Delete: Criminalizing and Censoring Extremist Speech

AuthorCraig Forcese; Kent Roach
Delete: Criminalizing and Censoring
Extremist Speech
After they kidnapped British diplomat James Cross, the Front de libération
du Québec’s (FLQ’s) rst demand was that the press publish their ma nifesto.
It was read on Radio Canada on  October  after Prime Minister Tru-
deau failed to convince the news organization not to publish it. e FLQ
manifesto insulted ma ny business and political leaders, including Trudeau.
It called on the workers of Quebec: “Make your own revolution in your
neighborhoods, in your workplaces . . . . render harmless all the professional
robbers and s windlers: the b ankers, the bu sinessmen, the judge s and the sold-
out politicia ns.”
A week later, it was illegal to publish the FLQ manifesto. A regulation
made under the War Measures Act made it an oence punishable by up to
ve years imprisonment to communicate statements on behalf of the FLQ
or to advocate or promote its “unlawful acts, aims, principles or policies” or
the use of force or crime “as a means of accomplishing governmental cha nge
in Can ad a.”
Bill C- follows in the footsteps of this War Measures Act speech crime.
It does so by creating a new crime of knowingly advocating or promoting
“terrorism oences in general” while knowing or merely being reckless that
someone may commit a terrorism oence as a result of the communication.
Like the War Measures Act oence, this new speech crime is punishable by
up to ve years imprisonment. A big dierence, however, is that the Bill C-
oence is designed to be permanent, whereas the War Measures Act oence
lapsed with the emergency.
Bill C- also creates a new concept of “terrorist propaganda” dened as
“any writing, sign, visible representation or audio recording that advocates or
promotes the commission of terrorism oences in general . . . or counsels the
commission of a terrorism oence.” e government may now seek judicial
orders to seize “terrorist propaganda” and delete it from the Internet, and
customs ocials can seize it at the border.
YouTube Terrorism
e new provisions can be seen as a direct response to videos made by Can-
adian terrorists. Michael Z ehaf-Bibeau, the shooter who killed Corpora l Cirillo
and assaulted the Parliament building s in October , is the most famous
video maker. In a video captured on his cellphone just before his rampage,
he condemned the Canadian mil itary presence in A fghanistan and Iraq, and
claimed to be retaliating on behalf of the “Mujahedin of this world” because
“Canada’s ocially become one of our enemies by ghting and bombing us
and creating a lot of terror in our countries and killing us and killing our
in no cent s .”
But whatever the notoriety of these statements, another famous recording
— this one clearly directed at recru iting ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq a nd Syria)
ghters and fuelling more attack s in Canada — may have been the one that
inspired the new speech oence. In a video released in December , John
Maguire, an Ottawa area convert to Islam who joined ISIS in Syria, stated:
Oh people of Canada, you are sa id to be an educated people.
So what is preventing you from being able to put t wo and two together
and understandi ng that operations such as that of brother Achmed Roule au
of Montreal and the storming of Parli ament Hill in Ottawa are car ried out
in direct response to your pa rticipation in the coalition of nations waging
war again st the Muslim people . . . .
You have absolutely no right to live in a state of safety and se curity when
your country is ca rrying out atrocities on our people . . . .
Your people will be indiscrimi nately targeted a s you indiscriminately
target ou r people.
I warn you of punishment in th is worldly life at the hand s of the mu-
jahideen and I would al so like to warn you of a greater pu nishment, and
that is the eterna l punishment of hell re promised for t hose who die not
having submitted as Musl ims to the one true god of all that exist s.
Chapter Ten: Delete
Maguire then goes on to tell Muslims that they must either engage in terrorist
violence or emigrate to t he new homela nd:
You either pack your bags, or you prepare your explosive device s.
You either purchase your airline ticket , or you sharpen your k nife.
You either come to the Islamic State and live under the law s of Allah,
or you follow the example of brother Achmed Roule au and do not fear the
blame of the bla mers.
e government seemed to justify its new speech oence in Bill C- as
necessary to ta rget exactly the t ype of speech at issue in the Mag uire video.
Justice Minister Peter MacKay argued that the new speech oence was
directed at those who “actively encourage some sort of unspecied action
should be taken to do something bad aga inst Canadians or our allies, or to do
something to support extreme jihadism. Whether specic or unspecic, these
statements are harmf ul.” He equated the new crime with existing crimes
against hate speech, advocat ing genocide, and inciting other crimes.
Terrorist Blather
Would Maguire be guilty under the new oence? e rst point to make
is that Maguire had long since crossed the line between non-crimina l and
criminal conduct. His travel to join ISIS, his participation with ISIS (in-
cluding in making the video), and perhaps his instructions in the video to
commit violence were already terrorist oences before Bill C-. In other
words, real terrorist propaganda — done for and with terrorist groups — was
a crime even before the new speech oence.
But nuance is required in parsing the actual speech itself. Maguire’s rst
lines may amount to the crime of uttering threats but also seem to be an
extremist attempt to interpret and justify t he October  terrorist attacks.
In Europe this might be a crime of “apologie” or glorication of terrorism.
e most notorious of European glorication cases is probably that of Denis
Leroy. French authorities prosecuted Leroy for his cartoon portraying the
/ attacks accompanied by the caption “We all drea med of it . . . Hamas
did it,” published in a Basque daily newspaper in southern France days after
/. e French authorities charged the cartoonist with complicity in the ex-
pansive French crime of “apologie du terrorisme. e government does not
believe that its Bill C- speech crime reaches this kind of abstract glorica-
tion. And we would be shocked if such a prosecution were successful on this
continent, given North America’s more robust freedom of expression rules.
“Hurray for the terrorists” is not, in other words, criminal speech in Ca nada,
at least not because of its content alone.

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT