“On the one hand stands the manifest evil of terrorism and the random and arbitrary taking of innocent lives, rippling out in an ever-widening spiral of loss and fear. Governments, expressing the will of the governed, need the legal tools to meet this challenge. On the other hand stands the need to ensure that those legal tools do not undermine the values that are fundamental to our democratic society — liberty, the rule of law, and the principles of fundamental justice — values that lie at the heart of the Canadian constitutional order and the international instruments Canada has signed. In the end, it would be a Pyrrhic victory if terrorism were defeated at the cost of sacrificing our commitment to those values. Parliament’s challenge is to draft laws that effectively combat terrorism and conform to the requirements of our Constitution and our international commitments.” R. v. Suresh, (2002), Supreme Court of Canada
The CCLA recognizes and supports Canada’s duty to fight against terrorist activity, to protect Canadians, and to cooperate with our allies in global counter-terror efforts. It is our view that at all times Canada’s actions must conform to its legal obligations pursuant to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We believe that civil liberties are not antithetical to security, rather we believe that civil liberties are a prerequisite for effective security.
Following the 9/11 terror attacks on the United States, Canada joined the international community in committing to counter terrorism. Within months the government passed its Anti-Terrorism Act, 2001, amending many existing laws and introducing new powers. It quickly became apparent however that certain provisions threatened Canada’s democratic values including government accountability, human dignity, due process, procedural fairness, and equality.
CCLA has worked since 2001 to carefully and thoroughly assess all new anti-terror measures to ensure that the legal guarantees in the Charter are upheld. CCLA has fought to ensure proper oversight and accountability for national security agencies and has argued for the implementation of the findings of the Arar and Air India Federal Commission Inquiries; implementation of the federal commission findings on the operations of CSIS, the RCMP and other agencies (such as the CBSA) engaged in surveillance and information sharing; fighting against racial profiling and for equality; fighting for the absolute prohibition against torture; and fighting to ensure the principles of fundamental justice are observed. We continue to fight for due process to ensure principles of full justice are upheld in all new legislation and practice, and to fight against disproportionate, overbroad, and unnecessary powers that threaten to erode our very democratic rights and freedoms.