Criminalizing Terrorist Babble: Canada's Dubious New Terrorist Speech Crime
Before the introduction of Bill C-51, the Canadian government expressed interest in a terrorism “glorification” offence, responding to Internet materials regarded by officials as terrorist propaganda and as promoting “radicalization.” Bill C-51 introduces a slightly less broad terrorism offence that applies to those who knowingly promote or advocate “terrorism offences in general” while knowing or being reckless as to whether terrorism offences “may be committed as a result of such communication.” This article addresses the merits of these new speech-based terrorism offences. It includes analyses of: the sociological data concerning radicalization and “radicalization to violence”; existing offences that apply to speech associated with terrorism; comparative experience with glorification crimes; and the restraints that the Charter would place on any similar Canadian law. We conclude that a glorification offence would be ill-suited to Canada’s social and legal environment and that even the slightly more restrained new advocacy offence is flawed. This is especially true for Charter purposes given the less restrictive alternative of applying existing terrorism and other criminal offences to hate speech and speech that incites, threatens, or facilitates terrorism. We are also concerned that the new speech offence could have counter-productive practical public safety effects. We favour that part of Bill C-51 that allows for court-ordered deletion of material on the Internet that was criminal before Bill C-51, namely material that counsels the commission of terrorism offences. However, Bill C-51’s broader provision that allows for the deletion of material that “advocates or promotes the commission of terrorism offences in general” suffers the same flaws as its enactment of a new offence for communicating such statements.
Author(s) retain original copyright in the substantive content of the titled work, subject to the following rights that are granted indefinitely:
- Author(s) grant the Alberta Law Review permission to produce, publish, disseminate, and distribute the titled work in electronic format to online database services, including, but not limited to: LexisNexis, QuickLaw, HeinOnline, and EBSCO;
- Author(s) grant the Alberta Law Review permission to post the titled work on the Alberta Law Review website and/or related websites.
- Author(s) agree that the titled work may be used for educational or instructional purposes and/or in educational or instructional materials. The author(s) acknowledge that the titled work is subject to other such "fair dealing" provisions and applicable legislation.
- Author(s) grant a limited license to those accessing the titled work from an electronic database or an Alberta Law Review website to download the titled work onto their computer and to print a copy for their own personal, non-commercial use, subject to proper attribution.
To use the journal's content elsewhere, permission must be obtained from the author(s) and the Alberta Law Review.