Anti-Terrorism Act, 2015

The Government of Canada passed legislation to protect Canadians from the evolving threat of terrorism and keep our communities safe. The world is a dangerous place and as most brutally demonstrated by last October’s attack in Ottawa and Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Canada is not immune to the threat of terrorism. The legislation provides Canadian law enforcement and national security agencies with additional tools and flexibility to keep pace with evolving threats and better protect Canadians here at home.

In line with measures taken by our allies, the Government is taking additional action to ensure that our law enforcement and national security agencies can: counter those who advocate terrorism; prevent terrorist travel and the efforts of those who seek to use Canada as a recruiting ground and disrupt planned attacks on Canadian soil.

The legislation includes checks and balances to ensure it respects the rights of Canadians and compliments other legislation passed by our Government in order to better protect Canadians and secure institutions, including the Combating Terrorism Act and the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act.

Quick Facts

The legislation includes a comprehensive package of measures that will:

  • criminalize the advocacy or promotion of terrorism offences in general;
  • counter terrorist recruitment by giving our courts the authority to order the removal of terrorist propaganda online;
  • enhance the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS)’s powers to address threats to the security of Canada while ensuring that courts maintain oversight;
  • provide law enforcement agencies with enhanced ability to disrupt terrorism offences and terrorist activity;
  • enhance the Passenger Protect Program by further mitigating threats to transportation security and preventing travel by air for the purpose of engaging in terrorism;
  • make it easier for law enforcement agencies to detain suspected terrorists before they can harm Canadians and to toughen penalties for violating court ordered conditions on terrorist suspects;
  • enable the effective and responsible sharing of relevant national security information across federal departments and agencies to better identify and address threats;
  • Although not part of this legislation, we are also working with communities to prevent radicalization and intervene when individuals show signs of becoming radicalized.
  • ensure that national security agencies are better able to protect and use classified information when denying entry and status to non-citizens who pose a threat to Canada; and,
  • provide witnesses and other participants in national security proceedings and prosecutions with additional protection.

The Standing Committee on Public Safety Passed the Following Amendments:

 Amendment 1:

  • This amendment will modify the Security of Canada Information Sharing Act by:

– deleting the word “lawful” from the definition of “activity that undermines the security of Canada” in the Definitions Section (s. 2) of the Security of Canada Information Sharing Act, and

– clarifying the language of Section 6 (Further Disclosure) of the Security of Canada Information Sharing Act.


Effect of Amendment 1:

  • Removing the word “lawful” from the definition of “activity that undermines the security of Canada” will explicitly exclude all forms of advocacy, protest, dissent and artistic expression from the application of the Security of Canada Information Sharing Act, whether lawful or unlawful.
  • The amendment to Section 6 (Further Disclosure) of the Security of Canada Information Sharing Act, will further clarify the policy intent by more explicitly explaining the limited effects of the Act with respect to subsequent use and sharing.


 Amendment 2:

  • Removes “anything that, in the Minister’s opinion…” in Clause 11, Section 9 of the Secure Air Travel Actand use the singular form with respect to a reasonable or necessary action taken.


Effect of Amendment 2:

  • This amendment will directly address the concerns raised at Committee that the current section of the Act gives the Minister of Public Safety too much latitude in the directions he can give air carriers.  At the same time, it will retain the necessary flexibility to implement the Passenger Protect Program.  The singular includes the plural in law, which means that actions would still be possible; and “a” would have the added benefit of retaining the notion of “any” without saying “any” explicitly.


Amendment 3:

  • This amendment will set out, for greater certainty, that CSIS employees will not have law enforcement powers.


Effect of Amendment 3:

  • CSIS is not a law enforcement agency, and Bill C-51 does not give CSIS employees the powers of law enforcement officers. It was never intended or possible that CSIS use its threat disruption mandate to take on a law enforcement role.


Here are some common questions I have received and my responses:


The Bill states that it does not target individuals who engage in “lawful advocacy and protest.” Does this mean that unlawful protests will be targeted?

  • The Bill specifically excludes “lawful advocacy or protest” from its application. A protest that is unlawful (for instance, peacefully occupying a pipeline construction site) could only be subject to the information sharing provisions of C-51 as “interference with critical infrastructure” if the protest also met the definition of “activities which undermine the sovereignty, security or territorial integrity of Canada or the lives or the security of the people of Canada”. In this way, C-51 is able to distinguish between illegally but peacefully protesting a pipeline from, for example, the bombing of a pipeline and endangering the lives of Canadians.

The Bill states CSIS will not require warrants for all its threat disruption activities. What activities will not require a warrant?

  • CSIS’s mandate prohibits it from engaging in any disruption That means that CSIS could not previously approach the parents of a radicalized youth and encourage them to dissuade their child from traveling to a war zone or conducting attacks here in Canada. CSIS could speak with parents, but only in the context of its mandate of intelligence collection (i.e., asking questions) rather than threat disruption (i.e., preventing and persuading). Threat disruption that would not require a warrant can be understood as any activity that is not contrary to Canadian law. For example, it would not make sense to require CSIS officers to obtain warrants in order to ask parents to speak to their children, or engage in conversations in an online chat room. CSIS will, however, need a judicially-approved warrant for any activity that could infringe upon an individual’s privacy or other rights, or any activity that would be contrary to Canadian law. Furthermore, a judge will need to be convinced that such activities were reasonable and proportional to the threat.


Canada already has laws against hate speech. What will be criminalized that isn’t already covered by existing legislation?

  • Canada’s previous hate speech laws apply only to the incitement of hatred toward an “identifiable group”. As such, general threats against, for instance, “Canada” or “all infidels” were not crimes under the Criminal Code. ISIS and Al-Qaeda propaganda often generalizes against “the West” or the “infidels”. While clearly in conflict with Canadian values, the imprecise nature of these threats are a challenge to existing legislation. The new C-51 definition will better enable law enforcement to effectively pursue those distributing radicalizing propaganda and advocating violence “in general.”

Why doesn’t Bill C-51 contain additional oversight mechanisms, particularly parliamentary oversight?

  • Independent, expert, non-partisan oversight of our national security agencies is a better model than political intervention in the process. Further, the key powers of the new legislation are subject to judicial review and judicial authorization. The Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC) carries out reviews and investigations of CSIS activities, and reports publicly on the findings. Currently, there are 18 employees who work for this agency, in addition to five board member slots. C-51 does provide a new review obligation that requires SIRC to examine annually one aspect of CSIS’ performance of its new threat disruption mandate.

 – Mike Wallace