Steven Chase and Daniel Leblanc review the Conservative Government’s proposed new anti-terrorism bill, which would grant police and CSIS (Canadian Security Intelligence Service) more powers to arrest or thwart suspected terrorists.

Getting Started

Appropriate Subject Area(s):

Social studies, history, current events

Key Questions to Explore:

  • How might the Conservative Government’s proposed new anti-terrorist legislation infringe on the rights and freedoms listed in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, if at all?

New Terminology:

Jihadists, jihadi, CSIS, thwart, Charter of Rights and Freedoms

Materials Needed:

Globe article, Internet

Time required: One half to three-quarters of a period plus a homework assignment

Study and Discussion Activity

Introduction to lesson and task:

Note: this lesson can be used in conjunction with the one entitled “A global fight to fortify democracy and security after deadly French attacks” which is also posted on this site. Some common issues are explored in both lessons.

Students will have heard of the attacks on Parliament Hill which were deemed to be carried out by would-be terrorists. If not, bring them up to date on the subject in broad terms. In large part because of these attacks, the Conservative Government will introduce legislation that gives CSIS and police more powers to arrest and detain suspected terrorists.

Students will read the article in class and engage in a discussion about it and the ways the proposed new legislation may infringe on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Without reference to the Charter, they will list some freedoms they think the Charter covers, and then compare these with those listed in the actual Charter, using the website below.

For homework, students will review the key changes as listed by Steven Chase and Daniel Leblanc, and they will then list the associated key freedoms in the Charter that could be affected by the new legislation.

Action (lesson plan and task):

  • Start by engaging students in a brief discussion about terrorism and the recent attacks in Quebec and on Parliament Hill.
  • Tell them a little about the Conservative Government’s proposed new legislation and then ask for volunteers to read the short article to the class.
  • Ask students if they think the new legislation is needed, a good thing, or something to be concerned about.
  • As presented in the article, were a student to post the following comment on a social media site, or via email, they could be arrested: “ISIS is justified in its attacks because it just wants to get Americans out of the area.” See what they think of this.
  • Introduce the common saying, “If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.” See how many students agree with this. To those who agree, probe a bit. For example, ask, “So, you would agree that if you’re not breaking any laws, you wouldn’t mind if the police monitored your Internet activity or came to your house and searched your bedroom?” If they’ve changed their mind based on that suggestion, note that privacy is a right we preserve not to hide any wrongs we may have done, but because we value privacy itself as a democratic right.
  • Next, encourage students to think about the kinds of “freedoms” we enjoy in our democracy. Ask them to pair up and take ten minutes to come up with a list of the kinds of freedoms we have that people who live in non-democratic countries do not have. You could prompt them with a few: Freedom of religion, freedom of association and so on. For more, see this Charter website:
  • When they have finished, review their lists. Ask which ones they would be willing to give up, or have weakened, in the interests of a more secure society.
  • Ask them how many rights and freedoms they think we have under our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Note that there are quite a few. Perhaps they’d not thought about the right to live and work in any province, or equal rights for both sexes and so on.
  • Draw out discussion on the following two passages from the article. See if students can imagine situations where these changes could get innocent people into trouble.
    • People who call for terrorism attacks, even if they don’t counsel a specific act, could face up to five years in prison under new legislation the federal government wants to pass into law. For instance, an individual in Canada who posts a video online that includes the phrase “Attack Canada” could be charged with advocating or promoting “terrorism offences in general.”
    • Individuals could be also charged even if they’re making general references to terror attacks in other countries.
  • Provide students with copies of the article along with the website link, above, and assign the following for homework. They are to review the Charter at this site: .They are to suggest which Charter rights or freedoms, if any, could be compromised by each of the proposed changes listed below, as taken directly from the article:
    • The new legislation would:
      • Give courts the power to order the removal of “terrorist propaganda” from websites operating using Canadian Internet service providers.
      • Making it easier for authorities to restrict the movements of suspected jihadists, meaning they can apply to a court if they only believe terrorist activity “may be carried out.” The previous threshold called on law-enforcement authorities to state they believed an act “will be carried out.”
      • Extending the length of time authorities can detain suspected terrorists for up to seven days from three.
      • Relaxing the threshold needed to prevent suspected jihadis from boarding a plane, allowing the Minister of Transport to bar those whom the government believes are heading abroad to take part in terrorist activities.
      • Granting government departments explicit authority to share private information, including passport applications, or confidential commercial data, with law enforcement agencies.

Consolidation of Learning:

  • Constructive discussion and contribution by pairs of students.
Success and Additional Learning

Success Criteria:

  • Successful completion of the writing assignment.

Confirming Activity:

  • Discussion of the writing assignments in a subsequent class.