Federal Court Case Challenges Government’s Respect for Charter of…




Ottawa, ON – Last week, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) intervened in the Federal Court case of Schmidt v. Attorney General of Canada, arguing that (1) the government has a responsibility to ensure that its proposed laws comply with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms; and (2) the Minister of Justice has an obligation to report serious concerns about compliance to Parliament — and, in turn, Canadians. In light of this case, and Canada being a country committed to constitutional supremacy, CCLA is calling on federal election candidates to recognize their duty to uphold the Charter and promise to ensure accountability in law-making.

The case was brought forward by Edgar Schmidt, a former Justice Department lawyer who claims that serious concerns surrounding Charter compliance had been consistently ignored by his former superiors, including the Minister, and were withheld from Parliament and the public.

In response, the government argued that reports are only necessary when there is no credible argument that can be made to support a proposed law. This loose interpretation has meant that not a single report relaying concerns about Charter non-compliance has ever been made to Parliament despite the passing of suspect laws, including many in recent years, that almost immediately were challenged in court, notably: the Anti-Terrorism Act, 2015 (Bill C-51); the Fair Elections Act; the Safe Streets and Communities Act; and the Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act.

Sukanya Pillay, Executive Director and General Counsel of CCLA, said: “While courts may assess whether laws are constitutional, governments also have an obligation to uphold the Charter, and to be transparent with Parliament — and Canadians — throughout the law-making process. If parliamentarians are not given key information to properly assess bills, unconstitutional laws may be passed. Further, if the government fails in its duty to uphold the Charter, the rights of Canadians will be put at risk and their tax dollars wasted on lengthy court battles with predictable outcomes.”

This is why CCLA, as part of its Vote Rights 2015 campaign, is calling on federal party leaders to:

  1. Recognize that the Government of Canada and parliamentarians are obliged to ensure that laws or amendments tabled in Parliament are consistent with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms;
  2. Commit to transparency and accountability throughout the law-making process such that Parliament is given key information on matters related to Charter compliance;
  3. Pledge to introduce new legislation that codifies these points into law.

During the final three weeks of the election campaign, CCLA will continue to raise awareness of these issues with the Canadian public.

>> Read CCLA’s factum on the Schmidt case

CCLA & CJFE mounting Charter challenge against Bill C-51


Key sections of Bill C-51 violate Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

TORONTO (July 21, 2015) — The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) and Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) are initiating a Charter challenge today against key sections of Bill C-51, the Anti-terrorism Act, 2015. The legislation presents disturbing implications for free speech, privacy, the powers of government, including CSIS, and the protection of civil liberties in Canada.

The challenge was filed with the Ontario Superior Court on the grounds that specific sections of Bill C-51 violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in a manner that is not justified in a free and democratic society. As such, these sections must be struck down as unconstitutional and of no force and effect.

Bill C-51 came into force after receiving royal assent on June 18, 2015. It passed, despite sustained and vocal opposition from civil society, privacy, law and civil rights experts, prominent civil servants, academics, former Supreme Court justices, and former Canadian prime ministers.

“Bill C-51 is a grave threat to our rights in Canada. It will lead to censorship and a massive chill on free expression, and enables a potentially widespread abuse of power,” said Tom Henheffer, Executive Director of CJFE. “It unjustifiably infringes on the rights of all Canadians without making our country any more secure, and must be struck down.”

“We are challenging several provisions of Bill C-51 that in our view are unconstitutional,” said Sukanya Pillay, Executive Director and General Counsel of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. “It creates broad and dangerous new powers, without commensurate accountability, and this can result in serious mistakes.” She continued, “Some of the powers granted by Bill C-51 are secretive in nature, so the public may never know if and when Canadians’ rights are being violated, though individuals will be faced with the fallout.”

The challenge will address five key components of Bill C-51, which violate the Charter unjustifiably and must be struck down. These components feature amendments to (1) the CSIS Act, (2) the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, and (3) the Criminal Code with respect to “advocating or promoting terrorism”. The challenge will also address (4) the new Secure Air Travel Act as well as (5) the new Security of Canada Information Sharing Act.

Individuals and groups interested in supporting the challenge are encouraged to donate to a crowdfunding campaign at gofundme.com/C51onTrial; they can also share the campaign on social media using #C51onTrial.

Bill C-51 poses a fundamental threat to Canadians’ rights and civil liberties, which are critical to a healthy, functioning democracy. Join us in our efforts to dismantle Bill C-51 and protect the rights and freedoms valued by Canadians.

For more information on Bill C-51, please visit:
>> cjfe.org/billc51

Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) monitors, defends and reports on free expression and access to information in Canada and abroad. Rooted in the field of journalism, we promote a free media as essential to a fair and open society. CJFE boldly champions the free expression rights of all people, and encourages and supports individuals and groups in the protection of their own and others’ free expression rights. cjfe.org

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association is an independent, non-partisan, national organization, which promotes and defends fundamental human rights and civil liberties in Canada. Started in 1964, the Association conducts research, public education, and advocacy aimed at ensuring the protection and full exercise of those rights and liberties. The Corporation of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) was constituted in 1985 and shares the objectives of the Association. ccla.org

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For more information and media requests, please contact:

Tom Henheffer
CJFE Executive Director

Sukanya Pillay
CCLA Executive Director and General Counsel

On to the Courts: Bill C-51 Passed by Senate


The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) is deeply disappointed that Bill C-51 (Anti-Terrorist Act, 2015) has today been passed by the Senate of Canada and will soon be made law by the Governor General.

Since C-51’s introduction, CCLA has actively opposed what we believe is fundamentally flawed and dangerous legislation. Hundreds of thousands of Canadians from all sides of the political spectrum agree. As we argued before parliamentary committees and in public statements, C-51 is overbroad and will not make Canadians safer. Further, the bill runs counter to the core values of Canada’s democracy, as enshrined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. With this decision today, the rights of all Canadians and the values we cherish — including privacy; freedoms of expression, association, and mobility; due process; independence of the judiciary; constitutional supremacy and the rule of law — are now at risk of being violated at will.

“CCLA has always supported the government’s duty to protect Canada against terrorist threats, but Bill C-51 is not the answer,” said Sukanya Pillay, Executive Director and General Counsel of CCLA. “The bill is fundamentally flawed and itself poses serious threats to Canadian rights, freedoms, and democracy.”

CCLA has long argued that respect for rights and freedoms is not an obstacle to security; to the contrary, it is a prerequisite for real and effective national security.

CCLA will continue the fight against Bill C-51 in the days to come, and will also ensure that the serious issues surrounding it are put on the national agenda for Canadians in the upcoming federal election.