Terrorist Speech under Bills C-51 and C-59 and the Othman Hamdan Case: The Continued Incoherence of Canada’s Approach


  • Kent Roach




It is argued that neither the approach taken to terrorist speech in Bill C-51 nor Bill C-59 is satisfactory. A case study of the Othman Hamdan case, including his calls on the Internet for “lone wolves” “swiftly to activate,” is featured, along with the use of immigration law after his acquittal for counselling murder and other crimes. Hamdan’s acquittal suggests that the new Bill C-59 terrorist speech offence and take-down powers based on counselling terrorism offences without specifying a particular terrorism offence may not reach Hamdan’s Internet postings. One coherent response would be to repeal terrorist speech offences while making greater use of court-ordered take-downs of speech on the Internet and programs to counter violent extremism. Another coherent response would be to criminalize the promotion and advocacy of terrorist activities (as opposed to terrorist offences in general in Bill C-51 or terrorism offences without identifying a specific terrorist offence in Bill C-59) and provide for defences designed to protect fundamental freedoms such as those under section 319(3) of the Criminal Code that apply to hate speech. Unfortunately, neither Bill C-51 nor Bill C-59 pursues either of these options. The result is that speech such as Hamdan’s will continue to be subject to the vagaries of take-downs by social media companies and immigration law.






Forum: Bill C-59, An Act Respecting National Security Matters