Yukoners, like all Canadians, should be extremely concerned about the Conservative government’s new anti-terror legislation, Bill C-51.
While there are many serious problems with this bill, its dangerously vague language on “advocating” or “promoting” terrorism has particularly significant implications for freedom of expression. This is because, under the current language of the law, Canadians will be held responsible not only for the thoughts, ideas and opinions they express, but for how their statements are interpreted by others.
Consider the following scenario.
A Montreal Canadiens fan writes a Facebook post that says “Canadians should kill those Senators tonight.” Reading this, another man decides to carry out a terrorist attack on Canada’s Senate, and later testifies that this message played a direct role in his decision to commit this attack. Clearly that hockey fan is not guilty of inciting terrorism… right?
According to the language of the bill, it can be argued that, by writing that Facebook post, he “knowingly advocate[d] or promote[d] the commission of terrorism offences,” and by not explicitly stating that the post was hockey-related, was “reckless as to whether any of those offenses would be committed.”
This seems crazy. This is crazy. But as many of Canada’s best lawyers and legal scholars have pointed out, Bill C-51 is so poorly worded and open to interpretation that situations like this, and a wide range of free expression, are now at risk of being criminalized.
The NDP is the only political party that has taken a strong and vocal position against this bill, and should be lauded for taking a principled stand to defend freedom of expression. On the other hand, Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party have chosen the path of political expedience, and have pledged to support the bill so that the Conservatives can’t use it as a wedge issue in the coming election.
Trudeau’s promise to amend this legislation if and when the Liberals form government is a poor consolation to those Habs fans who feel they have to self-censure their comments on the Montreal-Ottawa playoff series for fear of how they will be interpreted - especially if the Sens win.