person was a youth, even though there was no conviction.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association has also been raising the issue of disclosure of “non-conviction” records, with plans to release a report on the matter later this year.

“There’s a stigma associated with having your name in a police database,” said executive director Sukanya Pillay.

Supreme Court hears religious freedom arguments in Loyola case

The BCC Catholic – March/25/2014

The Supreme Court of Canada heard arguments in the Loyola case March 24 on whether religious freedom is both an individual and a corporate or communal right.

An array of interveners, ranging from the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the Archdiocese of Montreal, the Catholic Civil Rights League and the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada to the Christian Legal Fellowship and the World Sikh Organization, argued on the side of Loyola High School, a private Jesuit school, in its fight to teach an equivalent rather than Quebec’s mandatory Ethics and Religious Culture program (ERC). No interveners argued on the side of the Attorney General of Quebec.

The court also heard arguments that the ERC took an approach that religions are “of equal value” and either “equally false” or that truth is irrelevant. One intervener warned Canada’s reputation as a free and democratic society was at stake. Others argued Quebec’s campaign to bring in the secularist Quebec Charter of Values is a sign of hostility towards religious expression.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) intervened on behalf of the communal aspect of religious freedom. Jean-Phillipe Groleau argued against seeing religious liberty as merely an individual right and ignoring its “communal and associational aspects.”

Supreme Court told Loyola is “not asking for the moon”

The Catholic Register – March/25/2014

OTTAWA – A Catholic school cannot be neutral when teaching Catholicism “otherwise it is not a Catholic school,” said a lawyer representing Montreal’s Loyola High School in arguments before the Supreme Court of Canada.

An array of interveners, including the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the Archdiocese of Montreal, the Catholic Civil Rights League, the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, the Christian Legal Fellowship and the World Sikh Organization, argued on the side of Loyola. No interveners argued on the side of the Attorney General of Quebec.

Breakenridge: When it comes to free speech, Redford let us down

Calgary Herald  –  March/24/2014

It was fitting that as Alison Redford’s disappointing tenure as premier came to an abrupt end, we were offered a reminder of one of her earliest broken promises.

We’ve also had a number of respected civil rights organizations enter the fray. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association was an intervener in the aforementioned court case, and made a strong case that Section 3 is too broad and overreaching and could possibly “curtail a wide range of expression.”

Feds retreat from claims 2011 election report found widespread voter fraud

Hill Times – March/24/2014

PARLIAMENT HILL—The government is retreating from claims that an independent audit of the 2011 federal election indicated the possibility of widespread fraud under a vouching system used by more than 120,000 otherwise qualifying electors who had insufficient ID or none at all. With the Procedure and House Affairs Committee set this week to hear high-profile critics of a government bill that proposes to eliminate the oath and vouching system, as well as the use of Elections Canada voter information cards as proof of residence, Minister of State for Democratic Reform Pierre Poilievre (Nepean-Carleton, Ont.) told MPs in the House on Monday that earlier comments he made on vouching were overblown.

On Thursday, Mr. Neufeld will testify, followed by Taylor Gunn, president of Civix; Nathalie Des Rosiers, the former human rights lawyer with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and now dean of law at the University of Ottawa; Graham Fox, president and chief executive officer of the Institute for Research on Public Policy; and Alison Loat, executive director and co-founder of Samara.

Yorkdale is going to spend millions on a new surveillance system that will (potentially) deter criminals

Toronto Life – March/21/2014

Yorkdale, like every other mall in the world (presumably), wants to deter criminal activity. After gun violence at the mall last year, and a posher persona with the addition of brands like Mulberry and Prada, the shopping destination is placing a higher value on security—$3.4 million to be exact. The pricey upgrade will include 360-degree camera coverage over almost 100 per cent of public space, high-resolution image capture, and a monitoring room staffed around the clock by trained security officers. High-tech cameras will even be implemented to scan license plates, which—if nothing else—may prevent some of the questionable tactics currently used by drivers to snag coveted parking spots on the weekend.

Although the project is being financed to protect Yorkdale shoppers, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, who spoke to City News, says there’s not actually any evidence that suggests security cameras make people safer. And while the mall isn’t claiming to surpass any safety thresholds, it is (rather anticlimactically) saying that it hopes to now be, “an undesirable place for criminals.” For shoppers, it may feel more like being on The Truman Show.

Helping Kids Turn Othering into a Critical Discussion

Huffington Post Canada – March/12/2014

Some of us are getting a little tired of the “What are you?” question. Many of us have learned enough about the world and have simply developed good enough manners to know that people come in many shapes, sizes, colours, and backgrounds and could be offended if quizzed about themselves in this fashion. But not all of us have taken this in.

TVO Parents and the Canadian Civil Liberties Education Trust have teamed up to help families whose children ask this question. We recommend employing critical thinking strategies to help children engage in the struggle against racist stereotyping. Often, the best answer to a question is another question.

Flip your wig tomorrow

The Canadian Lawyer Magazine  -March/ 5/ 2014

It is no secret access to justice in Ontario is in a grave state. A recent report by the Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters, chaired by Supreme Court of Canada Justice Thomas A. Cromwell, stated nearly 12 million Canadians will experience at least one legal problem in a three-year period, and few will have the resources to solve them.

A new fundraiser to help support access to justice initiatives kicks off tomorrow. Flip Your Wig for Justice is a pledge-based fundraiser to support seven justice groups: the Association in the Defense of the Wrongly Convicted, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, Community Legal Education Ontario, the Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children, the Ontario Justice Education Network, Pro Bono Law Ontario, and Pro Bono Students Canada.

OPP faces scrutiny over DNA testing sweep

The – March/4/2014

Ontario’s police watchdog has launched a review of the DNA sampling practices of the Ontario Provincial Police after a complaint alleging racial profiling in the case of 100 migrant workers. The workers were subjected to a testing sweep, even though for many their only similarity to the suspect’s description was skin colour.

DNA sweeps have proven controversial before. A 2011 move by police to test males in connection with the death of Orangeville nurse Sonia Varaschin prompted a complaint from the Canadian Civil Liberties Association to the province’s privacy commissioner.

Former boss of Canadian eavesdropping agency defends activities

The Toronto Star – March 1st, 2014

The public has nothing to fear from the Communications Security Establishment Canada, says the former chief of the Ottawa-based electronic eavesdropping agency. “I don’t know about the others, but we can’t direct our activities against Canadians,” John Adams, who was responsible for CSEC from 2005 until 2012, said Saturday at a panel discussion Saturday on Canada’s role in the “electronic surveillance state.” He said the electronic data surveillance agency is authorized only to snoop on foreign electronic communications, and agency operatives are clear about what they can and cannot do.

It included Stephen McCammon, legal counsel at the Office of the Ontario Information of Privacy Commissioner and Sukanya Pillay, executive director and general counsel of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. The panel was moderated by Toronto Star national security reporter Michelle Shephard.

Charges dropped in council arrests, summons issued

 The Oshawa Express – February 12th, 2014

Two men who were booted from an Oshawa City council meeting, arrested by plainclothes police and charged with trespass and assault offences have had those charges dropped.

Another two men, alleged to be security guards working at the same meeting, have now been charged with assault and ordered to appear in court.

When some residents continued to voice their displeasure while council was in session, whether it was through laughter or shouted comments, the mayor asked them to leave. Security moved in to remove Hammond, setting off the chain of events that followed.

Both Hammond and Steele became entangled with security guards trying to remove them from the premises and plainclothes police, whose presence had been unknown until that point, stepped in and made arrests. Videos of the arrests were widely circulated and became national news.

Steele also received support from the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, which wrote a letter on his behalf to the Crown. Cara Zwibel, the director of the association’s Fundamental Freedoms Program, authored the November 6 letter.

“We appreciate there may be conflicting reports about exactly what transpired at that meeting, but nevertheless find it troubling that the events have given rise to criminal charges against local residents who were attempting to participate in their municipal government,” wrote Zwibel. “The involvement of police at a local council meeting is unusual and can certainly have a chilling impact on the willingness of individuals to engage in local politics and voice their views on a variety of issues. The fact that criminal charges were laid against two individuals will likely serve only to further this chilling effect.”

CSEC Headquarters’ $1.2-Billion Price Tag Has Activists Outraged

Huffington Post Canada – February 11th, 2014

When the Harper government tables its latest budget Tuesday afternoon, it will include continued funding for a massive, opulent new headquarters for Canada’s electronic spy agency, CSEC.

The $1.2-billion building on Ottawa’s east side — dubbed the “spy palace” by critics and believed to be the most expensive government building ever constructed in Canada — has become a rallying point for activists protesting in the wake of allegations that CSEC has been spying on Canadians, in contravention of its mandate and possibly Canadian law.

More than 45 organizations, including OpenMedia, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, Greenpeace and several unions, are launching a campaign Tuesday “to tell MPs to stop wasting billions on Canada’s expensive online spying apparatus,” according to a statement from OpenMedia.


Inside Lev Tahor: Jewish sect is traditional and radical, but is it illegal? 

 Toronto Sun – February 1st, 2014

Lev Tahor, a controversial ultra-orthodox Jewish sect, whose name means “pure heart” in Hebrew and is led by the radical Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans, is making do here in a remote corner of southwestern Ontario, where it fled from Quebec in November.

On Monday, an Ontario Court judge will decide if local child protection workers can act on a Quebec order to seize 14 Lev Tahor children and put them in temporary foster care.

Quebec authorities believe the kids were physically and psychologically abused at their former settlement north of Montreal in Ste. Agathe-des-Monts, Que., the sect’s home for a dozen years.

Lev Tahor argues this is just another in a series of attacks on their religious freedom, with a secular state holding them to educational standards that go against their teachings and using their children as weapons in a battle to destroy them.

Quebec’s education policies, the group says, are the real reason for the unwanted child welfare probe.

They refuse to compromise on their curriculum. Any instruction about evolution or sex education is refused. In Quebec, the children weren’t taught French.

“Why teach the history of Canada?” she says. “We are Jewish people. We are proud to live in Canada, but we are not proud Canadians.”

It’s not clear where the truth lies about the child-protection issues versus freedom of religion in this case, but Quebec’s proposed charter is sending a message. “Regular people that feel that religion has a particular role they want it to play in their lives, and that manifests itself in some physical way, are being communicated a particular message which is, ‘We don’t want that here.’”

- Cara Zwibel, Canadian Civil Liberties Association

‘It’s creepy’: Location based marketing is following you, whether you like it or not

The Financial Post - February 1st, 2014

The hipsters and fashionistas normally seen strolling along Toronto’s West Queen West neighbourhood huddle inside the Dark Horse Espresso Bar on this blustery cold day, snuggled in chunky knit sweaters and tapping on their MacBooks.

There are 15 sensors in different businesses along Queen Street West that scan for signals emitted by such wireless devices, said Rob Sysak, executive director of the West Queen West Business Improvement Association.

These sensors, in this case made by Toronto-based Turnstyle Solutions, can follow a smartphone, tablet or laptop’s signal to track that consumer’s exact path. Whether they linger by the shoe rack or make their way to the register in the Fresh Collective clothing store, decide to head to Dark Horse Espresso Bar next, or return to the area in the future, these smartphone-sized devices are tracking it all.

But the Canadian Civil Liberties Association argues that location data from a smartphone is indeed personal information. Because this log of movements is linked to a unique identifying number for that smartphone or device, “there’s a way to connect the dots and figure out who you are,” said Sukanya Pillay, acting executive director for the CCLA.

The argument that the data is aggregated and encrypted is not enough, she said, amid growing evidence that security agencies are interested in this information and can procure it from private companies.

 “This kind of technology enables the collector of information to compile a profile on an individual,” Ms. Pillay said. “To have very personal information of that individual with respect to their whereabouts, interests, and their preferences. That’s why we are squarely within the range of what is considered personal and private information.”

Not everyone is aware of the personal data emitted by their smartphones, and consumers should be notified this is happening, she added.

Experts weigh in on the state of Canada’s spying rules

 The Globe and Mail – January 29th, 2014

In her special report on cyber-snooping and surveillance in Canada, Interim Privacy Commissioner Chantal Bernier took on a fast-developing issue. Revelations from documents released by Edward Snowden have raised questions about spying activities by government agencies across the world, including here in Canada.

What Ms. Bernier sees in Canada is essentially a patchwork of rules and oversight, much of it outdated, at a time when the explosion of online information has changed the way spies and police work – and what information they can gather, with or without a warrant.

Her recommendations included boosting watchdog powers, compelling Canada’s spy agencies to release more information and rewriting privacy laws, including the Privacy Act, which she notes has been essentially unchanged since before the Internet era.

Sukanya Pillay, Acting Executive Director, Canadian Civil Liberties Association, which Ms. Bernier consulted in preparing the report. She welcomed the call for greater disclosure.

“National security can’t be invoked as some sort of talisman that permits the state to avoid any kind of accountability with respect to what they’re doing. We need to know what they’re doing and we need to know if what they’re doing is effective. We don’t need to know the content and the specifics, but we need to know the reach and what processes are in place,” she said.

Muslim group demands apology from Harper, chief spokesman over comment

Winnipeg Free Press – January 28th, 2014

A major Canadian Muslim group is demanding an apology from Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his chief spokesman for a comment it says linked the organization to a terrorist group.

The National Council of Canadian Muslims has filed a notice of libel in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice that accuses Jason MacDonald of acting maliciously when he made the comment earlier this month.

The council had criticized the inclusion of a controversial rabbi in Harper’s delegation that went to the Middle East last week.

“Rather than responding to our legitimate concerns, the PMO’s director of communications attacked us and attempted to smear our name by claiming NCCM had ‘documented ties to a terrorist organization such as Hamas,'” Ihsaan Gardee, the council’s executive director, told a news conference Tuesday.

“Nothing could be further from the truth. NCCM will not let the PMO’s false statement stand.”

The council describes itself as an independent, non-partisan, non-profit group which has worked for 14 years on human rights and civil liberties issues on behalf of Canadian Muslims.

A half-dozen other rights groups, including the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the Canadian Association of University Teachers, have offered support to the Muslim group.

Religious Freedom vs. Equality Rights

Listen here:

 CBC Tapestry – January 24th, 2014

Can traditional religions co-exist with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms?  Recently,  a student at York University asked, on religious grounds, to be excused from a study session that would include women.  Plus, when religions clash with something else:  Downward dog?  In Malaysia and Iran, instructors are dialling down the spiritual component of  yoga so that it’s in sync with the laws of land.

We called up two lawyers to discuss the York University situation and to a few other heated cases.Natasha Bhakt is an associate professor of law at the University of Ottawa. She specializes in the intersecting area of religious freedom and women’s equality. Sukanya Pillay is the Acting Executive Director of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

Then, Iranian writer and broadcaster Azadeh Moaveni examines the tension that exists between yoga practitioners and the state in Iran and Malaysia. Among the contentious areas: is yoga an exercise programme or a spiritual practise?

Chapter and verse, Catholic school funding’s unfair

The Globe and Mail – January 23rd, 2014

It’s not hard to understand why Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne would try to shut down another debate about the appropriateness of Catholic school funding before the discussion even starts. Revisiting the Confederation pact that grandfathered the “right” of Catholics to their own publicly funded schools has been a career-ending proposition for almost every Ontario politician who’s dared.

Sooner rather than later though, some courageous leader will have to convene Ontarians for a conversation about what kind of public education system best suits a province juggling with the twin challenges of religious diversity and scarce resources. This Premier is not there yet, though the case for Catholic school funding strains evermore under the weight of its own contradictions.

The 2012 Drummond commission on streamlining Ontario public services might have been expected to explore the merger issue. But it hid behind the Constitution. That’s too bad, since the more credible estimate of savings it could have provided would have informed what remains an inevitable debate.

That said, the principal reason Ontario should do away with Catholic school funding is not financial. There is simply no longer a case to fully fund a sectarian education system whose teachings are at odds with the fundamental values of Ontario society. The Catholic system’s resistance to gay-straight alliances is emblematic of the kinds of conflicts that will multiply in our diversity-laden future.

As the Canadian Civil Liberties Association has noted, the origin of Catholic school funding in Ontario lies in a mid-19th century desire to protect religious freedom and equality, as both concepts were then conceived. But the continued application of that constitutional compromise “only serves to erode those very principles today.”

Advertisers scramble to reassure public after Google privacy flap

 The Globe and Mail- January 16th, 2014

Advertising groups are taking steps to address concerns raised by Canada’s privacy watchdog, fearing a backlash that could have a negative impact on the lucrative world of targeted online advertising.

The Association of Canadian Advertisers and the Canadian Marketing Association have been working to align themselves with privacy advocates, in order to demonstrate that they are not playing fast and loose with consumers’ personal information. The use of that information has become crucial to the way that ads are bought and sold.

In September, the Association of Canadian Advertisers and the Canadian Marketing Association helped to launch a program in Canada to better inform people of how their information is used online by advertisers, and to give them an easier way to opt out of that system if they want to.

The Digital Advertising Alliance of Canada [DAAC], as the program is known, released its own set of guidelines for targeted advertising that all participating companies must agree to. It includes a specific prohibition on using financial or medical information – as in the Google case – or anything that could be linked to a particular individual.

“There really is an explosion in the amount of private information that is collected, used, and sold,” said Abby Deshman, a lawyer with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, a non-profit advocacy group. “… We need more and better tools to address it.”

Civil liberties organization upset with City

Oshawa Express- November 15th, 2013

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) is not amused by what it is seeing and hearing about Oshawa.

CCLA Fundamental Freedoms Program Director Cara Zwibel sent a letter to City council on November 4 expressing the group’s concerns about the City of Oshawa’s new trespass bylaw. The CCLA is also “disturbed” about the physical force that was used to remove residents from the September 3 council meeting, writes Zwibel.

During the meeting in question, residents who had been heckling, shouting or laughing – depending on your perspective – were asked to leave by the mayor. Security attempted to remove two men and physical altercations ensued, leading plainclothes police officers to come forward from the gallery to make arrests.

“The trespass by-law, in our view, will further chill participation,” she claims. “The by-law raises a number of concerns in light of the constitutionally protected status of freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly in Canada.”

In her letter, Zwibel lays out four other issues with the bylaw. The first is the “unduly large” number of people who can issue trespass notices; the second is language in the bylaw that “purports to remove a right of judicial review” from banned residents who have already gone to the City’s hearings officer; the third are the limits on the appeal process and the appeal fee required; and the fourth is with the means of communications between the City and banned residents.

“(The bylaw) should be appropriately narrow and specific,” says Zwibel. “I think council should recognize what they’re doing is authorizing a very extreme sanction.”

Hungary rights group joins international peers in suing Britain’s GCHQ

Politics- November 9th, 2013

Hungary’s Civil Liberties Union (TASZ) has joined other rights groups around the world in taking legal action against British surveillance organisation GCHQ in light of the Snowden leaks, TASZ said in a statement on Friday.

TASZ noted the civil liberty groups, spearheaded by Britain’s Liberty, had decided to take legal action against GCHQ.

TASZ, citing the 1998 Human Rights Act, said any abuses of the European Convention of Human Rights opened up the option for the victim to turn to court.

The other rights group include the American Civil Liberties Union, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties and South Africa’s Legal Resources Centre.

Ontario must ban SLAPP suits to protect free speech

Toronto Star- November 8th, 2013


 Peter Jacobsen is Chair of the Canadian Issues Committee of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression.

Toby Mendel is Executive Director of the Centre for Law and Democracy.

Shane Moffatt is Forest Campaigner for Greenpeace Canada.

Cara Faith Zwibel is Director of the Fundamental Freedoms Program of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

Freedom of expression and democracy are being undermined in Ontario. A panel of experts convened by the Ontario government in 2010 found that the threat of abusive lawsuits claiming massive damages, especially for defamation, is deterring “significant numbers” of Ontarians from speaking out on issues of important public interest.

Known as SLAPPs (Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation), these dubious lawsuits are often brought by deep-pocketed companies with the specific aim of silencing resource-poor defendants. And they are very effective. The defendants, usually ordinary citizens or public interest groups, naturally feel threatened by the prospect of massive legal fees, disruption of their activities and the possibility of large damage awards. Even when the lawsuits have no merit whatsoever, they often result in a chill on free speech.

We need legislative protection from these chilling lawsuits. Anti-SLAPP legislation may affirm a legal presumption in favour of the protection of speech on matters that are of public interest, or engage public participation. If the defendant can demonstrate that his or her statements fall within the scope of this presumption, the burden then shifts to the plaintiff who must show that the case has substantial merit, that it is unlikely that any defence would succeed and that, on balance, the harm it has suffered outweighs the harm that would be done to the public interest if the case were to proceed.

Anti-SLAPP legislation has already been adopted in Quebec and most U.S. states. It’s now time for Ontario to follow suit. Important steps have been taken in this regard, specifically in the form of Bill 83, submitted by the Attorney General to the Ontario legislature in May 2013 – the first government-sponsored anti-SLAPP bill in Ontario.

Our organizations, along with more than 150 environmental organizations, free speech groups and unions, call on the Ontario legislature to pass anti-SLAPP legislation as a matter of priority. No less than 64 municipalities and the Ontario Bar Association have also supported anti-SLAPP legislation. It is time to protect Ontarians’ right to free expression.

‘Security certificates’ ruling ignites debate

Al Jazeera- November 4th, 2013

According to Canada’s Ministry of Public Safety, security certificates are only issued “in exceptional circumstances.” Since 1991, Canada has issued security certificates against 37 people that the government deemed dangers to national security.

In recent years, the system has been used primarily against Muslim men from the Middle East and North Africa. The government is currently holding security certificates against three men: Mohammad Harkat of Algeria, Mahmoud Jaballah of Egypt, and Mahjoub

In another prominent Supreme Court case, in 2007, the Court ordered the government to cancel a security certificate against Morrocan-born Adil Charkaoui, and amend the security certificate system overall, as parts of it violated the constitution.

A year later the government made minor changes to the system, including appointing a “special advocate” to ensure that the rights of the person held under a security certificate are protected. This special advocate was also entrusted with liaising with the individuals’ lawyers to ensure that a proper defense can be mounted.

According to Sukanya Pillay, acting Executive Director at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, improving communication between the special advocate and the lawyer of individuals held under a security certificate is critical.

“It’s important that the constitutional rights of the named individuals are protected. We believe that fair trial guarantees are applicable to security certificate proceedings. The important thing on this is to guarantee that the named person must know the case put against him or her and must be given the right to meaningfully participate in answering that case,” Pillay told Al Jazeera.

“Introducing the special advocates was an improvement, but it has not cured the due process concerns that we have,” she added. …

Who Watches the Watchers?

The Link-October 29th, 2013

In schools and workplaces, the concept of “if you see something, say something” is often employed to encourage transparency about peer misconduct.

But what if, at a protest or just during a night out on the town, you witnessed police brutality? What would you do?

The real question might be—what can you do?

With the fourth annual candlelight vigil for those killed by police officers held last week, and the notoriously hell-raising holiday Halloween coming up, police accountability should be on everyone’s minds.

Right out of the gate, it should be known that it is not illegal for citizens to film public servants. Any claims to the contrary by police are false, confirmed Abby Deshman, director of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association’s public safety program.

“There is no law prohibiting people from filming police on duty in public spaces,” she said.

Deshman went on to say that such activities are constitutionally protected, with the Supreme Court upholding that journalists and citizens engaging in lawful newsgathering are protected under freedom of expression and freedom of the press.

Section 129 of the Criminal Code prohibits “willfully obstructing” police in the execution of their duty—but standing at a distance holding a camera does not, in fact, qualify as an obstruction.

“To date, I haven’t seen any cases in Canada where simply filming a police officer has been found to be obstructing their duty, and I would strongly argue that it couldn’t,” Deshman said.

Amazon called on to pull books denying Holocaust, glorifying rape and incest

CTV News- October 24, 2013

Online retailer Amazon is known for offering deals on thousands of book titles, but the company has recently been in the news for selling books that deny the Holocaust, and glorify rape and incest.

A number of groups, including the World Jewish Congress, are calling on Amazon to stop selling books that deny the Holocaust, as well as Nazi paraphernalia from its website. They say if the retailer refuses, the next step will be a boycott.

“No one should profit from the sale of such vile and offensive hate literature,” WJC Executive Vice President Robert Singer wrote in a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos last week.


“It runs contrary to Canadian values. It’s against the law and I think that Amazon should rethink its policy,” said Frank Dimant, CEO of B’nai Brith.

Civil liberties groups say banning books and defining what constitutes hate speech isn’t that simple.

Mailing obscene, immoral or hate material is illegal — but it’s up to interpretation and rarely enforced.

Cara Zwibel from the Canadian Civil Liberties Association said the group strongly believes in freedom of expression.

“We believe in very broad and robust protections for freedom of expression, even for expression that we and most Canadians would consider extremely offensive,” she said.

Nunavut election rules challenged by national group

CBC News-October 23rd, 2013

Manitok Thompson is a former member of the Nunavut Legislative Assembly. She lives in Alberta but, still has ties to Nunavut.

Thompson says she was informed by Elections Nunavut that she cannot express opinions or support Nunavut candidates using social media, because she lives outside of the territory. It’s one of the new changes to the elections act, introduced earlier this year. But Thompson disagrees with that rule.

Thompson complained to the Canadian Civil Liberties Association about the situation, and the association agreed there’s a problem, and possibly a breach the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Cara Zwibel is with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. She’s concerned that Elections Nunavut is taking an overly broad interpretation of the elections act.

The act explicitly states that “any individual who is not resident in Nunavut… shall not campaign in an election.”

But Zwibel points out that the Act goes on to say that the rule “doesn’t prohibit a person from merely declaring support for a candidate or making general statements on an issue of public policy or personally displaying campaign material as long as those things are done in good faith not done to try to manipulate or oppress voters.”


Exhibition hockey game intended to unite G20 protesters, Toronto police drawing ire of disgruntled activists

National Post- October 18th, 2013

An exhibition hockey game that was meant to bring Toronto police and activists together to heal bitterness left behind by the G20 riots is facing opposition from some who call the gesture “insulting.”

The first game in what is hoped to be an annual event will take place Saturday night at Mattamy Athletic Centre — the former Maple Leaf Gardens — between the public safety and emergency management unit of Toronto police and Artists for Civil Liberties.


Sukanya Pillay, acting executive director of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, which arranged the game, called the friendly competition a new way to foster meaningful dialogue with the police, moving beyond just identifying police abuses and making recommendations.

The association “never shied away from being critical of policing,” she said, but they have to maintain good relationships with police to effect the kind of change the CCLA is seeking.

It’s also not clear whether every police officer supports the match.

Security disservice: Think spying on citizens is just a Yankee affair? You’d be wrong.

Now Magazine- September 25th, 2013

There are few gatherings at which William Binney, the former U.S. intelligence officer turned whistle-blower, would be greeted as a celebrity. But at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association’s fourth annual RightsWatch conference September 20 at Ryerson, he was greeted like a pop star.

An affable gent with a mischievous grin, Binney has spent the past decade warning about the out-of-control surveillance capabilities of the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA). Binney knows those capabilities well, because he helped build them.


Canada is thought to be heavily involved in this vast data collection scheme, if only as a member of the “Five Eyes” intelligence-sharing pact formed secretly at the end of World War II with the U.S., UK, Australia and New Zealand. But our equivalent of the NSA, the Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC), has not sprung any leaks comparable to Snowden’s, so its activities remain shrouded in mystery.

In any case, Canadian communications are largely subject to U.S. scrutiny. Another speaker at RightsWatch, U of T professor Andrew Clement, has shown that much Canadian internet traffic is routed through the U.S., where it’s basically fair game for collection by the NSA.

Clement points out that even an email sent from a Toronto source to a local destination is quite likely to take a “boomerang route” through the U.S. On, his group’s website, people can get more information and follow the arc of their own messages across the continent.


Report Finds Police Worldwide Criminalize Dissent, Assert New Powers in Crackdown on Protests

Democracy Now- Oct 10th, 2013

In a major new report, the International Network of Civil Liberties Organizations details a global crackdown on peaceful protests through excessive police force and the criminalization of dissent. The report, “Take Back the Streets: Repression and Criminalization of Protest Around the World,” warns of a growing tendency to perceive individuals exercising a fundamental democratic right — the right to protest — as a threat requiring a forceful government response. The case studies detailed in this report show how governments have reacted to peaceful protests in the United States, Israel, Canada, Argentina, Egypt, Hungary, Kenya, South Africa and Britain. The report’s name comes from a police report filed in June 2010 when hundreds of thousands of Canadians took to the streets of Toronto to nonviolently protest the G-20 summit. A senior Toronto police commander responded to the protests by issuing an order to “take back the streets.” Within a span of 36 hours, more than 1,000 people — peaceful protesters, journalists, human rights monitors and downtown residents — were arrested and placed in detention. We are joined by three guests: the report’s co-editor, Abby Deshman, a lawyer and program director with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association; Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union; and Hossam Bahgat, an Egyptian human rights activist and the founder and executive director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights.


Feds looks at plan to collect DNA from suspects upon arrest

Globe and Mail- Oct 2nd, 2013

The federal government is considering a move to collect DNA samples from suspects upon arrest for certain crimes, a significant expansion of current DNA databank laws that is raising concerns for criminal defence lawyers and civil-rights advocates.

In a recent interview, Peter MacKay told The Globe and Mail that he spoke with Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney over the summer about DNA databank legislation and how it can assist police with criminal investigations.

“I know there’s always privacy considerations in the backdrop to this and it has to be balanced in the bigger picture,” Mr. MacKay said. “But I think that, you know, the timing of the taking of DNA is something that could very well emerge in the future as another issue of importance.”

Currently, Canadian law allows for DNA samples to be taken from individuals who are convicted of a range of offences, including murder, sexual assault and, in some cases, dangerous driving or drug trafficking. The information can be used to link a suspect to a crime scene or eliminate suspects where a profile in the databank does not match DNA collected at a crime scene.


Abby Deshman, director of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association’s public safety program, said past Supreme Court of Canada rulings have reinforced the idea that DNA collection is highly intrusive. “There are so many people who are arrested and never found guilty … that to institute a sweeping personal information collection scheme on the basis of arrest would be very troubling,” Ms. Deshman said.

She added that some people already have difficulty getting their photographs and fingerprints destroyed when charges are dropped, “and I expect there would be similar difficulties with any kind of collect-now, dispose-later scheme” involving DNA collection.

Justice Minister mulls expanded roadside checks to deter drunk driving

Globe and Mail – September 28th 2013

Canada’s Justice Minister says he is looking at ways to expand roadside checks in an effort to deter more people from drinking and driving.

In an interview with The Globe and Mail, Peter MacKay said his department is looking at measures that could allow police to demand random breath tests from drivers – even in circumstances where there are no grounds to believe a particular driver is impaired.

“We’ve been taking a very broad examination throughout the summer, my department has, at what other jurisdictions have done,” Mr. MacKay said. “And we’re always mindful, always have in the backdrop the need to respect people’s rights. But a lot of emphasis is on protecting the public here given the prevalence of impaired driving.”

Under current laws, police have the right to stop any vehicle at random and question the driver’s sobriety. If there are reasonable grounds to suspect the person has been drinking, police can also demand a breath test to assess that person’s blood-alcohol level.

Mr. MacKay said he would look at “expanding that ability” to do roadside checks. Asked whether that could mean expanding an officer’s ability to demand a breath test, Mr. MacKay said it did.


The idea has not won universal praise, however. Abby Deshman, who directs the public safety program for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, said that any legislation mandating random breath checks would likely trigger a constitutional challenge. “While there’s no doubt that drinking and driving and impaired driving are serious concerns, we do question whether [giving] additional randomized power to the police would be effective in decreasing drinking and driving further,” she said.


Nobody feels vindicated by conviction

Mississauga News -September 13th, 2013

On June 26, 2010, G20 protester Adam Nobody was violently arrested — one of 1,105 jailed over that now infamous weekend of heavy-handed policing.

On Thursday, more than three years later, Const. Babak Andalib-Goortani was found guilty of using excessive force – the only G20 case in which a police officer was convicted.

It’s a long-awaited moment of vindication for the hundreds of people who joined him in jail after the largest mass arrest in Canadian history, Nobody said.

But while the verdict in the criminal court was a surprising victory, he said, it is only one piece of what has become an agonizingly slow search for justice and accountability by people caught up in the G20 arrests.

Only two officers were criminally charged with assaults from that weekend. The other, Glenn Weddell, was found not guilty in May.

“A conviction against a police officer is extremely, extremely hard to get … it proves that, although you do need video evidence … you can do it, ” said Nobody.


Also still to come are the disciplinary cases of 31 officers, including two senior officers, charged under the Police Services Act following public complaints, said Abby Deshman, program director at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

“We are concerned that (the cases) are taking so long.” Still, she said, the verdict is a good first step in the long G20 “accountability process.”

“We know that there were major hurdles getting this particular case to charges and to trial, ” Deshman said. “I think it is because of media and public attention on this particular case that we have the result we have today.”


“These charges are a fundamental part of the accountability process, ” Deshman said. “They are oftentimes the only response to police misconduct, so disciplinary charges really are the meat of where police discipline happens.”

Charges under the Act are not criminal. If officers are found guilty, consequences range from docked pay to losing their jobs.


Religious minorities face fight-or-flight choice as Quebec values charter released

Yahoo News – September 11th, 2013

 MONTREAL – The choices for Quebec’s observant religious minorities now seem to boil down to fight or flight with the release of details of Quebec’s proposed charter of values.

It bans religious symbols from the public service and would forbid employees from wearing such garments as the hijab, turban and kippa.

Compliance is another option, but not for Diaa Quarmauch, a Muslim woman who came to Canada from Morocco. Forget about asking her to remove her hijab.

“I will never change,” the 34-year-old said Tuesday. “I will never take it off. I think the Muslims will leave Canada before they take off their veils.”


The proposed charter dominated TV and radio on Tuesday and lit up social media. At least two parodies surfaced on YouTube, one with a mother warning her little girl not to wear a hat and scarf because she could be mistaken for a Muslim and another where people were told not to use the “plus” sign because others might think it was a cross.


His thoughts were echoed by Noa Mendelsohn Aviv, director of equality program at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, who said the proposed charter has serious implications for the promotion of diversity within society.

“If we want to have diversity and equality in our society, we need to have diverse leaders, we need to have diverse role models,” she said, citing police officers, teachers and judges.

“This proposal would essentially say that’s not possible, a person has to hide aspects of their diversity and certain people won’t be able to fill those roles at all.”

Mendelsohn Aviv said the charter leaves out a number of important values.

“I think that it violates values that many Canadians and Quebecers hold dear — the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of religion, the right to autonomy and to make your own choices and very much the right to equality,” she said. “I think it’s a very troubling development and I think it’s unconstitutional.”

The trial before the trial…

Oshawa Express – September 2013

The “switchover”

The nickname for Oshawa’s bail court is so critical, those who work there dare not breathe a syllable of it to journalists on the record.

But no one said anything about hints: Let’s just say the nickname bears a remarkable resemblance to a body of water in Cuba.

However, to hear some tell it, the entire province of Ontario is mired in similar bail problems.

Dave Scott, executive director of the Toronto Bail Program, which services the Durham courthouse too, says the bail system, “has become totally bastardized.”

Compared to the system brought in with the Bail Reform Act of 1972, “it is nowhere near where it was,” says Scott.

“It’s almost become now going through the process of bail is the punishment,” he says. If this is the case, the number of people being punished is increasing.

Two thirds of people in Ontario’s jails are legally innocent and are awaiting bail hearings, pretrial proceedings or trials, says Abby Deshman, director of the public safety program at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA).

“This is a staggering number,” she says.

The CCLA is currently conducting a research project, sponsored by the Canadian Bar Association, into bail and pre-trial detention in several jurisdictions, with Ontario one of them.

Ashley Smith inquest: Wardens could give key answer

Toronto Star- September 9th 2013

After a two-month summer break, the Smith inquest, which is entering its seventh month, resumes Monday. It has heard that Pauline and Berry were in charge of the prison when instructions were circulated there in October 2007 that guards weren’t to rush into Ashley’s prison cell and untie the ligatures she habitually wrapped around her neck to self-asphyxiate.

Attempts by the Star to get comments from Pauline and Berry for this story were unsuccessful, and their lawyers declined to comment on the case at this time. 

Testimony from Pauline and Berry at the Ashley Smith inquest is eagerly anticipated.

“We’re hoping to hear who was actually ‘managing’ how Ashley was treated by CSC (Correctional Service Canada),’’ says Kim Pate, executive director of the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies, a group representing women in conflict with the law, which has standing at the inquest.

“Who issued the orders to not enter Ashley’s cell? These are some of the key questions we see,’’ Pate says.

She adds that representatives at the national offices of CSC would also certainly have been well aware of Ashley’s life at Grand Valley and the other institutions she stayed at, and Pate says she’s also waiting to hear this testimony as the second phase of the inquest gets underway.

“Our primary interest is to improve accountability and transparency within CSC, so from our perspective, hearing from the two people who headed up (Grand Valley) at (this) point in time will be key testimony,’’ says Toronto lawyer Allison Thornton, who is representing the Canadian Civil Liberties Association at the inquest.

Updated: SIU called in after cops taser 80-year-old woman in Streetsville  

Mississauga-September 3rd, 2013

A Peel Regional Police officer is being investigated by the Province’s Special Investigations Unit after allegedly Tasering an 80-year-old woman in Streetsville last Wednesday.

Officers were called to the area of Thomas St. and Erin Mills Pkwy. around 3:30 a.m. after a woman, who has not been named but is believed to suffer from dementia, was spotted wandering the streets with a kitchen knife in her hand.

According to the SIU, at least three officers were present at the scene and when the woman refused to put down the knife, one of them used a Taser.


The Streetsville incident occurred just hours after Ontario Community Safety Minister Madeleine Meilleur announced controversial plans to allow police services to expand the use of stun guns. Existing rules limit the use of Taser-style guns to supervising or tactical officers, but the government wants to allow individual police services to set their own policies, as they do in several other provinces.

Supporters of the change suggest it will save lives, but others aren’t convinced. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association has called for cops to receive better training in dealing with dangerous situations and mental health patients rather than being given new weapons.

Be the Change you want to see

Canadian Lawyer Magazine- August 2013

But should pro bono work be mandatory? How can we get law students to do it without making it a requirement?

“If we create this climate where public interest and pro bono is seen as being this vital part of your legal education, students will do it,” says Nikki Gershbain, national director of Pro Bono Students Canada. The discussion shouldn’t be focused on whether or not to make public interest work mandatory, she says, instead, it should be focused on changing the culture to foster this kind of work in the law school community. “Creating a climate where public interest activities are widely available and considered to be an important part of the law school experience actually bypasses all of the negatives of mandating public service but it achieves all of the same goals,” she says.

Nathalie Des Rosiers, the new common law dean at the University of Ottawa and former general counsel of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, agrees it shouldn’t be about making pro bono mandatory. “What is important in the context of this discussion is not to overemphasize whether [pro bono is] mandatory or not, I think we’re beyond that. I think we’re now at the stage of saying — and I would have the same reflections when we’re looking at the profession more generally — certainly I think you aim to have the largest number of people within your profession to do pro bono, the question is what are the best tools to do it to accomplish your goal. We want to move to a position that it’s not only how much pro bono you’re doing, but how well you are doing [it],” she says. “It’s not only about counting hours, but mostly about doing something meaningful that addresses serious problems.”

Front-line police officers in Ontario allowed to carry Tasers

Global News- August 28th , 2013

The announcement Tuesday comes one month after the shooting death of 18-year-old Sammy Yatim aboard a streetcar in Toronto. Yatim was shot multiple times by police, then hit with a Taser.

Community Safety Minister Madeleine Meilleur says the government will not mandate the use of “conducted energy weapons,” more commonly known by the brand name Taser, but will permit police forces to equip their officers if they choose. Previously, only supervisors and tactical officers were allowed to carry Tasers.

“It’s up to Ontario’s police services, with their communities. They will make their own decisions on their local use,” she said at a press conference Tuesday morning. “It will increase community safety by preventing injury and death.”


Police chiefs and unions across Ontario, including the Toronto Police Services Association, have long pushed for the expanded deployment of Tasers. Twelve coroner’s inquests have also recommended the province allow frontline officers access to Tasers. Many of those cases, according to documents provided to Global News, involved violent or “irrational” people that died following confrontations with police officers. In the majority of those cases, the person died as a result of gunshot wounds.


The weapons “have been misused in the past,” Sukanya Pillay, counsel for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, said in a media release.

“Government focus should be on police receiving improved training and building skill sets to de-escalate crises, rather than expanding weapons deployment.

Transgender Canadians Deserve Protection — Why Aren’t They Getting It?

Huffington Post- Aug 28th, 2013

When newly-sentenced Wikileaks source Pvt. Bradley Manning revealed he would be pursuing gender reassignment while in prison, the announcement was met with a raft of reaction, some of it supportive, much of it venomous.

The episode was a reminder that prejudices against transgender people not only persist, but are rampant, even at the highest levels of public discourse.

Some 1,700 km northeast of the cell where Manning will serve 35 years for leaking U.S. military secrets, Canadian legislators have been at work since June 2011 to expand the Canadian Criminal Code to include gender identity and gender expression on the list of characteristics protected by hate crime law. In Canada, a hate crime is defined as intimidation, harassment, physical force or physical threats against a person or property, motivated by hatred or prejudice.

Bill C-279, which you may know better as the dismissively-nicknamed “Bathroom Bill,” was passed in Parliament in March, by a count of 149-137. And in the eyes of most, the story ended there, and another victory was chalked up for Canadian progressiveness. But before C-279 can become law, it will have to be passed by the Senate. Now, six months after being approved in the House of Commons, the bill is stuck in legislative limbo, stalled by summer recess and Prime Minster Stephen Harper’s prorogation of Parliament.

Meanwhile, thousands of transgendered people across Canada face threats, harassment, violence, every day.

As the Canadian Civil Liberties Association wrote in a brief to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, “Bill C-279 will act as an important deterrent against transphobic discrimination and hate crimes before they occur, and will ensure that the… realities of trans people are adequately captured and protected under human rights and criminal law.”

In other words, the proposed change in law is not just a means of enforcing tolerance. It is a move to educate all Canadians on the challenges faced by trans people. It is an acknowledgment that trans people are no less deserving of basic rights and protection than anyone else, that discrimination on the basis of gender identity should not be the flippant act it so often appears to be

Experts warn of Taser abuse

Now Magazine – August 28, 2013

Civil liberties groups, criminologists, and mental health advocates are raising concerns about the Ontario government’s decision to allow frontline police officers to carry Tasers, warning that the powerful energy weapons could be over-used by the cops.

On Tuesday, Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services Madeleine Meilleur announced that the province will permit individual police forces to decide which of its members carry Tasers. Until now, the ministry had stipulated that only police supervisors could use the devices, also known as conductive energy weapons.


But not everyone is as convinced as Federico that the minister’s announcement will lead to safer policing. Before Meilleurs’ press conference was even over, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association had released a statement reiterating its “long-standing concerns about the safety and appropriate uses of CEWs” and urging police forces to invest in better de-escalation training and crisis intervention teams instead.

Among the association’s worries is that the current guidelines that dictate when officers in Ontario can fire a Taser are too lax. The province’s use of force standards says that a cop is justified in using the weapon if a subject exhibits “assaultive behaviour,” which includes actions like kicking and punching but also aggressive body language that indicates an intent to do harm.

Hamilton police chief supports equipping officers with Tasers

The Spec- August 27th, 2013

Hamilton police Chief Glenn De Caire supports equipping the city’s front-line officers with Tasers and will propose a plan to pay for them.

The service released a statement Tuesday after the Ontario government announced it would allow the province’s police services to expand use of Tasers to include front-line officers.

“The Chief will be making recommendations for funding and implementation to the Hamilton Police Services Board in the near future,” the statement said.

It also noted that authorization to use conductive energy weapons (CEW) — the generic term for the devices — “provides a less lethal option to our officers.”

The province had previously restricted the weapons to a select few supervising and specialized officers, setting police apart from counterparts in several other provinces, along with the RCMP.


Following the province’s announcement, critics say they are worried police officers may be more likely to resort to force if there are “less lethal” options available.

“Government focus should be on police receiving improved training and building skill sets to de-escalate crises, rather than expanding weapons deployment,” said Sukanya Pillay, interim general counsel for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

Officers in Ontario follow a use-of-force model that dictates they can use a Taser when the person they are confronting is being assaultive — attempts to harm or harms someone, such as kicking or punching, or displays aggressive body language.

Majority of Quebecers support proposed bill banning religious clothing: poll

CTV News- August 26th, 2013

A majority of Quebecers agree with proposed legislation that would ban religious clothing and symbols in Quebec’s public buildings, a bill that also has the support of the political party that could give the Parti Quebecois the votes it needs to get it passed.

Last week, details of the proposed “Charter of Quebec Values” emerged in Quebec media reports, which suggested that it would essentially ban public employees from wearing religious clothing such as turbans, hijabs and kippas, and other symbols, such as crucifixes.

The bill won’t be officially unveiled until mid-September. However, a Leger Marketing poll says that:

  • 57 per cent of Quebecers say it’s a good idea.
  • 28 per cent of Quebecers say it’s a bad idea.


While the legislation may win the public and political battles, it will face a fight in the courts if it becomes law. When details of the bill leaked last week, civil rights experts were quick to warn that they would launch legal challenges, saying the bill violates citizens’ freedom of religion.

“On its face, the idea that the government tells individuals that they can’t express their religious beliefs, that they can’t wear religious attire, is … a violation of freedom of religion, which is protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” Cara Zwibel of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association told CTV News Channel last week.

“And we also need to ask whether we want government to be responsible for deciding what a religious symbol is and what’s a cultural symbol, what’s an expression of our cultural backgrounds and beliefs.”


Risk aversion stalls bail process, overcrowds remand prisons, group says

Law Times – July 29, 2013

On one of the hottest days of the year in Toronto, an audience in an air-conditioned hall at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association got a glimpse of what it’s like to live in overcrowded Ontario prisons without being convicted of any crime.

In front of them, Jacqueline Tasca of the John Howard Society of Ontario flipped through photos displaying a shared toilet an arm’s reach away from bunk beds, a small fenced yard where prisoners get 20 minutes of fresh air every day, and a small, dark segregation room.

Detention conditions are so deplorable “a lot of people plead guilty just to get out of remand,” said Tasca.

As trends show Ontario’s court system taking longer to make bail decisions, and denying bail in higher number than the decades before, pretrial detention centres see more traffic and worse living conditions.

About 67 per cent of all people in Ontario prisons are on remand, Tasca said.

“It wasn’t always this ways,” she said, noting in the ’80s, the remand population was only about 20 per cent.

“Something happened in the ’90s and in the early 2000s to really shoot that rate up. Bail is one major issue that has caused increasing rates of remand. Less people are granted bail nowadays than decades ago. More cases than ever start their lives in detention centres,” she said.

Police are less inclined to release people once they’re charged, Tasca added, while Crown counsel are also less likely to want to release people on bail without a surety.

It’s a trend toward what Tasca termed “risk aversion.” The phrase was also cited in a 2009 report published by Current Issues in Criminal Justice about the increase in remand population in Canada.

“We would suggest that Canada’s growing remand population is largely the product of an increasing culture of risk aversion which is permeating the entire criminal justice system,” the authors wrote. “Indeed, we appear to be witnessing a generalized practice whereby decisions are either being continually passed along to someone else or simply delayed by those responsible for making them.”

According to the same report, 63 per cent of bail hearings were adjourned to another day in 2006, a jump from just 15 per cent in 1974. Before getting a bail disposition, an accused on average needed 7.7 appearances in 2001, the report notes, adding by 2007, that number went up to 9.4 appearances.

While the delay in disposition is the starkest change over the years, the outcome of most dispositions has also changed, according to the report. Contested or otherwise, bail was granted in about 49 per cent of cases in 1974. In 2006, only 12 per cent of dispositions were in favour of the accused’s release.

“The process kind of creates this domino effect where more people are held for bail hearings, more people are denied bail at their bail hearings, and therefore more people are sitting in our prisons awaiting trial as opposed to being convicted,” Tasca said.

Second only to Manitoba, Ontario has one of the largest remand prison populations in the country. It’s the reason behind the Ontario government’s Justice on Target program, which aims to curb delays in the court system. According to the Ministry of the Attorney General, the Justice on Target program was responsible for bringing the average number of court appearances down to 8.5 by June 2012.

“It does seems to have some impact,” Tasca noted, adding the program has brought “a renewed emphasis on bail.”

But the program is not without its own critics.

“It’s focused on deceasing times, and it’s a laudable goal, but the fact that they just started looking at the bail system, the fact that the more systemic issues weren’t part of that from the outset, for me, is a concern,” says Abby Deshman, director of the public safety program at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

“It’s one thing to try and streamline processes and to push people through faster but if we don’t start asking why more and more people are being detained in the first place, if we don’t start asking why we’re seeing rising numbers of people being in pretrail detention, you can try and push people through but it may not be addressing the underlying process,” she says.

While on remand, detainees get few to no programs and activities. According to Tasca, the top complaint of people in remand custody is health problems, followed by poor living conditions, treatment by correctional officers, and bad food.

“Because our detention centres are so crowded, health conditions also spread like crazy,” Tasca added.

Karen Harrison can relate to these complaints. Three years ago, she was detained for six months after being arrested while protesting Dump Site 41 in Simcoe County. A sufferer of wheat allergies, Harrison says she “nearly perished” while in remand.

“I survived on rice crackers and water,” she says. “I lost so much weight that I nearly perished. I consider myself lucky to be alive today but it bugs me that there are people in the prison system going through this.”

In over 40 per cent of cases, all charges against remand prisoners are dropped.

MacKay to focus on MacIntosh case in new post as justice minister

The Chronicle Herald – July 16, 2013

OTTAWA — New Justice Minister Peter MacKay says he’s making the Ernest Fenwick MacIntosh case a priority but isn’t committing to an independent inquiry.

MacKay’s predecessor, Rob Nicholson, refused to call an inquiry into a case that has been widely condemned as a miscarriage of justice.

This year, the Supreme Court of Canada threw out MacIntosh’s 17 convictions from 2010-11 for molesting four boys in the 1970s. MacIntosh wasn’t charged until 1995 and then it took over a decade to extradite him from India, where he had moved in 1994. He was extradited in 2007 and stood trial in 2010. The top court found that the lengthy delay breached his right to a speedy trial.

The provincial government began an investigation into what went wrong, but Nicholson said things were handled swiftly on the federal end after the Conservatives came to power in 2006.

But not everyone is placated.

Weldon MacIntosh-Reynolds, who says MacIntosh molested him as a teenager, has said he will go on a liquid-only hunger strike until there is a federal review.

MacKay, who took over the justice portfolio Monday, isn’t yet signalling whether he will call such an inquiry.

“The MacIntosh case was the first file that the minister requested he be briefed on,” MacKay spokeswoman Jennifer Gearey said.

“This is an important case which figures very prominently on his agenda.”

MacIntosh was able to get his Canadian passport renewed twice after he was charged — in 1997 and 2002.

An extradition package sat with federal authorities before it was finally sent to India in the summer of 2006. MacIntosh was returned to Canada less than a year later.

A provincial report released this month found that part of the delay was due to the stiflingly heavy workload at the Port Hawkesbury Crown attorney’s office.

Provincial Justice Minister Ross Landry has asked Ottawa for a review of Passport Canada and the International Assistance Group, a division of the Justice Department that handles extraditions.

Another issue of key local importance that MacKay will have to deal with is the so-called Rehtaeh Parsons bill.

The bill, proposed by Dartmouth-Cole Harbour MP Robert Chisholm, a New Democrat, would make it illegal to distribute pictures of a naked person without that person’s consent. The bill would need the support of the Conservative caucus to become law.

In an interview Monday, MacKay said he had not yet been briefed on the file but would give it a good look.

“This whole issue around cyberbullying, I can tell you the federal Department of Justice is very seized with,” MacKay said.

“I’m going to be looking very closely on the entire issue before making any pronouncements.”

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association has expressed some concern about the bill because it would seemingly reverse the burden of proof. The bill states that someone would be assumed to have acted maliciously if he or she sent an intimate image without the subject’s consent, unless evidence to the contrary was presented.

P.E.I. mulls slapping special license plates on cars of convicted drunk drivers

Yahoo News – July 8, 2013

But civil libertarians are bridling at the idea of forcing convicted drunk drivers to wear the automotive equivalent of a scarlet letter.

Nathalie Des Rosiers, general counsel with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, told the National Post the idea was “ill-conceived” and could face a constitutional challenge.

“The Canadian Civil Liberties Association does have concern about such a branding and public humiliation that is a bit reminiscent of 19th century punishment,” Des Rosiers, a professor of constitutional law at the University of Ottawa., told the Post.

If you mark impaired drivers, why not reckless drivers or speeders, or those who text and drive, she asked.

“This is not the right way of dealing with driving under the influence,” Des Rosiers said.

Three lawyers newest Order of Canada members

Canadian Lawyer Magazine – July 8, 2013

Several members of the legal profession will be adding some new initials after their names following their induction to the Order of Canada this year.

The new appointees include Nathalie Des Rosiers, Paul Cavalluzzo, and Edward Goldenberg. Gov. Gen. David Johnston is honouring Des Rosiers and Cavalluzzo for their accomplishments in the legal field and Bennett Jones LLP’s Goldenberg for public service. All three will become members of the order while Murray Costello, who became a lawyer following a career as a professional hockey player and went on to serve as president of Hockey Canada, becomes an officer for his contributions to sport in Canada.
The honour is yet more praise for Des Rosiers, who until recently was general counsel of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and became dean of the University of Ottawa’s common law section this month. Last year, in fact, she joined the Order of Ontario for her efforts on behalf of child sexual abuse victims. The latest appointment honours her for her contributions as a lawyer to the advancement of civil liberties and her commitment to promoting French within the profession.
Civil libertarians outraged as P.E.I. mulls specialized license plate for convicted drunk drivers

National Post – July 8, 2013

P.E.I. has one of Canada’s highest rates of drinking and driving — almost double the national rate in 2011. In December, the minister said new plates could potentially help to combat repeat drinking and driving incidents.

Nathalie Des Rosiers, general counsel with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, said it is an “ill-conceived” plan and if implemented, would be challenged as unconstitutional.
“The Canadian Civil Liberties Association does have concern about such a branding and public humiliation that is a bit reminiscent of 19th century punishment,” said Ms. Des Rosiers, a professor of constitutional law at the University of Ottawa.

“It cannot be imposed through the back door, it must be imposed in front of a judge and with the proper procedural safeguards,” she said.

“Why not people who have been convicted of dangerous driving, of speeding, of texting while driving?” she asked. “This is not the right way of dealing with driving under the influence.”

Canadian-born man facing deportation; Immigration Canada says he’s not a citizen

CTV News – July 5, 2013

Sukanya Pillay, a director at the [Canadian] Civil Liberties Association, says Budlakoti may have a strong case to fight the deportation under international law.

“What constitutes one’s own country in international law doesn’t depend solely on citizenship and nationality, it depends on the country to which you have the most ties,” Pillay said.

He was born in Canada, but now the government wants him deported

Globe and Mail – July 5, 2013

Canadian-born Deepan Budlakoti lives a bizarre, almost-Kafkaesque existence. He lives in fear that, any day, government agents could knock on his parents’ door in Ottawa, haul him away and put him on a one-way flight to India.

In government-speak, he is “removal ready.” Except he has no place to go. He was born in Canada.

Yet, the Harper government has been trying to kick him out of the country for more than a year, claiming he was never really Canadian despite his Ontario birth certificate and the passport he once held. India rejects Ottawa’s efforts to dump Mr. Budlakoti – who spent three years in prison for serious crimes – on its doorstep.

“It’s a disgrace,” said Nathalie Des Rosiers, general counsel of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, who calls the Harper government’s efforts to banish Mr. Budlakoti “tantamount to cruel and unusual punishment.”

That sort of “abuse of process” should worry all Canadians, she added. It “means that we are all vulnerable to a vindictive re-assessment of our status at any time.”

Human rights groups sound alarm over Diab extradition evidence

Ottawa Citizen – July 3, 2013

Amnesty International and two of Canada’s leading civil liberties groups have intervened in the extradition case of former Ottawa university professor Hassan Diab, who is wanted by France for his alleged involvement in a 1980 terrorist bombing at a Paris synagogue.

Along with Amnesty, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association have filed interventions with the Ontario Court of Appeal, which is to hear Diab’s appeal against federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson’s decision to order the academic’s extradition. The hearing is set for November.

While neither Amnesty nor the civil liberties groups are commenting directly on the merits of the case, they say they are deeply troubled that French evidence against the academic could have been gleaned from torture and will be used against him at any criminal trial in Paris.

Sending an accused person to face trial under such circumstances, they say, “offends the principles of fundamental justice.”

In addition to concerns over torture, the CCLA has intervened because they say crucial evidence in the case against Diab is unreliable and would be inadmissible in any Canadian trial.

Des Rosiers takes the helm at U of O common law

Canadian Lawyer Magazine – July 1, 2013

After 13 years, a new captain is taking over the helm at the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law’s common law section.

On July 1, Nathalie Des Rosiers begins her term as dean of the common law section, replacing Bruce Feldthusen who first became dean in 2000.

Des Rosiers is new to the common law section, but not to Ottawa’s faculty of law. She has been a professor in the civil law section since 2004 and was civil law dean from 2004-08. She also served as the university’s interim vice president of governance from 2008-09.

Heralded as a champion of civil liberties, Des Rosiers has been widely recognized in her capacity as former general counsel for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. She was named one of the top 25 most influential lawyers in Canada by Canadian Lawyermagazine in 2011 and 2012.

In the 2012 “Top 25 most influential” list, Canadian Lawyer said: “Since joining the CCLA in 2009, Des Rosiers has boosted its reach and influence in the fight against government abuse and supporting individual rights. She continues to hold governments and lawmakers accountable for actions ranging from mass arrests and solitary confinement to DNA testing and the Charter rights of immigrants.”

FATCA Backlash from Abroad Over Privacy Concerns, Competitiveness
Thompson – June 28, 2013
In Canada, the public has protested over privacy rights. The Canadian Civil Liberties [Association], in a letter to Canada’s Department of Finance, called the scope of the information the United States seeks under FATCA “alarmingly broad.” Canadian lawyer Andrew Bonham wrote in the Canadian Tax Journal in 2012, “With the enactment of the FATCA regime, the concern has intensified to near-panic as residents of Canada to whom the rules apply grapple with reports — some factual and some not — from a myriad of sources regarding potentially severe penalties for non-compliance with either or both sets of reporting requirements.”
In countries with reciprocal agreements with the United States, FATCA requires that “foreign financial institutions” report their accountholders’ assets above a certain threshold to the IRS if the accountholder is a potential “U.S. person,” as defined by the law.
Nathalie Des Rosiers, general counsel for the CCLA, wrote in her Dec. 4, 2012 letter to the Canada Department of Finance that FATCA’s definition of  FFI “is expansive enough to include ‘all chartered Canadian banks, stock-brokers and virtually any entity engaged in the financial sector in Canada — everyone from financial advisors to pension funds,’” quoting Bonham’s academic paper. She said FATCA’s definition of “U.S. person” would encompass “not only U.S. citizens, but also many former green-card holders that have permanently left the United States or even individuals who have spent a substantial amount of time in the U.S. over a number of years.” She quoted a 2011 open letter in which Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty wrote, “…put frankly, Canada is not a tax haven. People do not flock to Canada to avoid paying taxes … to rigidly impose FATCA on our citizens and financial institutions would not accomplish anything except waste resources on all sides.”
Hate speech no longer part of Canada’s Human Rights Act

National Post – June 27, 2013

But critics of Section 13 said it enabled censorship on the Internet, and are calling its repeal a victory for free speech.

“We’re pleased with the repeal,” said Cara Zwibel, director of the fundamental freedoms program at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA), who testified before a Senate committee on the topic.

Zwibel said Section 13 had “some serious problems from a freedom of expression perspective.”

“We don’t want there to be a chill on speech that is controversial but not necessarily hateful,” she said. “We felt that given the impact that it has on freedom of expression, and given that it hasn’t really proven to be a very effective method for dealing with discrimination, that it shouldn’t be on the books anymore … We really encourage countering hateful speech, rather than trying to censor it.”

Zwibel, at the CCLA, also said there’s not a lot of good evidence that marginalized groups have used the statute to curb discrimination.

“Section 13 is not something that minority groups were already embracing and making use of,” she said, noting that a large majority of the tribunal cases “were brought by a single individual.”

Editorial: Chisholm’s sexting bill a good start

The Halifax Chronicle Herald – June 23, 2013

The Dartmouth-Cole Harbour MP’s bill would make it illegal to distribute, with malicious intent, images of someone nude or involved in a sex act without that person’s consent. […]  
If it has a weakness, it may be its automatic assumption of maliciousness.

Nathalie Des Rosiers of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association said she would expect the courts to set a high threshold for the definition of maliciousness to eliminate some cases of sexting — or texting explicit photos to friends.

An automatic assumption of guilt could mean slews of naïve 15-year-olds are before the courts for behaviour that, while unwise and often cruel, might not normally involve criminal charges.

Editorial: Extending Toronto vote to permanent residents is the right thing to do

The Toronto Star – June 22, 2013

By: Alan Broadbent Nathalie Des Rosiers

Alan Broadbent is chairman and CEO of Avana Capital Corp. and chair of Maytree. Nathalie Des Rosiers is General Counsel, Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

Toronto City Council got it right. Last week, it decided to ask the province to consider extending the municipal franchise to permanent residents in Toronto. This is good public policy, and is in line with legal principles and Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Several commentators, however, have viewed it differently, calling it a “backward step” and comparing it to the rules governing admission to a private club. Clubs, they argue, have a right to choose who gets to join, and those who aspire to membership better be prepared to shape up or ship out.

But Canada is not a private club and its democracy is not like an annual meeting with its rules committee and membership committee. Private clubs are exclusive. Clubs have limits to their membership, focus on attracting the like-minded, and exclude others. They have a history of exclusive practices, like posting lists of prospective members so existing members can “blackball” those they don’t want.

Democracy, on the other hand, is inclusive and wants to expand participation. It thrives on diversity and provides a lively marketplace for different values, beliefs, practices and backgrounds. The more people who vote in an election, the better the choice. The more views presented in public discourse, the more likely the best one will emerge.

Police board delays carding review a day after auditor general stalls independent study

Toronto Star – June 20, 2013

An internal review of carding data — which could shed light on whether the practice targets minorities — has been delayed by the police board just a day after the city’s auditor general said an independent review of the data could be more than a year away.

It’s at least the second time the board has given Police Chief Bill Blair an extension since first passing a motion more than a year ago that he report the statistics to the board every three months and address discriminatory practices.

The move means that any public accounting of police street checks — called carding — where officers document an individual’s personal information, including race, is months away.

Critics of the practice, such as the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, say that a prompt review of the data is necessary for police accountability and transparency concerning “street checks and racial profiling.”

“No delay is justified,” said the CCLA’s Noa Mendelson in a written deputation to the board.

The CCLA has been a vocal critic of police carding and has asked several times for the board to suspend the practice.

International students grapple with limited spots on Canadian college teams

Toronto Star – June 12, 2013

It’s just gotten harder for international students who want to skip for their college curling team but a little easier if their skill is dunking basketballs.

Sending a mixed message, Canada’s colleges have voted to extend restrictions on international student-athletes to four new sports while lessening them on three others.

Next year, no matter how good they are, only one male and female international student will be allowed to play on a varsity golf, badminton or curling team. And two of each will be allowed on a cross-country running team, the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association decided at its meeting Tuesday night in Montreal.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association weighed in on Monday, urging the collegiate association to abandon restrictions on international student-athletes or face possible court action over it.

Workplace random alcohol tests rejected by top court

CBC News – June 14, 2013

The Supreme Court of Canada has overturned a company’s right to impose mandatory, random alcohol testing on its unionized workers in a dangerous workplace.

In a 6-3 decision released on Friday, the court ruled the policy unilaterally adopted by Irving Pulp and Paper Ltd. in Saint John in 2006 for employees in safety sensitive positions is unreasonable.

The decision from the top court could have broad implications. It is considered a national test case for how far an employer can go when it comes to a worker’s right to privacy.

It attracted numerous interveners, including the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the Canadian National Railway Company, Via Rail Canada, the Canadian Mining Association, and the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters (CME), which describes itself as the largest industry and trade association.

Tories deny Canadian spy agencies are targeting Canadians

Toronto Star – June 10, 2013

The Conservative government flatly denies Canadian spy agencies are conducting any unauthorized electronic snooping operations.

After facing questions from the NDP Opposition about how far he has authorized Ottawa’s top secret eavesdropping spy agency to go, a terse Conservative Defence Minister Peter MacKay left the Commons, telling the Star: “We don’t target Canadians, okay.”

A former Liberal solicitor general says that doesn’t mean other allied spy agencies don’t collect information on Canadians and share it with the Canadian spying establishment.

Sukanya Pillay, the National Security Director with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, said news about the “mass grabs of information” raises concerns about whether the collection of such data bypasses Canadian privacy safeguards and leads to erroneous profiling.

“We are also concerned that information may be being shared among countries in a manner that provides the recipient country with information it could not itself lawfully have collected on its own citizens,” she said.

“Although we understand info sharing is a crucial aspect to counterterrorism it must be done in a manner compliant with Canadian Charter and international legal standards.”

Let international students compete, says Civil Liberties Association

CNW Canada Newswire – June 10, 2013

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) is urging the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) to drop a discriminatory practice that limits the participation of international student athletes in varsity sports.

“The CCLA opposes unfair discrimination against non-citizens in all areas of law,” said Nathalie Des Rosiers, general Counsel for the Association.  “We are particularly concerned because later this week, the CCAA will be considering a motion to extend this discriminatory measure and further limit the participation of international students in collegiate varsity sports”.

The CCLA has written to all college presidents and their athletic directors urging them to vote to eliminate discriminatory policy in favour of an even playing field for all student athletes.

Should permanent residents be allowed to vote in municipal elections?

The May 19, 2013 

With approximately 250,000 permanent residents in the city, changing the rules around who is eligible to vote could have huge political ramifications come election day — potentially changing the faces of council members and perhaps even the mayor.

Many are in favour of the plan — with groups like Thorncliffe Neighborhood Office, Ontario Council for Agencies Serving Immigrants and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association all advocating that it’s time the rules around municipal voting were changed and that permanent residents deserve the right to vote and be engaged in their city.

Expanding the vote to include permanent residents is important because “good democracies want to have the largest number of people subject to laws, participating in governance” explains Nathalie Des Rosiers, general counsel at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

Critics decry “draconian” measures in proposed Windsor no-trespass policy

The Windsor Star – May 14, 2013

Sparked by complaints that the city is sometimes too quick to ban perceived troublemakers from city hall, municipal lawyers have drawn up a formal policy on how and when to issue no-trespass orders.

But despite several drafts over the past few months, Windsor’s first formal notice of trespass policy still gets a failing grade, critics say..

Cross and former Manitoba premier Howard Pawley, who is a vice-president with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, sat down with [City lawyer Patrick] Brode after the CCLA expressed concerns with an earlier draft of the no-trespass policy.

Last summer, and again earlier this year, the city was forced to rescind no-trespass orders targeting individuals whom the CCLA said may have been denied their constitutionally protected freedoms of expression and democratic participation.

“This is a risky precedent to set in a free and democratic society, such as ours, that values political expression and dissent,” the CCLA wrote in a January letter that helped end a three-year ban against Edy Haddad.

PQ slammed for closed-door inquiry into student protests

CBCnewsMay 8, 2013  

Student leaders, police representatives and opposition politicians are all criticizing the government’s closed-door investigation into the violence that marred last year’s student protests.

Public Security Minister Stéphane Bergeron said he wants the committee to investigate who was responsible for the violence, in order to make sure those kinds of incidents don’t happen again.

“It was a social crisis unprecedented in Quebec history,” he said.

Over the past months, many members of the public have called for a public inquiry, including Québec Solidaire supporter Manon Massé and organizations such as the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

“Only a public and independent inquiry will shed light on the causes of the repression [that] occurred during the student strike,“ said the Quebec League of Rights and Liberties in a statement released in November.

Des Rosiers named U of O common law dean

Legal Feeds – May 6, 2013

The University of Ottawa named Canadian Civil Liberties Association general counsel Nathalie Des Rosiers as the new dean of its common law program.

Caroline Milliard, manager of media relations at the university, confirmed Des Rosier’s appointment this morning. The five-year appointment is effective July 1, says Milliard.

“I’m very pleased and honoured by the appointment,” Des Rosiers tells Legal Feeds. “It’s a great faculty,” she adds, noting she aims to “makes sure it continues to shine as it has.”

Des Rosiers will fill the vacancy created by the upcoming departure of common law faculty dean Bruce Feldthusen.

Des Rosiers says there’s no replacement yet for her CCLA role yet but says she expects the organization to launch a competition for the position soon.

“It’s a great job,” she says, noting “it was a very difficult decision” to leave a “very useful, very needed” organization.

Challenging Canada’s Human Rights Record At the UN

BlogTO – May 1, 2013

A delegation of Canadian civil society groups was in Geneva last month, March 2013, to attend a meeting of the UN Human Rights Council – to tell the Council the truth about the reality of Canada’s human rights record vis-a-vis its obligations with respect to all of the international human rights legal instruments to which it is signatory. This is the second UPR for Canada.

 On Monday April 29, 2013 a few of the Canadian NGOs that were there in March – among them the Metro Toronto Chinese & South East Asian Legal Clinic (MTCSEALC), Colour of Poverty – Colour of Change, the African Canadian Legal Clinic (ACLC) and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) will be explaining the UPR process and discussing their experiences.

Canada doesn’t need to erode civil rights to fight terror: Editorial

The Star – May 1, 2013

We’ve been here before. After the Sept. 11, 2001, Al Qaeda attacks on New York, then prime minister Jean Chrétien’s majority Liberal government set the precedent by passing its similarly named Anti-Terrorism Act. In that case, too, smoke from a highly politicized and emotional debate about terrorism blotted out the sun, legitimizing the imposition of draconian laws with scant regard for civil rights. But what’s clear from both the Toronto 18 and VIA Rail cases is that the police and security services already possess the tools they need.

 These thwarted plots lend credence to the Canadian Civil Liberties Association view that “the current powers of law enforcement already allow security agencies to pursue, investigate, disrupt and successfully prosecute terrorism-related crimes.” The proposed, largely recycled law “adds no value to our law or to law investigation and enforcement,” the association rightly notes.

Canadian government accused of using scare tactics to pass controversial bill

PressTV – April 27, 2013

The Combating Terrorism Act sat in the House of Commons for months, but this week the Conservative party managed to push it through, reinstating expired laws and making major provisions. It gives authorities unprecedented power to probe those they feel are potential terrorist. It comes right after the Boston Marathon bombings in the U.S. and the alleged foiled plot on Canada’s railing system that resulted in arrests. The government has denied the arrests were timed to garner support for this legislation.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations have pointed out that every major criminal terrorism incident in Canada since 2001 has been prevented without the need for such laws. Civil Rights advocates say the bill is unnecessary and unconstitutional and point out the laws over national security concerns has resulted in numerous court challenges and several Muslims being detained without charge under the provision.

‘We’ve just stripped away essential safeguards': Civil libertarians decry new ‘anti-terror’ law – April 25, 2013

With last night’s passing of the Combating Terrorism Act (Bill S-7), Canada quietly marked the return of controversial post-9/11 anti-terrorism legislation — granting authorities “exceptional” abilities to detain Canadians, preemptively, for three days without charge, and imprisoning anyone for up to a year who refuses to testify before new “investigative hearings.”

For more on the concerns about the bill’s impact, David P. Ball and Anushka Nagji — co-hosts of Media Mornings on Vancouver Co-op Radio — interviewed Sukanya Pillay, Director of National Security for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA).

Government says new terror laws necessary, but critics question value

The Canadian Press – April 24, 2013

When the Conservatives suddenly decided to bring anti-terrorism legislation to a vote, they pinned the urgency on current events.

Civil-rights advocates say many provisions in the bill are unnecessary and of questionable constitutionality.

“The preventive arrest and investigative hearing laws, in effect from 2001 to 2007, were never once used for their intended purpose, and every major criminal terrorism-related incident in Canada since 2001 has been disrupted and prevented without the need for preventive detention or investigative hearings,” the Canadian Civil Liberties Association said in a statement this week.

Supreme Court decision allows NOTL man to sue NRP

St. Catherine’s Standard – April 18

A case that began with a complaint about police brutality in 2003 has ended with a decision from the Supreme Court of Canada that will allow Wayne Penner to move forward with a civil suit against the police.

Toronto lawyer Tim Gleason, representing the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, also appeared before the Supreme Court. He took the position that to allow a police chief to make a determination which would affect a law suit against himself would be offensive.

Ashley Smith inquest: Ex-investigator slams ‘culture of intimidation’ at Saskatoon prison

Toronto Star – April 17

A former prison warden brought in to independently review complaints that Ashley Smith was seriously assaulted by staff while at a secure psychiatric hospital in Saskatoon slammed the “culture of intimidation’’ among correctional officers and supervisors at the facility.

Chairing a three-person investigative team, Janet-Sue Hamilton viewed videotapes and conducted interviews in April 2007 at the Regional Psychiatric Centre (RPC) after Ashley complained she was assaulted that March by correctional supervisor John Tarala, who was not a guard.

At one point she noted that guards at the facility grew moustaches and beards in support of Tarala when he was being investigated, Hamilton testified.

“The depth and breadth of how far officers were prepared to go was beyond what you expected?’’ asked Allison Thornton, a Toronto lawyer representing the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. Hamilton replied yes.

Danielle S. McLaughlinWhy Stop at Red Lights, Anyway?

Huffpost Living Canada – April 16

Why stop at red lights?

In my part of Toronto, I have noticed a new understanding of traffic regulation. Stop if it is convenient to do so, but if you are in a hurry, forget about it.

In fact, I have recommended that children be taught to watch the traffic and the signals in this way: Once the little walking man appears in the signal box, wait for the second car to race through the red light before you venture into the intersection. This may sound like odd advice, but if we only teach children that red means stop and green means go, we could be courting disaster.

Spies that Share

The Dominion – April 16

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) is disclosing intelligence to private companies despite a law that does not permit this sharing.

“So much of this activity is undertaken in secret, many of the problems that happen may never become public, so SIRC, I think, has an additional responsibility to ask proactive questions, to be seeking out potential problems before they happen.” [Says Abby Deshman, a lawyer with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association].

“The legislative prohibition on sharing much of this information is being skirted around,” says Deshman. “If the oversight agency is approving actions that contravene the law, I think that is a major problem.”

Supreme Court ruling gives NOTL man right to sue Niagara Regional Police

St. Catherine Standard – April 16

A case that began with a complaint about police brutality in 2003 has ended with a decision from the Supreme Court of Canada that will allow Wayne Penner to move forward with a civil suit against the police.

Penner says he is “ecstatic” after a decade of legal wrangling to have the Supreme Court rule on his side. It’s an important decision not only for him, but for all Canadians, he says, who might otherwise be put off from lodging a complaint to the police services board or prevented from proceeding with a civil suit.

Toronto lawyer Tim Gleason, representing the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, also appeared before the Supreme Court. He took the position that to allow a police chief to make a determination which would affect a law suit against himself would be offensive.

“It would undermine not just the principle of fairness but the police complaints process,” he said.

Labour Rights conference highlights unions’ role in fight for rights, democracy –  April 14

Almost 200 people gathered in Toronto at the end of March to discuss the establishment and protection of labour laws in Canada and internationally as well as why unions matter in today’s global economy.

Over the course of the conference, hosted by The Canadian Foundation for Labour Rights (CFLR), a panel of experts spoke about the links between labour rights, democracy, equality and social justice.

 “[t]he real instruments of accountability,” said Nathalie Des Rosiers, General Counsel, Canadian Civil Liberties Association, “are what unions have given to Canadian democracy.”

In addition to organizing workers, unions have played a key role in advocating on behalf of women’s, environmental, justice, poverty and aboriginal issues.

Solitary confinement harmful to inmates, lawyers argue

The Toronto Star – April 12

Whether it’s called seclusion, isolation, segregation, “therapeutic quiet” or solitary confinement, lawyers at the Ashley Smith inquest representing Elizabeth Fry, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the Smith family say the terms amount to the same thing: a prisoner locked in a bare room with no stimulation and basically no interaction with others.

Aside from getting to the bottom of how Smith, 19, died of self-asphyxiation in a segregation cell on Oct. 19, 2007, at the Grand Valley prison for women in Kitchener, a number of the groups with standing at the teen’s Toronto inquest, including Pate’s Elizabeth Fry, have another goal in mind.

They want to ensure the inquest leads to significant reductions in the use of segregation in Canadian prisons, and a ban on it for mentally ill offenders.

 Hundred Arrested at Montreal protest as bylaw come under attack

Toronto Sun – April 6

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association has written the mayor on Montreal and the city’s police chief denouncing a controversial bylaw about protests it says “could not withstand constitutional scrutiny.”

The CCLA’s letters state that P-6 has “no place in a free and democratic society” because it takes away citizens’ right to spontaneously protest.

Julius Grey, a Montreal-based constitutional lawyer, agrees.

Clayton Ruby to ask court to hold chief of police accountable

Canada NewsWire – April 8

On April 9, 2013, lawyer Clayton Ruby will ask the Ontario Divisional Court to order the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) to conduct an investigation into Toronto Chief of Police William Blair’s role in the unlawful arrest of Jason Wall.  Mr. Wall had been walking home on June 27, 2010 when he was arrested by officers looking for those responsible for vandalism during the 2010 G20 protests.  Mr. Wall was detained for 28 hours.  He was released without being charged with any crime.  He was told that he was arrested for “disguise with intent to commit an indictable offence.”  There was no disguise.  He had worn a bandana around his neck.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA), which referred Mr. Wall to Clayton Ruby’s office and supports the case, has noted that this is one of numerous G20 cases where individuals walking on the street with bandannas were profiled, harassed, searched or arrested.  Prior to the G20, the CCLA had specifically alerted the Integrated Security Unit that mere possession of items such as bandannas did not, on its own, provide reasonable grounds for arrest.  The police ignored this information.

Appeal court rejects Obeah-sham defence

Toronto Star – April 2

The court of appeal has rejected arguments from three convicted murderers that a Peel Region police officer breached their religious rights by posing as an Obeah spiritual adviser to extract information.

 The Canadian Civil Liberties Association intervened in the appeal, arguing that allowing police to impersonate religious advisers “shocks the conscience of Canadians.”

What powers do police have for online surveillance?  – March 28

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled Wednesday that police need to obtain a special wiretap warrant to access Canadians’ text messages.

 The case worked its way up to Canada’s top court as wireless provider Telus Corp., which opts to keep a database of text messages within its network for 30 days, argued it should not have to hand over clients’ text messaging logs daily when police ask for them using a general search warrant.

The decision affirms that there is no practical difference between texting and a traditional phone conversation, which would also require a wiretap warrant to be intercepted.

Canadian law allows the police to legally intercept Canadians’ private communications without their knowledge or consent only through an intercept authorization warrant, said Abby Deshman, the director of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association public safety program.

Nuisance bylaw debate continues in Guelph

CTV News – March 30

The nuisance bylaw would allow protesters to gather but not erect tents, structures and congregating on the sidewalk is questionable.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association based in Toronto says the bylaw is too broad and too vague, and it doesn’t fully protect the freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and freedom of association protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

 Activist Communique: Police in Ontario can search unlocked cell phones  – March 22

The appeals court in Ontario ruled that police may search contents of a cell phone without a warrant during an arrest on February 20, 2013 by Justice Robert Armstrong. Armstrong was backed by two other judges who dismissed an appeal of an armed robbery conviction to Kevin Fearon, who was arrested under suspicion that he was involved in a crime.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association intervened, arguing cell phones should not be searched at all after an arrest, absent urgent circumstances which were not defined at the time; estimating a case by case basis.

No reason to arrest Brazau for bad taste and lack of class

Sun News – March 22

Brazzau charged with breaching previous court conditions and, uttering threats and assault with a weapon.  Prior to this charge, he had been in custody for dressing himself like an Imam and mock beating his pretend Muslim wife, and protesting a cop funeral with a sign saying “No Police State.”

Despite Brazzau’s silliness and lack of class, Cara Faith Zwibel, director of the Fundamental Freedoms Program at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, stated that, “In Canada, our Constitution protects the right to express ourselves and to peacefully assemble.”

Another free speech precedent in Alberta

Lexology – March 14, 2013

The Court of Appeal of Alberta ruled in favour of Pastor Stephen Boissoin which upheld his freedom to write a letter to the Editor for his local newspaper which addressed Alberta’s government education policy on the subject of sexual orientation on October 17, 2012.  He was famously found guilty in 2007 for writing “hate speech” while expressing his views on homosexuality.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association intervened in support of the principles of free speech and against section 3 of the Alberta Act.

Hung up on when police can search a cellphone

The Lawyers Weekly – March 8, 2013 issue

Lawyers say there are grey zones of uncertainty in the wake of the Ontario Court of Appeal’s judgment that police may conduct “cursory” warrantless searches of a suspect’s cellphone incidental to arrest.

R. v. Fearon [2013] O.J. No. 704 is the first Canadian appellate decision to directly address when the broad general police power of “search incident to arrest” empowers searches of cellphones without a warrant — an issue that has produced conflicting trial decisions across the country.

Abby Deshman, director of the public safety program with the intervener Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA), identified other grey areas: The judgment leaves open the question of what happens when a person is arrested while using cellphone and the password is not engaged. “Is that going to be something the police will go into? Do [police] have to ask if the person had a password before they start searching the cellphone? So, I am concerned that even if people do have passwords on their cellphones, if police happen to catch them at a moment when that password isn’t engaged, a search will happen anyway,” she said.

Supreme Court ruling upholds limits on free speech in case involving anti-gay proselytizer

Globe and Mail – February 27, 2013

Canada’s highest court has upheld the nation’s hate-speech laws as a reasonable limit on freedom of expression.

Civil liberties groups and Mr. Whatcott’s lawyer had also asked the court to strike down a key ruling from 1990 that legally defined hatred and affirmed the right of provincial human-rights tribunals to penalize people for hate speech, a move that would likely have forced tribunals in Saskatchewan, Alberta and B.C. and for the federal government to stop policing hate speech. The Supreme Court declined to do so.

Free-speech advocates criticized the decision. Andrew Lokan, a lawyer for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, another intervenor, said the ruling does offer guidance on what kind of expression can be considered hate, but fails to resolve the fundamental vagueness of Canada’s hate laws.

Anti-gay flyers violated hate law, Supreme Court rules

CTV News – February 27, 2013

The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled a Saskatchewan anti-gay crusader violated the province’s human rights rules when he distributed pamphlets denouncing homosexuals.

But the high court also refined the definition of hate speech by striking down some language in Saskatchewan’s Human Rights Code as unconstitutional.

In a unanimous 6-0 decision, it found two of four flyers William Whatcott distributed to mailboxes in Regina and Saskatoon in 2000 and 2001 violated the provincial code, while two others did not.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association, while condemning the content of Whatcott’s pamphlets, said such provisions in human rights codes do little to prohibit hate speech.

Hate-speech rules face serious challenge

Globe and Mail – February 26, 2013

The case concerns pamphlets distributed by Bill Whatcott of Weyburn, Sask., an anti-abortion and anti-gay-rights activist and self-styled preacher who says he turned to Christianity after an early life of drugs, crime and homosexuality.

His case, but not his opinions, received support before the court from the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, which called for the Supreme Court to strike down its key ruling from 1990 on hate speech. In that case, the court upheld a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruling against John Ross Taylor, a Toronto man who operated a “White Power” telephone hotline, and legally defined hate as “strong and deep-felt emotions of detestation, calumny and vilification.”

Big Brother Is Watching Your Bookshelf

The Huffington Post – February 26, 2013

This is Freedom to Read Week in Canada, a celebration of our Charter-guaranteed right to intellectual freedom. Across the nation in libraries, schools and theatres we come together to read from books that have been banned around the world, and examine our own reactions to controversial material.

Which brings us to Canada. Here, Three Wishes: Palestinian and Israeli Children Speak by Deborah Ellis (2004) was restricted in five school boards in Ontario after protests by the Canadian Jewish Congress that the children in the book portrayed Israeli soldiers as brutal and expressed ethnic hatred. The Wars by Timothy Findley (1977) was challenged due to a depiction of homosexual rape of a soldier by soldiers, but was successfully defended. Cara Zweibel of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association tells us that recently Communism With The Mask Off, by Dr. Joseph Goebbels, has been prohibited at the border, along with a number of DVD’s with titles like “Best of the Bullwhip and Singletail” and “Captive Princes” — judged obscene.

Canadian Government faces allegations of discrimination towards First Nations Children at Canadian Human Rights Tribunal

Canada NewsWire – February 22, 2013

On February 25, 2013, the Government of Canada will appear before the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal to face 14 weeks of hearings to determine if its flawed and inequitable First Nations child and family services program is discriminatory.

The complaint was filed with the Canadian Human Rights Commission in 2007 by the Assembly of First Nations and First Nations Child and Family Caring Society after the Government of Canada failed to implement two evidence informed solutions to address the problem. Since then the Government of Canada has spent over 3 million dollars in its numerous unsuccessful efforts to get the case dismissed.

Nathalie Des Rosiers, General Counsel for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) says “It is very important that this case move forward, and that issues of discrimination be promptly addressed. What is at stake in this case is the integrity of our human rights regime and its ability to respond meaningfully to allegations of discrimination.”

Thunder Bay police body cameras raise questions

CBC News – February 21, 2013

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association is concerned about Thunder Bay police wearing cameras on their uniforms.

Police say audio and video recordings will hold them accountable for their actions and increase public confidence, but a spokesperson with the CCLA says that only works if the cameras are on all the time.

Privacy rights: Police can search unprotected cellphone without warrant, appeal court rules

Toronto Star – February 20, 2013

If you want to make sure police don’t search your phone without a warrant, ensure it’s password protected, the ruling suggests.

Justice Robert Armstrong, supported by two other judges, dismissed an appeal of an armed robbery conviction by Kevin Fearon, who agued his rights against unreasonable search had been breached.

The case generated much interest in the legal community. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association intervened, arguing phones should not be searched at all after an arrest, absent urgent circumstances.

Court decision that allows police to look through cellphones ‘puzzling,’ lawyers argue

Globe and Mail – February 20, 2013

The Ontario Court of Appeal ruled against a Toronto man convicted of robbery who argued that his constitutional rights were breached when police examined his cellphone and discovered incriminating material, in the form of photos and a text message.

In this week’s appeal-court case, both the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the Criminal Lawyers Association of Ontario argued unsuccessfully that this search, too, was out of line.

Feds to defend mandatory minimum sentences as constitutional

CBC News – February 19, 2013

A small group of people might be harmed by mandatory minimum sentences for gun crimes, but Parliament is entitled to deference in how it tries to enhance public safety, the federal government argues.

Ontario’s attorney general has carriage of the prosecution of these cases, but the federal government is adding its voice to the fight as an intervener.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the African Canadian Legal Clinic and the John Howard Society are also intervening.

Mandatory minimum sentence for gun possession challenged in court

Toronto Star – February 18,  2013

In 2011, Hussein Nur received a mandatory minimum three-year sentence after pleading guilty to carrying a loaded gun outside a northwest Toronto community centre.

Then there’s Leroy Smickle, also convicted of possessing an illegal firearm after his ill-timed posing for a webcam holding his cousin’s gun just as Toronto police officers crashed through an apartment door.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association, John Howard Society, the Attorney General of Canada, The Advocates’ Society and African Canadian Legal Clinic are all intervenors in this week’s proceedings.

Mandatory minimum sentences for gun crimes up for debate at appeal hearing

Sun News – February 9, 2013

The crime is the same — possession of an illegal gun. But one Toronto man gets hit with the mandatory minimum three year sentence while another gets lucky and has a rogue judge who strikes down the new higher penalty as unconstitutional.

The constitutionality of the Harper government’s tough mandatory minimums for gun crimes will go under the legal microscope this month when a special panel of the Ontario Court of Appeal convenes to issue a uniform ruling on six recent cases.

[…] arguing against the constitutionality of mandatory minimums will be the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the John Howard Society, the African Canadian Legal Clinic and the Advocates Society.

Civil rights group reps decry new protocol: Operating procedures ambiguous, give University too much discretionary power

McGill Daily – February 7, 2013

The University’s latest demonstration guidelines do not adequately protect rights of association and assembly, and reflect no substantial changes from the protest protocol that was withdrawn two weeks ago, representatives from prominent national and provincial civil rights groups said this week.

According to Cara Zwibel, a director at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA), who authored the CCLA’s statement last month denouncing the University’s demonstration protocol, “the same concerns remain.”

Windsor activist Edy Haddad allowed back at city hall

Metro – February 6, 2013

After nearly four years, the City of Windsor has lifted a ban preventing activist Edy Haddad from entering city hall or other municipal buildings.

[…] After unsuccessfully trying to appeal, Haddad contacted the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. After reviewing his case, the CCLA penned a letter to Windsor’s Chief Administrative Officer asking her office to rescind the ban.

“People come to council meetings and city hall to participate in public life and express themselves, so we’re concerned that trespass notices can violate freedom of expression and the right to assembly,” said CCLA spokesperson Cara Zwibel.

Zwibel acknowledged that bans may be necessary in cases where someone poses a “credible threat” to council or the public, but expressed concern that such measures can also be abused by politicians seeking to insulate themselves from criticism.

She also characterized the indefinite nature of Haddad’s ban as “extreme.”

McInnes Cooper to act for civil liberties group

The Chronicle Herald – February 6, 2013

The law firm McInnes Cooper will represent the Canadian Civil Liberties Association in Atlantic Canada.

Police drones sparks debate over personal privacy

Toronto Star – February 5, 2013

As police services in Canada and the United States begin to use drones as a tool to investigate crime, privacy concerns become part of the debate.

“It’s definitely an issue we’ll be watching,” agreed Abby Deshman, the director of public safety for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. “It raises some serious privacy questions. There are still some fundamental gaps in the framework. Where are these being used? Are they going to be used for general surveillance?”

Freedom of expression in the Internet age: A panel at McGill discusses policy challenges

Canadian Lawyer Magazine – February 4, 2013

A panel of members from the legal profession, academia, and the media, organized by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and Pro Bono Students Canada, approached these very issues from their respective vantage points at McGill University Faculty of Law on Jan. 30.

Police ‘carding’: Promise to issue receipts on hold after lawyers say practice violates Charter

Toronto Star – January 23, 2013

Toronto police have stopped millions of people and entered their personal information into a massive database, but a plan to issue receipts for those interactions was put on hold once again Wednesday after the Toronto Police Services Board voted instead to get advice from the city’s lawyer on whether the entire practice is legal.

Carding has been an issue for the board since Known to Police, a Toronto Star investigation that found Toronto police stop and document black people at disproportionately high rates. While blacks make up 8.3 per cent of Toronto’s population, they accounted for 25 per cent of the cards filled out between 2008 and mid-2011.

[…] members of the Canadian African Legal Clinic as well as the Canadian Civil Liberties Association have appeared before the board numerous times, imploring members to call a halt to practice or at least get officers to issue a record of the interaction to make them more accountable.

Police board puts off issuing street check receipts, again

NewsTalk 1010 – January 23, 2013

The Toronto Police Services Board is putting off a decision on having cops hand out receipts when they question people on the street.

Noa Mendelsohn Aviv with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association says the board & police need to remember that “fishing expeditions” aren’t acceptable or lawful in Canada.

Mendelsohn Aviv was 1 of 6 people who made presentations to the police services board, many of them focusing on street checks they say boil down to racial profiling.

No privacy if bags checked, court told

The Chronicle Herald – January 22, 2013

Canadians forfeit their right to privacy when they check their baggage for a flight, a lawyer argued Tuesday as a Halifax man’s drug charges were debated before the Supreme Court of Canada.

Issues of racial profiling, privacy rights and even whether drug-sniffing dogs should be used in Canada were all raised as lawyers debated whether Mandeep Singh Chehil should face a new trial.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association countered that while flying does involve some curtailment of privacy rights for safety reasons, that in no way expands to cover random police searches.

The association argued that unless specific signs of wrongdoing are required, police profiling will unfairly target minorities.

Non-citizen offenders don’t deserve lighter sentences, Supreme Court told

Toronto Star – January 18, 2013

“Immigration consequences” cannot be counted on to reduce a court sentence because it defeats Ottawa’s goal to expedite the removal of non-citizen offenders, Canada’s top court has heard.

Permanent residents jailed for two years or more are stripped of their rights to appeal against the revocation of their status.

“If upheld, this approach would require the sentencing judge to ignore the circumstances of the non-citizen offender, which would actually result in the unequal treatment of the citizen and non-citizen offender,” said the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. “This is both unreasonable and wrong in law.”

Op-Ed by Nathalie Des Rosiers: Protest is part of life in a democracy

Ottawa Citizen – January 17, 2013

The right to protest disturbs and disrupts. It is meant to. It disturbs ordinary people who may be delayed, inconvenienced or unable to do business as usual. It disturbs businesses for whom any change in scheduling may mean additional costs. It should disturb the government whose job it is to facilitate our life in a democracy and who wants to offer us a prosperous place to live…

Canada casts too wide a net on complicity in crimes against humanity, Supreme Court told

iPolitics – January 17, 2013

A slew of high profile international rights organizations today told Canada’s highest court that the current framework to determine whether a refugee seeker is guilty of the crimes of its government is too broad and should be narrowed to prevent excluding legitimate refugees from shelter here.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees and Amnesty International, along with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and others, argued that the Supreme Court should overturn the decision to deny a Congolese man refugee status in Canada because he was too far removed from the crimes of his government and should never have been deemed a criminal.

Top court hears refugee case of diplomat linked to war crimes

Ottawa Citizen – January 17, 2013

The Supreme Court of Canada will hear a case Thursday that grapples with how to determine just who is culpable for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Rachidi Ekanza Ezokola, a former high-level diplomat with the Democratic Republic of Congo, was originally denied refugee status after he fled to Montreal with his family because he was found to be complicit by association with the crimes committed by the war-torn African country.

The case has attracted a number of high-profile interveners, including Amnesty International, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

Surge in private security raises concerns over rights

CBC News – January 16, 2013

There are now more than 140,000 private security guards licensed in Canada and only about 70,000 active police officers.

These figures are raising alarms among some experts, who argue that more careful oversight of the security industry is necessary as citizens increasingly come into contact with private security, even in areas that appear to be public spaces.

Abby Deshman, director of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association’s public safety program, says that she has seen complaints involving systemic discrimination and excessive use of force by security guards.

Why didn’t police shutdown last weekend’s 14th Street protest?

660 News – January 15, 2013

Whether public opinion is on the side of the Idle No More movement or not, First Nations activists will continue protests like the one Calgarians saw on 14th Street this past weekend.

Cara Zwibel with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association tells 660News, it’s not as simple as telling the police to move in an disperse the protestors.

“There’s a message and a goal here,” adds Zwibel, “and I think it’s one that needs to be dealt with on the political level rather, you know, at the level of policing.”

First man on Canada’s no-fly list denied legal funding for court fight

National Post – January 4, 2013

The first man known to be on Canada’s no-fly list has been denied government funding to fight his legal challenge.

Hani Al Telbani, a Concordia University engineering student, was at Montreal’s Trudeau airport about to board an Air Canada flight to Saudi Arabia in 2008 when he was stopped. He was shown a copy of an emergency direction from the Minister of Transport declaring he “posed an immediate threat to aviation security.”

Nathalie Des Rosiers, general counsel of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, said Mr. Al Telbani is undertaking an “important constitutional” fight, and she was surprised the court rejected the request.

“This is the first case into the legality of the no-fly list and its future use as a security assessment,” Ms. Des Rosiers said.

Applicants for Canadian visas will be checked against U.S. databases

Globe and Mail – January 4, 2013

Almost all applicants seeking a visa to enter Canada will have their identity checked against American immigration databases to see whether they have been previously blacklisted, under a bilateral treaty signed with little fanfare last month.

And in a separate measure, Canada will be fingerprinting visa applicants from about 30 countries, including Colombia, Haiti, the Palestinian territories, Yemen and Iran by the end of this year.

The system lacks “any due process,” says Nathalie Des Rosiers, general counsel of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. Canadians may find they “cannot have family reunions, cannot invite a fellow scientist, a guest or a foreign student” because a visa application was rejected “based on information that may or may not be correct” in the U.S. system.

Ms. Des Rosiers said the fundamental problem with the grand plan for a security perimeter is the absence of “strict transparency rules as to what [rejected applicants] can to do to challenge the U.S. assessment.”

Store video cameras failing to comply with privacy laws

CBC News – December 28, 2012

Andrew Clement, co-founder of the Identity, Privacy and Security Institute, found that not a single video camera in one of Canada’s largest malls complied with the signage requirements of the federal Personal Information, Protection and Electronic Documents Act.

Nathalie Desrosiers, general counsel for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, called Clement’s findings surprising. She said while many people have come to accept video surveillance as part of everyday life, people also expect to have their privacy rights respected.

“It’s a question of not depriving people of the opportunity to make a decision themselves about what they want to share and what they do not want to share and that’s a fundamental aspect of human dignity.”

Supreme Court raps ‘improper’ jury vetting but nixes appeals

The StarPhoenix – December 21, 2012

Prosecutors might have acted improperly in vetting potential jurors but the misconduct was not serious enough to quash a series of convictions, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled Friday.

The issue of jury background checks has surfaced across the country and several interveners — including the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and Ontario’s privacy commissioner — were involved in the appeals.

PEI transportation minister eyes unique licence plates for drunk drivers

Globe and Mail – December 20, 2012

In the tiny province of Prince Edward Island, with a mere 140,000 people and few strangers, Transportation Minister Robert Vessey wants convicted drunk drivers to have distinctive licence plates so Islanders know exactly who has been drunk at the wheel.

Civil libertarians aren’t sold. “It definitely raises privacy and dignity concerns,” said Abby Deshman, director of the public safety program with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

Did Peel police go too far in murder probe? – December 18, 2012

Peel Regional Police breached the religious rights of a Jamaican Canadian family by having an officer pose as an Obeah spiritual adviser to extract information during a murder investigation, the Court of Appeal will hear today.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association has intervened in the appeal, arguing that allowing police to impersonate religious advisers “shocks the conscience of Canadians. “People in Canada have a right to spiritual guidance and a right to a relationship with a religious advisor free from police interference,” the association states in written submissions.

Det.-Sgt. David Jarvis testified at trial that the Obeah idea was his. Obeah is not a religion, he maintained, and he would not have infiltrated Catholics, Buddhists, Muslims or Hindus.

Nova Scotia Missing Persons Act Raises Privacy Concerns

Halifax Media Co-op – December 13, 2012

On Dec. 3, Nova Scotia’s provincial Justice Minister Ross Landry introduced the Missing Persons Act. On Dec. 6 the bill received royal assent, effectively becoming law. That is very fast; too fast for critics who say that the law raises many unanswered questions about how to balance privacy and safety issues.

“This legislation definitely raises privacy concerns,” says Abby Deshman, a lawyer with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. “Obviously, in the case of a missing person sometimes it is not feasible to get a warrant and a lower threshold may be justified. But this legislation gives police access to a wide range of records. This is potentially an enormous invasion of privacy based on a very low threshold in terms of evidence.”

Border agents’ name-tag protest delays Windsor crossings

CBC News – December 12, 2012

For much of the day Wednesday, the Canada Border Services Agency told commercial traffic to avoid the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor, Ont., due to a dispute over name tags that sparked a slowdown at North America’s busiest border crossing.

The CBSA said the disruptions were the result of refusals by several unionized officers to wear name tags — a new policy that went into effect Tuesday.

Nathalie Des Rosiers, counsel for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, said the name-tag policy is a good one.

“I think it’s a positive step in terms of allowing some form of accountability,” she said.

Companies push for random drug, alcohol testing

CBC News – December 10, 2012

Two current high-profile legal cases, in which companies want to implement random testing of their employees for alcohol and/or drugs, may determine whether such testing expands in Canadian workplaces. At the centre of both cases is the need for a safe workplace versus privacy and human rights.

Abby Deshman, a lawyer with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, argues that random testing “imposes a privacy-invasive, dignity-invasive regime on a large number of people without any real proof that these people are going to pose a threat to workplace safety,” adding that “there’s very little evidence that it does actually work as a deterrent.”

(The CCLA is an intervener at the Supreme Court in the Irving case.)

Nathalie Des Rosiers: Punishing victims of human smuggling won’t work

Ottawa Citizen – December 9, 2012

Mass detentions are incompatible with a system of justice based on fairness, as mass arrests are. Public Safety Minister Vic Toews has decided to use controversial new provisions of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to recently declare “irregular” the arrival of a group of people from Romania via Mexico and the United States. This designation exposes all members of the group — except the 35 people under age 16 — to mass detention, possibly for a period of six months, unless the minister decides otherwise.

Anti-bullying bylaws may have ‘chilling effect’ on free speech

Calgary Herald – December 7, 2012

Town councillors in Hanna, about 200 kilometres northeast of Calgary, have approved an anti-name-calling bylaw that allows Mounties to fine offenders $250 for a first offence and $1,000 for further offences.

Those undeterred by the fines could face a six-month stint behind bars or community service.

Hanna’s mayor says the town and local school have policies in place to address bullying, but the new bylaw allows RCMP to tackle incidents on public property before they escalate.

But Noa Mendelsohn, equality program director with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, says it’s not enough to say police will exercise the bylaw at their discretion.

“Laws need to be clear and they need to not restrict our fundamental rights and freedoms any more than is demonstrably justified.”

Supreme Court to hear case on random workplace alcohol tests

Calgary Herald – December 6, 2012

A union of New Brunswick mill workers arguing that mandatory, random alcohol testing breaches their right to privacy will have their appeal heard by the Supreme Court of Canada Friday.

The top court’s eventual decision has the potential to set a precedent for random alcohol tests in the workplace, and employers and unions across the country will be watching closely, said Nathalie Des Rosiers, the general counsel and executive director for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, which is acting as an intervener.

“We are concerned that this is a new trend in Canada where you have more and more employers who are imposing quite invasive tests and employees have no choice but to comply because their job is at stake. And it’s not always clear that those tests are necessary,” Des Rosiers said.

Security ordeal: The curios case of Mohammad Mahjoub

Now Magazine – December 6, 2012

In a courtroom in an unlikely location above a Starbucks on Queen West, detainee Mohammad Mahjoub sits in the front row flanked by a stack of legal binders and an interpreter. Stone-faced, he seems accustomed to the melodrama, occasionally shaking his head ever so slightly in disbelief or squeezing his eyes shut.

Twelve years, after all, is a very long time to be detained and have your life constricted without charge.

[…] For one thing, former public safety minister Stockwell Day stunned observers in September by testifying that some of the intelligence used in Mahjoub’s case may have been acquired through torture by foreign agencies.

That admission prompted an immediate protest by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, which argued that relying on this kind of info to incarcerate “cannot be reconciled with the principles of fundamental justice.’’ Says the CCLA’s Sukanya Pillay, “We have expressed our view that intelligence tainted by torture cannot be used to deprive anyone of their liberty.’’

Canadian authorities bust Romanian human smuggling ring

CTV News – December 5, 2012

Government officials say they’ve busted a human smuggling ring that illegally brought carloads of Romanian nationals across the U.S.-Canada border over a period of several months.

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney announced Wednesday that 85 people managed to sneak across the border in Quebec at different intervals, starting in February.

The first group arrived in February, followed by others in April and October — three months after the government enacted new immigration laws to deter illegal entries into Canada.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association has decried the legislation as unethical and unconstitutional, saying it unfairly penalizes victims of human smuggling rings.

Minotaurs: Spreading the word about the importance of civil liberties

Now Magazine – November 29, 2012

Your average Canadian musician doesn’t think twice about using lyrics, interviews, videos or concerts as platforms to, say, blast the Harper government’s cuts to arts funding, address G20 violence or protest environmental destruction. But their freedom to do so isn’t necessarily guaranteed, says Nathan Lawr.

That’s why the Minotaurs musician and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) are launching the Canadian Artists for Civil Liberties initiative with an event at Lee’s Palace featuring Minotaurs, Ohbijou, Maloo, spoken word artist Dwayne Morgan, poet George Elliott Clarke, Great Canadian Burlesque and journalist/political activist Judy Rebick.

NOW editors pick a trio of this week’s can’t-miss events

Now Magazine – November 29, 2012

We take for granted our right to express our opinions, but when a government denies funding to an artist or group because it doesn’t like what they’re saying, we learn how fragile that freedom really is. Canadian Artists for Civil Liberties, a project conceived by musician Nathan Lawr, launches at a benefit for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association on Saturday (December 1) at Lee’s Palace (529 Bloor West). Hear Ohbijou, the Minotaurs and others, encouragement from activist Judy Rebick, spoken word by Dwayne Morgan and more. 9 pm. $18, advance $15.

Are posters a form of community expression or a nuisance to be stripped away?

Xtra – November 29, 2012

Some community members have requested the Church Wellesley Village Business Improvement Area (BIA) put an end to postering on poles to improve street appeal.

Noa Mendelsohn Aviv, director of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association’s equality program, also sees a potential hitch with the public message centres. “If the community boards are insufficient and not visible, then that poses a problem,” she says.

“In a situation where there are spaces for community postering, it’s a matter of if it’s adequate,” Aviv says. “If it’s totally inadequate to the needs of the community, it is a violation of freedom of expression.”

Jury still out on Safe Streets, Communities Act

York Region News – November 23, 2012

As of this week, judges will no longer be allowed to hand out house arrest to those found guilty of violent crimes, kidnapping, sex assault, arson and human trafficking, for which the law prescribes a maximum penalty of 10 years. Instead, they will be forced to sentence them to incarceration.

[…] the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, which believes it’s often better to keep convicted criminals in their daily routine, rather than send them to prison.

“If you can keep these people in employment and productive situations, while restricting their movements, they are often able to pick up where they left off,” association communications director Penelope Chester said. Unintended side effects could include people with mental health issues being placed into prisons, which are underfunded and ill-equipped to deal with those inmates, she added.

New policy on religious materials eyed by Chiliwack school trustees

Chiliwack Progess – November 14, 2012

The distribution of Gideon Bibles to elementary school students in Chilliwack sparked a hot debate Tuesday night among school trustees over who shapes policy in the school district.

Ajabu told trustees that his daughter had received “advertising material” from the Gideons offering a free Bible and a website where a “gift catalogue” could be found.

Canadian Civil Liberties Association program director Abby Deshman said there is nothing wrong with exposing children to religious materials

But when schools teach religion, she said, “the aim is not promotion of one belief over others.”

“Public schools should not be used as a vehicle for proselytism, the promotion of one religion over another, the promotion of religious life over secular life or vice versa,” she said.

Toronto police board delays issuing street check receipts

Toronto Star – November 14, 2012

The Toronto Police Services Board is rethinking how to issue receipts for “street checks” and have put them on hold until at least next month, despite the fact the forms are already at the printers.

As the public board meeting was getting underway, police locked down the building, shutting out some speakers who were on a list to give deputations to the board, including former Toronto mayor John Sewell, a street pastor and community and youth activists. A CBC crew was also locked out and later escorted in a back door.

The move came after a rally outside organized by the Justice is NOT Colour-Blind Campaign, which called for an end to racial profiling. The speakers were eventually allowed in.

“Since when are protesters blocked from a public meeting,” said a shocked Noa Mendelsohn Aviv of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. “And the fact that three people who were to speak before the board weren’t able to get in — those three people are all racialized — is a further indication that there is a problem here.”

Toronto police to issue receipts to people stopped in street checks

Toronto Star – November 12, 2012

Toronto Police stop up to 400,000 people every year during non-criminal encounters, asking them where they’re going; recording their name and address and the names of the people they’re with.

Now, Police Chief Bill Blair is calling on officers to hand out a record of that interaction to the persons involved in these encounters.

“The fact that they’re going to be issuing people information that’s being taken about them is very positive,” says Noa Mendelsohn Aviv of the CCLA. “There’s going to be documentation that individuals can keep for themselves and pursue.”

“Random street checks are improper,” says Aviv. “If police want to stop and question individuals whether or not they take their information, they need to have reasons for that. It needs to be necessary for police work and by that I don’t mean community engagement.”

UN agency wants to control the Internet

Toronto Sun – November 12, 2012

The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) is the little-known United Nations agency pushing to regulate the web. Canada is one of its 193-member states and a top-seven financial contributor to ITU operations.

The ITU has suggested a range of reforms that would potentially stifle free speech and make users pay extra to use things like Skype and e-mail as well as place controls on personal social media use like blogging and religious websites.

It’s something that worries the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA), an organization that is calling for Canada to use its vote to veto the proposal outright.

“In Canada we have many protections that ensure our freedom of speech is protected,” said Abby Deshman, CCLA’s director of public safety programs. “In that regard we are lucky, but in other parts of the world, governments look for more ways to watch public opinion and monitor dissent.

Bullying: Name online bullies and ban anonymity, says MP

Metro News – November 8, 2012

After reading some vile, anonymous online comments, Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro has decided the government should consider ending people’s ability to post anonymously on the Internet.

Nathalie Des Rosiers, a lawyer with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, says judges would strike down a law that prohibits anonymity online.

“It’s difficult to imagine how we can protect freedom of expression without protecting some form of anonymity with websites and comments online,” she said. “It’s essential to recognize that good intentions of having people stand by their words chill and prevent many useful expressions that cannot be done publicly.”

G20 policing: Clayton Ruby challenges ‘backroom decisions’ not to hold disciplinary hearings

Toronto Star – November 6, 2012

Veteran civil rights lawyer Clayton Ruby will ask Ontario’s Superior Court to overturn “backroom decisions” by three GTA police forces not to pursue complaints of officer misconduct during the G20 protests — even though the complaints have been substantiated by the province’s police oversight body.

The police chiefs decided to follow OIPRD’s advice not to act on its findings, even though it was OIPRD itself that caused the delay.

“They (the OIPRD) had no right to direct police chiefs not to pursue these complaints, which were utterly simple and should have taken 30 minutes to complete, not six months,” said Ruby, whose firm has launched a lawsuit with the support of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

Danielle Mclaughlin: Why your child should complain

Huffington Post Canada – November 2, 2012

Is your child a complainer? Do you hear “that’s not fair!” everyday? If so, it’s time to celebrate. Your child could be the next advocate who stands up to bullies; the one who works toward a solution for climate change, or who fights for access to justice or against inequality.

We often tell children to stop complaining when what we really want them to do is to stop whining. Complaining in a well-organized, lawful, and directed fashion is a skill. And it is a skill that people living in democracies have been known to honour, respect and reward, and something that parents and educators should nurture.

New bill refines rules on masks in unlawful protests

The Globe and Mail – November 1 2012

The new law would apply to masks upon the faces of people engaged in unlawful protest, which, if it wasn’t clear, is already unlawful. There’s also an existing law against wearing a disguise while committing an indictable offence.

“There’s already a provision in the [Criminal] Code against wearing a disguise in context of criminal offence,” said Nathalie Des Rosiers, general counsel of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. “We’re concerned that if it is used it would simply create a chill on protests and prevent people from protesting peacefully altogether. On its face, it looks more symbolic than anything.”

Ashley Smith: Videos showing abuses to be shown Wednesday

Toronto Star – October 31, 2012

Graphic prison videos showing abuses endured by teen inmate Ashley Smith are expected to finally be made public Wednesday at the inquest into her death.

Correctional Service Canada, which has been fighting for years to keep the videos secret, abandoned its efforts last week after a Divisional Court judge rejected the federal agency’s motion for an emergency stay of the inquest.

Elizabeth Fry filed an affidavit in support of releasing the videos.

Other parties with standing at the inquest that support the coroner’s examination of the events captured on the videos include the prison guards’ union, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, Ontario’s children’s advocate and the coroner’s own counsel.

Kelly Parland: The hole is Alan Borovoy’s pro-abortion argument

National Post – October 29, 2012

As with most arguments in support of abortion rights, Alan Borovoy‘s collapses when you get to the key point: the right of one human to take the life of another.

Mr. Borovoy, the former general counsel of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, maintains that “personhood” is irrelevant. It doesn’t matter, he says, because there is no rational way to decide whether someone becomes a person at conception or at some other point up to the moment of birth.

Lawyers and pro-choice advocates love this position because it takes the issue of life and death and turns it into a legal technicality. If it’s not possible to tell when a fetus (or whatever term you choose to give it) becomes a person, then you aren’t committing murder by getting rid of it. You can’t kill something that doesn’t exist.

Further comments: Diane Weber Bederman, Faye Sonier

A. Alan Borovoy: When it comes to abortion, personhood is beside the point

National Post – October 28, 2012

The proposed debate on the beginning of life, triggered by Stephen Woodworth’s failed private member’s bill, is the most recent casualty of the confusion over the issue of abortion. Traditionally, the abortion debate focused on whether a fetus is a person. For those who said “yes,” abortion was tantamount to murder. Those who said “no” felt free to support the right to abortion.

Yet, there is no rational way to decide when personhood begins. Thus, the abortion debate has always been infected with irrationality. But, even if we assumed that personhood begins at conception, why should that “person” have sanctuary in the body of someone who doesn’t want it there? In short, it simply doesn’t follow that the attribution of personhood should resolve the question.

The abortion debate should focus less on the mysteries of embryonic life and more on the limits of governmental power. This would entail facing squarely how far the government of a democracy should be authorized to regulate what people — in this case, women — can do inside their own bodies. It might help to examine other situations where the relationship of government and our bodies is at issue.

Extent of privacy at work clarified in Supreme Court decision

OHS Canada – October 29, 2012

The Supreme Court of Canada has ordered a new trial for a teacher charged with possession of child pornography, after ruling that excluding unlawfully-obtained material found on his work-issued laptop would negatively impact the criminal trial process. The decision, released on Oct. 19, said that although the high school teacher’s privacy interests were diminished due to school board ownership of the laptop and workplace policies regarding computer use, the expectation of privacy is warranted where the computers are allowed for personal use.

Abby Deshman, director of the public safety program at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association in Toronto, noted that while the association was generally pleased with the decision, it did not specifically address the scope of an employer’s authority to invade employee privacy rights.

9 voices on the Supreme Court election ruling

CBC News – October 26, 2012

The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Conservative MP Ted Opitz will not lose his seat, overturning a lower court ruling that had thrown out the 2011 federal election result in Etobicoke Centre.

[..] in a split decision, the Supreme Court found reason to reinstate 59 of those ballots — enough for Opitz’s election to stand. The majority decision argued the entitlement to vote cannot be annulled due to procedural errors and that there was a lack of evidence that most of the discarded ballots came from voters who were not qualified to vote.

“The one concern from the CCLA’s perspective is the court’s accepting that the election laws can be unevenly applied and that is not of concern to the court. … What the court decided was that it was okay, after the fact, to back into records and figure out if people who had not been vouched for or who had not produced ID nevertheless could have voted. And we said, well what happens to the people who came without ID and were turned away? Canadians expect that people are treated even-handedly whatever the laws are.”

— Allison Thornton, lawyer for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, which was an intervener in the case

Being fingerprinted to coach hockey did not make my day

Ottawa Citizen – October 24, 2012

Of course, we all know why this mass fingerprinting is happening. There’s been some cases of children sexually abused by youth leaders and coaches, most infamously the molestation of former NHLers Sheldon Kennedy and Theo Fleury by their major junior hockey coach Graham James in the 1980s. As a result, parents are worried. Coaches, youth leaders and parent volunteers at some city schools are now regularly screened with police checks and, in recent years, followup electronic fingerprinting.

Alberta is a hot spot for these checks, reports the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. There are 160,000 police checks done each year in the province, 37 per cent by employers, 22 per cent by volunteer organizations.

Dismiss challenge of Ontario Catholic school funding, government lawyers ask court

Toronto Star – October 17, 2012

Lawyers for the Ontario government are asking a court to dismiss a Toronto woman’s challenge against Catholic school funding.

The woman is asking the court to order Ontario to stop funding Catholic schools on the grounds that, as a taxpayer who doesn’t share the church’s beliefs, it infringes upon her freedom of religion.

The government is arguing the case should be dismissed both because the Supreme Court has already decided the issue and because the woman doesn’t have standing.

Reva Landau argues she does have standing because some of the money she pays in taxes funds Catholic schools.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association is intervening in the challenge and is supporting Landau.

Unions to launch court challenge over wage-freeze bill

Windsor Star – October 11, 2012

Unions representing teachers and education workers are launching a legal challenge exactly a month after Ontario’s provincial government passed a bill forcing a new contract on thousands of their members.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association has also criticized the Liberal government’s actions, which it has called “undemocratic and unconstitutional.”

[…] Andrew Lokan, a Toronto lawyer retained by CUPE, did make a submission when the bill was before a Queen’s Park committee last month.

Speaking on behalf of the Civil Liberties Association — where he serves a board member and offers pro bono legal counsel, Lokan said the bill violates the Charter right to meaningful collective bargaining because the framework has already been dictated by the province and all future agreements signed between individual school boards and their union locals “must be similar or identical with respect to these terms or they will be void to the extent that they deviate from those terms.”

Abortion, immigration test limits of dialogue in Parliament

CBC – September 30, 2012

The right for MPs to say and discuss almost anything they want is one of the central privileges of Parliament, but a couple of divisive debates over the past week tested the thresholds of dialogue in the House of Commons.

The issue of restricting debate on abortion has come up before in other areas — on Canadian campuses, for example. The pro-choice Canadian Civil Liberties Association has spoken out against barring pro-life advertising and activities at universities as a violation of free speech.

Jason Kenney halts woman’s deportation after claims she’s be stoned to death in Iran

National Post – September 28, 2012

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has stepped in to prevent the immediate deportation of Fatemeh Derakhshandeh Tosarvandan, an Iranian woman who feared she would be stoned to death if returned to her home country, a government source revealed Thursday.

On Thursday morning, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association condemned Ms. Tosarvandan’s impending deportation, saying it would “offend Canadian and international law.” The Charter of Rights and Freedoms prevents deportation to countries where a refugee claimant could face torture, as does the UN Convention on Torture, to which Canada is a signatory.

The Supreme Court is right to protect cyberbullying victims who are minors

The Globe and Mail – September 27, 2012

When a 15-year-old girl is victimized by grotesque cyberbullying, and attempts to learn, through court action, the identity of the bully who defamed her, it is fair and just for her to remain anonymous, as a unanimous Supreme Court of Canada ruled on Thursday.

Several media organizations and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, intervening in the case, argued otherwise. They said the Nova Scotia girl should have to prove that she would be harmed if her name were published. They worry about the precedent – that in another courtroom somewhere, someone else will come forward to ask for a publication ban without having to demonstrate harm.

Dropped criminal charges should be erased from background checks, civil liberties group argues

National Post – September 17, 2012

Individuals who have had run-ins with the law but were never convicted of a crime could find that details of those incidents still appear in police background checks, potentially hindering their ability to land a job, travel abroad or become foster parents.

A report released Monday by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association said there is an urgent need for greater fairness and clarity in the background-check process so that innocent people aren’t unfairly stigmatized.

Info released in police background checks ‘unfair’ to innocent Canadians

Calgary Herald – September 17, 2012

Thousands of Canadians are being unfairly and often unwittingly tainted by information contained in police background checks, a prominent civil liberties group said Monday.

The result is that people are denied employment or run into a host of other problems, including finding housing or travelling across the border, according to the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

At issue is the disclosure of “non-conviction” records — information about an investigation, arrest or charge that did not lead to a conviction.

“There’s a real stigma attached to the very mention of an interaction with the police,” said Nathalie Des Rosiers, the association’s general counsel.

“The presumption of innocence must mean something.”

Quebec construction inquiry good for society: law experts

Toronto Sun – September 16, 2012

Nathalie Des Rosiers, general counsel of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and past president of the Law Commission of Canada, said public inquiries are important because they get people talking.

The point of a public inquiry is not necessarily to point blame at any specific people, but to “clarify what are the systemic practices that are encouraging illegality,” she said.

“A commission creates in the public some sort of awareness or sensibility to the problem,” she told QMI Agency.

Public hearings on Ontario teachers’ bill wrap up

CBC News – September 6, 2012

Speedy public hearings on anti-strike legislation for Ontario teachers ended Thursday after less than 24 hours, bringing the minority Liberals another step closer to putting the controversial bill to a final vote next week.

The committee, which heard from unions, advocacy groups and trustees and principals’ associations, had just a few hours to consider the bill that’s being rammed through the legislature.

Andrew Lokan, counsel to the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, said the bill is unconstitutional and undemocratic by quashing the right to strike.

64 blacklisted from municipal buildings

Windsor Star – September 6, 2012

For more than three years, Edy Haddad has been the subject of a no-trespass order covering city hall. After refusing an order from city site manager Sebastian Pirrone to leave the premises during Tuesday’s council meeting, two uniformed officers were called in to escort the banned guest out of city hall.

The Star has learned there are currently 64 trespass notices being enforced. The reasons cited, according to documents obtained under a freedom of information request, range from verbally abusive and confrontational behaviour to hate language and threats being made against individuals.

When it comes to the political arena, “there has to be a very high tolerance level … whenever you ban someone from a public forum, you’re going to engage such core constitutional arguments as freedom of speech,” said CCLA program director Abby Deshman.

Teachers gain support from Canadian Civil Liberties Association

Toronto Star – August 30, 2012

Ontario’s teachers have won support from the Canadian Civil Liberties Association as they fight Premier Dalton McGuinty’s legislation to impose a wage-freeze contract on them and ban strikes for two years.

It’s unconstitutional to take away the right to strike before there’s a threat of one, the association said Thursday in announcing it will seek intervener status if the law passes as expected — likely Sept. 10 — and education unions challenge it.

“Peoples’ rights are not something to be trifled with,” said Sukanya Pillay, director of the association. “We are concerned that this legislation goes too far and violates the civil liberties of all Ontarians.”

Civil Liberties Group Slams Bill Forcing Teachers’ Wage Freeze

CTV News – August 30, 2012

A national civil liberties group is joining the fight against a controversial bill by Ontario’s cash-strapped government that would force a wage freeze and cuts to benefits on tens of thousands of teachers across the province.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association echoed teachers’ unions in condemning the legislation as unconstitutional and a violation of workers’ rights across the province.

“We understand that budget concerns need to be addressed by government, but budget concerns are no justification to undercut the democratic process,” said Sukanya Pillay, a director of the association.

 The legislation, which three unions have vowed to fight all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada, will also give the government the power to ban strikes and lockouts for at least two years.

That’s alarming because it removes the right to strike before there’s even the threat of one, said Pillay, who plans to seek intervener status in a potential legal challenge of the bill.

Human rights case seeks equal billing for religion and atheism in schools

National Post – August 29, 2012

Arguing that it is “biased” for his children to be given free Gideon Bibles in class but not free atheist literature, an Ontario father is launching a human rights case that aims to drive the Gideons out of the province’s public schools.

In a protest move in 2010, Mr. Chouinard offered to match the Gideons’ offer with a selection of two non-religious texts.

Indeed, when school officials rejected his offer, Mr. Chouinard took his case to the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal.

On Wednesday, he learned that the tribunal would hear his complaint in February, and that the Canadian Civil Liberties Association had signed on as an intervenor.

Sukanya Pillay: Why Pussy Riot is our riot

The Huffington Post – August 27, 2012

The real danger here is the threat that laws seeking to target real religious hatred or extremism, are being misused to silence dissent — which is protected by the ICCPR, and also by the European Convention on Human Rights which applies to Russia. To stifle dissent is antithetical to democracy.

So why should Canadians care? Canada is a co-party with Russia to the ICCPR. According to the UN Human Rights Committee — the treaty body of legal experts that interprets the ICCPR — every State Party has a legal interest in the performance by every other State Party of its obligations.

Bayfield man faces rare criminal libel charge

Law Times News – August 27. 2012

A Bayfield, Ont. man has been charged with two counts of criminal harassment and two counts of defamatory libel after allegedly spreading false information about several lawyers, members of the police, and justice officials in Guelph, Ont.

While provincial data on the number of cases involving criminal defamatory libel compared to civil libel aren’t often publicly available, and in some cases not recorded, Sheetal Rawal, an articling fellow at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, says the association has seen a number of cases involving criminal defamatory libel this year.

“It’s concerning to us in the sense that defamatory libel includes expressions or criticisms of public officials or government figures under the criminal code,” says Rawal. “We see that as particularly troubling for a democracy, where citizens should be allowed to have a meaningful discussion about those in power. It’s concerning when you have a tool that shuts down that expression.”

Watching the watchmen

Ottawa Citizen – August 23, 2012

The fact is, police have no sweeping authority under Canadian law to order people to stop taking pictures or videos of them in public or confiscate their devices without a court order. Certainly, police can arrest anyone who wilfully obstructs them while taking pictures, but even then they have no automatic right to seize the device, much less delete its contents.

“There is nothing in the Criminal Code that would directly prohibit someone taking pictures of officers in the performance of their duties in public,” says Abby Deshman, Director of the Public Safety Program at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. “They can tell you to move away but they don’t have the right to stop you taking pictures.”

Deshman says the association has been contacted by several people complaining of “feeling intimidated or threatened with charges by police for taking pictures of them in public.”

Cops ‘overzealous’ with Jewish protesters at anti-Israel rally: Canadian Civil Liberties Association

Sun News Network – August 21, 2012

Police may have been “overzealous” in their handling of two Jewish protesters during an anti-Israel rally on the lawn of the provincial legislature last Saturday, says the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

Spokeswoman Noa Mendelsohn Aviv said Tuesday there may have been a “problematic” double standard on the part of officers who allegedly threatened to charge a Jewish man who arrived at an Al-Quds Day rally carrying a large Israeli flag, as well as officers who allegedly handcuffed another man for bringing his dog to the Islamic demonstration.

“It appears, based on these incidents, that the police were being overzealous in their reactions to counter-protesters,” Aviv said. “Toronto police need to exercise their authority to protect both the rights of protestors and of counter-protesters, who also have a right to express their opinions and to use public space for this purpose.”

Philosophy gender war sparked by call for larger role for women

National Post – August 11, 2012

It began with a private email last month from one established male philosopher to four others: Proceed with a Berlin-based conference that features 14 male speakers and no women, the writer said, and I will essentially launch a campaign to take you down professionally. Within a week, the email went viral in the international philosophy community, and the writer — a Dutch man named Eric Schliesser — teamed up with another male philosopher to issue a clarion call to all men in the field.

Nathalie Des Rosiers, general counsel for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, said the issue is mostly a strategy question — boycotts sometimes work, but can backfire by splitting the community. “This is actually a great academic discussion about the appropriate and moral way to conduct academic conferences. And it is certainly a great philosophical discussion about whether and how to try to influence behaviour,” she said.

Elections Canada’s argument that Ontario justice’s interpretation of Elections Act too rigourous ‘frightening,’ says CCLA

The Hill Times Online – August 10, 2012

The prospect of allowing contested ballots to stand without records showing those who cast them were qualified to vote is a “scary” argument to hear from the federal agency in charge of the integrity of Canadian federal elections, says a national civil liberties advocacy group backing former Liberal MP Borys Wrzesnewskyj in a Supreme Court of Canada battle over voting irregularities in his razor-thin loss to a Conservative last year.

Ms. Des Rosiers was explaining why the association, the largest and most influential civil liberties advocacy organization in Canada, has intervened in a Supreme Court of Canada appeal launched by Conservative MP Ted Opitz (Etobicoke Centre, Ont.) after an Ontario Superior Court judge earlier this year overturned his 27-vote margin of victory over Mr. Wrzesnewskyj by setting aside 79 ballots because of irregularities that included missing records of voter registration, improper vouching and questions over citizenship qualification.

Toronto police face lawsuit over activist profiling – August 9, 2012

Toronto police are facing another G20 related lawsuit after a group of female activists alleged the police politically profiled them for arrest during the G20 Summit in Toronto.

Reports of activists being profiled and stopped by police began earlier in the week with stories of officers stopping people on the street if they approached the security fence or riding the GO train into the city for the Friday demonstration against the G20 in downtown Toronto.

Complaints of activist profiling were even noted the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) and National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) report titled: Breach of the Peace: A report into the G20 by CCLA and NUPGE.

It was noted in the report that activists who provided testimony for the report felt targeted, “Arbitrary searches occurred in countless locations across the city, in many instances several kilometres from the G20 Summit site.”

The Top 25 Most Influential

Canadian Lawyers Magazine – August 6, 2012

The Top 25 Most Influential is not just about bright stars, big deals, or number of media mentions — although those may play a part. We have endeavoured to select lawyers who have been influential within the profession as well as Canadian society over the last 18 months. Closing a high-worth deal, for instance, doesn’t necessarily have a big impact beyond that particular business or industry. The Top 25 is about a level of respect, the ability to influence public opinion, and help shape the laws of this country; contribution to the strength and quality of legal services; and social and political influence and involvement. It can include politicians and regulators who are lawyers.

Some of last year’s winners are back, such as Nathalie Des Rosiers of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

Banned from city council meetings, Niagara Falls resident vows he’ll be back for the next one in September

Bullet News Niagara – August 3, 2012

Carlo Butera, the ex- parks department worker who claims he was wrongly terminated seven years ago and earlier this year was banned from attending council meetings, says he has done nothing wrong and won’t be treated differently than any other member of the public.

Speaking earlier this year, a lawyer for Canadian Civil Liberties Association said city council’s use of the Trespass to Property Act to outright ban a former city employee from attending council meetings is “problematic” and likely exceeds the municipality’s authority.

“The advice that this is a lawful use of the Trespass to Property Act in this circumstance is questionable,” said Cara Zwibel, director of the association’s fundamental freedoms program. “I think it’s problematic. To use (the Act) in this way… is overreaching.”

 Recognition program, which checks plates automatically, deemed too costly by city police

The – August 1, 2012

Ontario Provincial Police have proven automatic licence plate recognition technology works and have pilot tested at four locations in the province – without your knowledge.

What the technology could potentially be used for has attracted the attention of privacy watchdogs like the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, who point out it’s possible police could be watching to track the movements of people.

More needs to be done to ensure enormous amount of information police can retrieve is being used responsibly and to the letter of the law, the association advised

“There are obvious privacy concerns that need to be addressed,” said CCLA program director Abby Deshman. “Whenever you’re looking at new technology that’s going to vastly increase the amount of information that the government has access to, there are important safeguards that need to be addressed.”

Council meeting prayer ban sought

Ottawa Citizen – August 1, 2012

Claiming the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer causes him anguish and feelings of exclusion, a man in rural Ontario is suing his local government to get politicians to cease praying at the start of their meetings […]

“I don’t like politicians who break the law, and our county council is breaking the law,” said Ferguson Tuesday from his home in Kimberley — one of nine municipalities within Grey County. He said if he wins the case, he’ll donate the $5,000 to Canadian Civil Liberties Education Trust.

“I don’t really care about religion that much, I care about the law. I care about being fair.”

Time for Oshawa to right a wrong – July 31, 2012

It seems Oshawa council had enough of Barry’s protesting and issued a trespass order against him. This flies in the face of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedom for peaceful assembly and the right to protest. I can see if he was disrupting chambers during a meeting and was asked to leave, but to outright ban him? This is Canada, not Iran. Was it really necessary to have 4 police and the K-9 unit show up to his one-man protest?

Now Oshawa has some explaining to do as the Canadian Civil Liberties Association has become involved. The CCLA is a leader in protecting fundamental freedoms and has earned respect nation wide for its stance on issues such as censorship, capital punishment and police powers. You may remember the case in Clarington when Jim Richards was banned from speaking at council. The CCLA was on his side until he dropped his complaint due to most of the politicians not being re-elected that had voted against Jim.

Oshawa council needs to know one thing, and that is the CCLA doesn’t take on cases it doesn’t think it can win.

Anti-mask bills raise free speech questions

The McGill Daily – July 28, 2012

Much like the anti-mask bylaw passed in Montreal this May, a new piece of legislation making its way through parliament, Bill C-309, seeks to criminalize the concealment of one’s face during an unlawful assembly or a riot.

Andrew Lokan, an external counsel to the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, has been studying BIll C-309’s implications in a civil liberties context. He called the federal bill “disproportionate” and said that it will have a “chilling effect on lawful and legitimate protests”.

Maghnieh critic no longer banned from city hall as human rights organization intervene

The Windsor Star – July 26, 2012

A leader of last year’s Occupy Windsor movement and outspoken critic of disgraced Coun. Al Maghnieh is no longer banned from city hall.The city’s decision follows a request from the Canadian Civil Liberties Association that the trespassing ban against Mittag be withdrawn.

Nathalie Des Rosiers, general counsel for CCLA, said in a letter to the city this week that the organization had “serious concerns” about the trespassing ban, which she said threatens Mittag’s “constitutionally protected expressive rights and rights of democratic participation.”

Criminals taking advantage of burkas: Hassan

 Toronto Sun – July 24, 2012

The former Muslim Canadian Congress president is angry a 14-year-old clad in a burka was filmed buying booze in three LCBO stores without being asked to provide identification or show their face.

Noa Mendelsohn Aviv, director of the equality program at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, said there are other ways people can determine age, such as looking at one’s hands and stature.

Aviv said an option should be made available to Muslim women covering their faces to be able to identify themselves to a female employee, rather than a male one, adding that she thinks the number of women in Toronto who wear burkas is actually very small. “I think we need to be really careful not to turn this into an anti-Muslim issue. It’s a underage-kids-finding-fraudulent-ways-to-buy-alcohol issue,” Aviv said.

Ex-Aurora mayor lawsuit decision could take 30 to 60 days – July 20, 2012

[…]The $6-million suit attracted widespread attention, raising concerns about privacy rights and drawing in the Canadian Civil Liberties Association as intervenors. Also controversial was town council’s initial involvement, saying town staff and other councillors were also defamed. Although the current council backed out of the suit, the legal action cost the town $65,000. Ms Morris dropped the lawsuit in October after a court ruling found the rights to privacy and freedom of expression outweighed any public interest in having the anonymous bloggers unmasked, leaving her unable to get the names.

Iranian-Canadian bank account closures may violate Charter rights

Toronto Star – July 20, 2012

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association is warning that TD Bank may have infringed Charter rights when it suddenly closed a number of Iranian Canadian accounts.

The bank sparked outrage from the Iranian-Canadian community when it began sending letters in May saying accounts had been closed due to economic sanctions against Iran. The sanctions forbid Canadian banks from doing business with Iranian residents, or transferring sums over $40,000 to or from Iran.

This day in 1985 – Former teacher Jim Keegstra fined for promoting hatred

Calgary Herald – July 20, 2012

Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench fined former school teacher James Keegstra $5,000 for willfully promoting hatred against Jews; teaching Eckville students that the Holocaust didn’t happen and that a Jewish conspiracy controls world affairs.

Alan Borovoy of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association said there are better ways than prosecution to control hatemongers. Canada`s anti-hate law can suppress legitimate free speech, he said. “Despite the fact it has managed to nail a character like Keegstra, it is also capable of catching others in the same net,” Borovoy said from Toronto.

The End of Canada’s Sovereignty as a Nation State?: Towards a U.S.-Canada Economic and Security Perimeter

Global Research – July 18, 2012

Over the past several months, the U.S.-Canada Beyond the Border action plan has taken significant steps forward. This includes efforts to modernize and expand infrastructure at key land ports. In a move that went largely unnoticed, both countries also recently agreed on a statement of privacy principles that will guide information sharing across the border. Meanwhile, a separate joint initiative has been announced which addresses energy and environmental issues […]

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association have also voiced concerns on privacy safeguard provisions that were not included which, “may permit the lowest standard between the two countries to prevail.” Ever since the perimeter security action plan was first unveiled in November 2011, there have been fears associated with personal data collected and exchanged at the border. This latest announcement has done little to ease these worries with respect to privacy rights and civil liberties.

Former Aurora mayor in court this week – July 16, 2012

Former Aurora Mayor Phyllis Morris is back in court this week. A hearing regarding costs stemming from her lawsuit against local bloggers is set to take place Wednesday in a Toronto courtroom […] The $6-million suit attracted widespread attention, raising concerns about privacy rights and drawing in the Canadian Civil Liberties Association as an intervenor.

Supreme Court needs to clarify rules of Canada’s election process

Toronto Star – July 11, 2012

In an historic hearing on Tuesday, the high court heard arguments to determine whether the various “technical irregularities” were grave enough to eject Opitz and send voters back to the ballot box.

In Etobicoke Centre people voted at the wrong polling station. Some voters’ identities were improperly vouched for. And registration certificates were improperly filled out or went missing. Mindful of the close vote, Superior Court Justice Thomas Lederer ordered a new election. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association agrees.

Scientists protest the ‘death of evidence’ on Parliament Hill – July 11, 2012

They filed down busy Wellington Street to Parliament Hill in the noon sunshine. More than a thousand people, many carrying signs and wearing white lab coats, escorted a black coffin and the Grim Reaper to mark the Death of Evidence.

This was not your average Ottawa demonstration. Organized by scientists and groups like the Council of Canadians and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the rally was attended by researchers, graduate students, doctors, lawyers and many people who wanted to speak out against the “new Iron Curtain being drawn between science and society.”

Supreme Court of Canada to hear appeal over disputed election result Tuesday

Vancouver Sun — July 8, 2012

The Supreme Court of Canada will hear Tuesday the first appeal under the Canada Elections Act ever brought all the way to the top court, the outcome of which will set a precedent for future contested election cases.

What’s at issue in this appeal is under what circumstances it’s appropriate to require a by-election when something has gone amiss in the conduct of the election, but nobody is necessarily at fault, said Allison Thornton, a lawyer representing the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, which is acting as an intervener in the case.

Oversight Board Admits Mistakes in G20 Policing in Light of Critical Report

Winnipeg Free Press – June 29, 2012

The civilian agency charged with overseeing Toronto’s police force made mistakes in handling policing of the violence-marred G20 summit, its head admitted Friday, but the city’s top officer said the biggest problem was the lack of time to prepare for the event.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association said Morden’s review illustrates the need for improved civilian oversight of police as key to preserving civil liberties. “The report also illustrates the need for better cross-jurisdictional accountability mechanisms,” the association said. “There are still many gaps and questions that remain unanswered.”

The G20 Summit: Where Are We Now?

Toronto Star—June 29, 2012

 Two years after the G20 summit — which gave Canada both its biggest security operation and largest mass arrest in peacetime history — what have we learned from that ignominious weekend?

Whatever lessons have emerged will not come from a public inquiry, despite continued calls for one. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association has consistently maintained that only a public inquiry can make sense of the G20 summit and its complex security operation, which involved officers from the RCMP, OPP and multiple local police services.

Canada forced to drop plans to eavesdrop on travelers

The Guardian – June 22, 2012

Canadian authorities have announced that plans to eavesdrop on travellers’ conversations at airports and border crossings have been “halted” after a public outcry.

The move could be illegal under Canada’s Charter of Rights, which guards against unreasonable search and seizure. Sukanya Pillay of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association said that any measure intruding on personal privacy had to be “justifiable” and “proportional” under the law, and demanded a privacy review.

Toronto Star Reporter Michelle Shephard Wins Canadian Civil Liberties Association Award

Toronto Star—June 21, 2012

Toronto Star national security reporter Michelle Shephard says the award she won this week from the Canadian Civil Liberties Association is a reminder to keep investigating rights violations in Canada’s own backyard.

“This award is to celebrate her contribution to the better knowledge for Canadians on issues about civil liberties, the repercussion of Sept. 11 and Omar Khadr,” said association General Counsel Nathalie des Rosiers on Wednesday. “And generally, for her capacity to bring to the public the stories of injustices from around the world.

Axworthy, Fontaine Among Honourees at Civil Liberties Gala

Winnipeg Free Press—June 20, 2012

Lloyd Axworthy, president of the University of Winnipeg, will be honoured along with native leader Phil Fontaine, one-time Winnipegger Lawrence Hill, the late Jack Layton and 16 other prominent Canadians by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association at a Toronto reception tonight.

The theme for the association’s second annual fundraising gala is Canadian Diversity, to mark World Refugee Day today.

Guns and ammo ban a ‘knee-jerk’ reaction

Toronto Sun – June 13, 2012

TORONTO – Left-leaning Toronto Councillor Adam Vaughan is jumping the gun with his proposal to ban firearms and bullets in Toronto, say critics.

Such a ban would be next to impossible — and expensive — to enforce, circumvent federal laws and wrongly punish responsible gun owners, said Nathalie Des Rosiers of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. “How (would) we enforce this?” said a chuckling Des Rosiers, who added such a measure would not stop illegal guns from falling into the hands of criminals.

She summed up the proposal as a knee-jerk reaction to the gang-related June 2 shooting at the Eaton Centre, which left two men dead and five bystanders wounded. “Everybody jumps the gun,” said Des Rosiers. “It’s time to pause and make sure we don’t go overboard in punishing innocent people. It is a tragedy, (but) the question is whether this proposal would have (prevented) this.”

Prayer Doesn’t Belong at Municipal Events: CCLA:

Sun News – June 12, 2012

Prayers would no longer have a place at government events in Saskatoon if the Canadian Civil Liberties Association has their way.

Sheetal Rawal of the CCLA sent a letter to Mayor Don Atchison calling for an end to prayer at municipal events. “The state should have no role in imposing, endorsing or promoting a particular religion over others, nor should it pressure or coerce an individual into a religious practice,” Rawal said in the letter dated June 5.

Association canadienne des libertés civiles: Le comportement des policiers vivement dénoncé

TVA Nouvelles – June 12, 2012

L’Association canadienne des libertés civiles (ACLCL) prépare un rapport accablant sur les dérapages policiers survenus depuis le début de la crise étudiante au Québec. L’organisme avait très sévèrement critiqué le comportement des policiers torontois lors du G20 et dit y reconnaître les mêmes abus.

Terrorist Momin Khawaja Sideswiped By Legal Jockeying, Lawyer Tells Supreme Court:

Vancouver Sun – June 11, 2012

Ottawa terrorist Momin Khawaja deserves a new trial as he is the victim of a misguided and controversial new criminal law unfairly used against him, his lawyer told the Supreme Court Monday.

Greenspon and co-defence lawyer Eric Granger addressed the top court on several other avenues of appeal in a last-ditch bid to have Khawaja’s convictions quashed and new trial ordered — or, at the least, to have his sentenced reduced to the 12 to 16-year range.

Their broader argument that the reinstated motive clause will “chill” minority groups from expressing beliefs and opinions was supported by lawyers representing the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the B.C. Civil Liberties Association.

Saskatoon mayor asked to stop prayers

CBC News – June 8, 2012

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association is calling for an end to prayers at official City of Saskatoon events.

The association has sent a letter to Mayor Don Atchison in connection with a city-sponsored volunteer appreciation event in April at which city councillor Randy Donauer allegedly led the audience in a Christian prayer.

‘Moment’ Should Replace Prayer at Gov’t Events, Says Civil Liberties Association:

The Star Phoenix – June 7, 2012

The City of Saskatoon should offer a “moment of reflection” instead of Christian prayers at civic events so citizens aren’t excluded from celebrations, says the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

In a letter to Saskatoon Mayor Don Atchison, the association calls for the end to Christian prayers at city-sponsored events and suggests the city allow a moment of reflection to be more inclusive to religious and non-religious people. The letter is in support of a recent complaint from a citizen over a prayer a civic event.

‘Best Gore’ Should Be Charged for Hosting Alleged Magnotta Murder Video: Lawyer

National Post – June 5, 2012

With Luka Rocco Magnotta now in German police custody and poised to face multiple charges in Canada, questions are emerging about whether there should be other legal fallout in the case — notably around Best Gore, the website that initially refused to take down what’s believed to be video of the graphic murder of victim Jun Lin.

Nathalie Des Rosiers of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, however, argued charges against a web host probably wouldn’t stick and there’s a “good defence” linked to the “protection of freedom of expression.”

Immigration Bill’s Impact Cause For Concern:

The Canadian Jewish News – June 4, 2012

Bill C-31 – titled Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act – is being considered in the House of Commons, and its sponsor, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Jason Kenney, has said he wants the bill passed by June 29, before Parliament adjourns for the summer.

Detractors such as the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, among others, say that provisions in C-31, including the proposed creation of a list of designated “safe” countries of origin, give too much power to ministers and don’t give refugees enough time to establish their cases before Canada’s Immigration Refugee Board (IRB).

Schools in Texas to Use Tracking Devices on Students:

Shine from Yahoo Canada – June 1, 2012

According to the San Antonio Express-News, over 6,000 high-school and middle-school students will have to carry around Radio Frequency Identification System tags starting next fall. That way, administration staff can find out whether they’re attending class, or if they’ve left the campus.

“It’s extremely concerning,” says the director of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association’s public safety program, Abby Deshman. But Deshman doesn’t think Canadian students will be carrying around these tracking devices anytime soon.

“The legal framework in Canada is different,” she says. “I think that any school that tried to implement this would have to be extremely careful about students’ privacy and justify exactly why they are doing this.”

Quebec Premier Jean Charest’s Bid to Quell Students Protests Falls Flat:

Toronto Star – May 23, 2012

On Friday, the National Assembly passed Bill 78, a “right-to-study” law that suspends classes at the hardest-hit schools for a three-month “cooling off” period, and bars protesters from interfering with students who want to study when classes resume. The protesters are fighting plans to raise the cost of a university diploma to $12,000 over seven years, from $6,500 today. Students elsewhere in the country now pay $22,000 on average.

According to the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the new law casts a chill on Quebecers’ Charter rights insofar as it “drastically limits freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly,” not only for striking students but for any Quebecer who wants to organize a peaceful protest. While temporary (it will expire on July 1, 2013, unless it is rescinded earlier), it has been likened to the hated War Measures Act of decades ago.

Police Under Attack—The Flip Side of G20 Misconduct

Toronto Star – May 20, 2012

A handful of police testimony in last week’s sweeping G20 report by Ontario’s police complaints watchdog outlines in striking detail the hostility officers faced during the June 26-27, 2010 summit. The report collects in one place for the first time evidence suggesting officers policing the summit were attacked, and possibly provoked, by protesters.

But for Abby Deshman, director of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association’s public safety program, the violence and heat are no excuse for police actions during the summit. “Just because a few engage in criminal acts doesn’t mean police have the right to violate the constitutional rights of those who haven’t committed a crime,” she said.

Anti-Mask Legislation Defies Logic:

MacLeans – May 18, 2012

As Andrew Lokan of Paliare Roland Barristers (external counsel to the Canadian Civil Liberties Association) explained, it’s unlikely that Bill C-309—being a private member’s bill—was based on a substantive body of factual research, the kind, for instance, that might link personal anonymity to a violent herd mentality. So what was the mission in the first place? My best guess is the bill was driven by a visceral adverse reaction to cowardice (refusing to put a face to your convictions), by cynicism (the assumption that masked protesters are more likely to smash in a storefront than riled up hockey fans), and basic creepiness (the Richard Nixon mask in the movie Dead Presidents and Freddy Krueger in A Nightmare on Elm Street.) Hence the hatching of a good story—that people wearing Guy Fawkes masks are a dangerous menace to society. If only it were true.

CCLA Calls for Transgendered Option on Passports:

iNews 880 am – May 17, 2012

Transport Canada is reviewing its passport rules and the issue of gender description has come up.

Currently your passport indicates whether you are male of female, but there are groups who want a third option that doesn’t require a choice between the two.

Noa Mendelsohn-Aviv with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association was speaking on 630 CHED’s The Rutherford Show this morning, and thinks it makes sense to offer the third option.

Mask Ban Proposal Worries Civil Liberties Experts:

Vancouver Sun – May 16, 2012

A federal move to regulate mask-wearing at large gatherings could face a litmus test as early as this week, as events in Montreal help foreshadow whether such a plan will do more good or harm. The bylaw will be studied by the city’s public-safety committee Wednesday and could be adopted by the end of the week.

Elsewhere in the country, a private-member’s bill, C-309, is progressing through the House of Commons after easily passing second reading, and it could become Canadian law within months.

“The concern is that both Bill C-309 and Montreal’s bylaw will give police free reign to arrest anyone wearing a mask,” said Andrew Lokan, a lawyer and external council to the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

G20 Report Blasts Police for Violations of Civil Rights, Unlawful Detentions:

The Canadian Press – May 16, 2012

Police violated civil rights, detained people illegally and used excessive force during the G20 summit two years ago, a new report concludes, but some caught up in the police operation said there was still no real accountability for their mistreatment.

“Some police officers ignored basic rights citizens have under the charter and overstepped their authority when they stopped and searched people arbitrarily and without legal justification,” the review states.

Numerous individuals and groups, including the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, have lambasted police for riding roughshod over people’s rights. The association called on the Ontario government and police services to implement McNeilly’s recommendations, issue an “unconditional” apology, and take disciplinary or criminal action against officers implicated in misconduct.

G20 Report Slams Police for “Excessive” Force:

CBC News – May 16, 2012

The number of people police stopped and searched in downtown Toronto increased exponentially between June 25 and June 27. The report concludes that officers overstepped their authority by stopping and searching people arbitrarily, with many officers ignoring “the basic rights citizens have.”

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association demanded that action be taken against senior command officers “responsible for the decisions that violated the civil liberties of hundreds of Canadians.”

“We know that there were rights violations on a massive scale,” said Abby Deshman, public safety director of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. “”What we need now is accountability.”

CCLA Has Say on Ontario Anti-Bullying Legislation:

Toronto Sun – May 14, 2012

Ontario’s proposed anti-bullying rules go both too far and not far enough, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association said at a Queen’s Park committee Monday.

“In an effort to do good, the legislators may have taken it a little too far,” said Noa Mendelsohn Aviv, director of the CCLA’s Equality Program. “They may not have fully thought through the various situations in which student freedoms may be restricted.”

The broad definition of bullying used in the proposed legislation is too wide, Mendelsohn Aviv said, which has serious implications for freedom of expression.

CCLA Reacts to Minister Jason Kenney’s Proposed Amendments to Bill C-31:

Morning Post Exchange – May 9, 2012

While the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) welcomes the Minister of Immigration’s announcement that the Government is proposing amendments to Bill C-31, the Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act, CCLA believes the bill is still deeply flawed and unconstitutional.

For many months, CCLA has been working alongside numerous individuals, experts and organizations in the areas of human rights, refugee rights, health, law, and more, to raise awareness about the dangers of Bill C-31. One of the most egregious provisions in the Bill was the mandatory warrantless, automatic, unreviewable one-year detention for all persons aged 16 or older for groups of people “designated” at the discretion of the Minister.

Showdown: Ottawa, P.E.I Faced off over Immigration:

Herald News – May 8, 2012

During last fall’s election, the Liberal party released several documents containing private information about Plourd and Tenetko. These included an email Tenetko sent to then-P.E.I. Innovation Minister Allan Campbell after her contract was not renewed in which she said she would go to federal Immigration Minister Jason Kenney and the Globe and Mail if she did not get another job with the government.

Tenetko disputes the email, saying it was really a combination of two separate emails she sent to Campbell. She acknowledges a contract extension he promised her in 2009 never materialized, but that this is beside the point: someone, from within government, leaked an email about a private matter. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association denounced the leak of the email, saying it could have a chilling effect on whistleblowers.

NUPGE Applauds Decision to Drop Criminal Libel Charge Against N.B. Blogger:

National Union Of Public and General Employees – May 7, 2012

The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) applauds the decision of crown prosecutors in New Brunswick to drop criminal libel charge against blogger Charles LeBlanc.

Libel cases are normally tried in civil court. However, a rarely used section of the Criminal Code allows police to press criminal charges. Section 301 of the Criminal Code says that someone who is found guilty of criminal libel charges can be imprisoned for up to two years.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA), a group of legal scholars at the University of New Brunswick and NUPGE have all publicly questioned the charge against Mr. LeBlanc.

Banned protesters get national ally

London Free Press – April 18, 2012

A national civil rights group is blasting Western University for banning two London activists from campus for participating in a demonstration.

In a letter sent to Western president Amit Chakma, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) is calling on the university to overturn a one-year ban handed to Mike Roy and Anthony Verberckmoes, both members of the Occupy London movement.

“The CCLA is concerned that Western unduly limits the ability to protest on its premises; and further, has decided to punish individuals and deny them the ability to enter the campus on the basis of participation in a peaceful protest,” says the letter from CCLA general counsel Natalie Des Rosiers.

Using highway safety code to arrest protesters bad for democracy: Rights group

Canadian Press – April 11, 2012

Quebec police are using the province’s highway safety code to launch unjust crackdowns on protest marches, a civil rights group said Wednesday.

It said police are scaring off protesters by doling out fines of nearly $500 by invoking a provision that forbids obstruction of traffic in any way on a public highway.

The practice was first used in March 2011, when Montreal police arrested and fined more than 200 anti-police brutality protesters.

To coincide with court appearances where some of the protesters were preparing legal battles against the tickets, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association said Wednesday it is bad for democracy for police to use the highway code in such a manner.

Police response to blogger’s arrest ‘disappointing,’ says group

CBC News – March 8, 2012

A national civil liberties group is disappointed with the response of the Fredericton Police Force about defamatory libel charges against well-known blogger, Charles LeBlanc.

Last month, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association wrote a letter to police Chief Barry MacKnight questioning the arrest and seizure of computer equipment from LeBlanc’s apartment in January.

Group demands police reply on blogger’s arrest

CBC News – March 2, 2012

A national civil liberties group says it is still waiting for a response from the Fredericton Police after writing for information about the arrest of a well-known local blogger.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association wrote a letter to the force’s chief after Charles LeBlanc’s arrest in January.

LeBlanc was held in custody while officers searched his apartment and seized computer equipment in connection with a criminal libel investigation.

Councillor’s call riles civil-liberties group

London Free Press – February 17, 2012

A national civil-rights group is concerned the actions of a city politician may trample freedom of speech.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association is worried Coun. Sandy White’s call to an employer of a critic of city budget cuts may prevent others from questioning city actions, said Cara Zwibel, director of the association’s fundamental-freedom program.

“It raises concerns around freedom of expression and the chilling effect that this practice can have,” she said. “We often hear from people that feel municipalities are trying to silence them, one way or another. It’s definitely a concern.”

When a politician calls the boss of a critic, and not the individual, it can be seen as an attempt to intimidate, especially when the agency relies on city money, Zwibel said.

Online privacy erosion dismays critics

CBC News – February 15, 2012

Government and law enforcement access to people’s electronic communications is the norm in dictatorships around the world, but the same intrusion appears to be creeping into North America, say opponents of a new online surveillance bill tabled in the House Tuesday.

Even if Canada’s proposed online surveillance bill passes as expected, it will be challenged as unconstitutional in the courts, as happened in a related U.S. case last month, said Nathalie Des Rosiers, general counsel with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

Civil liberties advocate responds to cyber-crime bill

News Talk 650 – February 14, 2012

A new cyber-crime bill could allow police and C-SIS access to spy on Internet subscriber information including names and addresses without a warrant.

Abby Deshman with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association joined News Talk Radio’s Richard Brown to talk about the issue. She explained that the bill actually reaches much further than protecting children on the internet. She stressed the need to balance the basic right to privacy with the need to track down cyber criminals, especially those invovled with child pornography.

Online surveillance bill critics are siding with ‘child pornographers’: Vic Toews

National Post – February 14, 2012

Opponents of a controversial bill that would give authorities new powers to increase online monitoring of Canadians have been accused of siding with “child pornographers” by Safety Minister Vic Toews.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association also expressed their opposition of the bill on Tuesday by urging Canadians to send Mr. Toews a Valentine’s Day greeting saying they love their online privacy.

“Investigative tools without accompanying oversight such as full warrants, however, is not what we need,” says a statement from the Association.

Online surveillance bill ‘a gold mine’ for hackers: Ontario privacy commissioner

National Post – February 14, 2012

The Conservative government revealed legislation on Tuesday that would increase online surveillance of citizens, as critics and privacy experts argued the bill would unjustly infringe upon the rights of Canadians and act as a magnet for data-hungry hackers.

Bill C-30, tabled as The Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act in the House of Commons on Tuesday, will require telecommunications companies to give police customers’ information without a court order.

“We’re concerned that they’re downgrading privacy protections at every level,” said Abby Deshman, director of the public safety program for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. “We’re obviously going to ask to appear before committee. We hope there will be a robust discussion in committee.”

Fight to repeal hate speech law brings together unlikely allies

Global News – February 14, 2012

A bill to repeal part of Canada’s most contentious hate speech provisions, which has brought together unusual allies, is one step closer to becoming law.

The case is now before the Federal Court of Canada and Lemire has found an unlikely ally in his fight to see the bill repealed, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. It’s an organization known for defending human rights, equality and diversity.

The CCLA’s general counsel Nathalie Des Rosiers said it is important liberty and equality are protected for everyone. “When you lose freedom of expression you lose the ability of having the outside voice being forcefully heard,” said Des Rosiers.

Civil Liberties Association ‘troubled’ by council ban on Niagara Falls resident

Bullet News – February 8, 2012

A lawyer for Canadian Civil Liberties Association says Niagara Falls city council’s use of the Trespass to Property Act to ban a former city employee from attending council meetings is “problematic” and likely exceeds the municipality’s authority.

“The advice that this is a lawful use of the Trespass to Property Act in this circumstance is questionable,” said Cara Zwibel, director of the association’s fundamental freedoms program.

“I think it’s problematic. To use (the Act) in this way… is overreaching.”

Sukanya Pillay: When it comes to the U.S. border, don’t put trade ahead of privacy

National Post – January 3, 2012

[…]. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) has concurred with the findings of the Federal Commission of Inquiry into the case of Maher Arar: We believe that intelligence agencies and law enforcement must take every listed legal safeguard to ensure they do not wrongly flag an innocent person, and that they do not share, receive, or otherwise use or condone information that has been procured from torture or serious human rights abuses. Such information is not only unreliable, it is illegal and immoral. Indeed the RCMP and CSIS have agreed that such legal safeguards should be implemented.

Off-Island abortion costs hidden, P.E.I. warned

CBC News – November 22, 2011

The P.E.I. government needs to consider all the costs when making arguments about not providing abortion services in the province, says the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

P.E.I. is the only province which does not provide abortion services. The government will pay for the service, but Islanders must have the abortion performed on the mainland. Health Minister Doug Currie said last week abortions are one of a number of health services the Island has chosen not to perform locally to save resources.

Internet links not libel, top court rules

CBC News – October 19, 2011

Hyperlinking to defamatory material on the internet does not constitute publishing the defamatory material itself, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled Wednesday.

The majority of judges agreed that although someone can facilitate the transfer of information by what he or she links to, an internet user who follows the link is leaving one source and moving to another. The creator of the words in the secondary article is the one publishing defamatory material, not the first author.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association is pleased with the court’s ruling. “The court I think tried to really recognize that a decision that went the other way might have curbed what people are willing to do on the internet and curb the usefulness of the internet,” Cara Zwibel, a representative of the group, told CBC News.

Q&A: Canadian Civil Liberties Association’s Cara Zwibel on religion in schools

National Post – July 6, 2011

The National Post reported on Wednesday that Toronto’s Valley Park Middle School opens its cafeteria for 30 minutes every Friday during the school year to accommodate Muslim students who need to pray. The school board said this is a form of reasonable accommodation of religious practice, a principle found in the Constitution and in human rights codes. Others say that by having an imam come to the school to conduct a prayer service comes dangerously close to the school endorsing a religious practice — something a public institution is not supposed to do. The program has run for three years, apparently without complaint. But recently a Hindu group said it worried about special treatment given to Muslims and the use of school property for a religious service.

These issues mimic a recent furor over the distribution of Gideons Bibles through public schools in the Kitchener area, as well as the events that led to the banning of the Lord’s Prayer in public schools more than 20 years ago.

On Wednesday, I spoke to Cara Zwibel, director of the Fundamental Freedoms Program at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association for her views on this recent controversy.