Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Anti-terror law gets high court's approval

Life sentence, extradition orders upheld

  • Print

OTTAWA -- The Supreme Court of Canada has declared the country's controversial anti-terror law constitutional in a series of unanimous, precedent-setting rulings Friday that affirm how terrorism is defined in the Criminal Code.

In a 7-0 ruling written by Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, the court dismissed a series of charter appeals brought by three men, including terrorist Momin Khawaja -- the first person ever charged under the anti-terror law, which was passed in the wake of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, in the United States.

McLachlin said an Ottawa trial judge erred by giving Khawaja too light a sentence at 101/2 years in prison and said the life sentence later imposed by the Ontario Court of Appeal sent a "clear and unmistakable message that terrorism is reprehensible and those who choose to engage in it (in Canada) will pay a very heavy price."

The rulings also upheld extradition orders against two other men, Suresh Sriskandarajah and Piratheepan Nadarajah, who can now be sent to the U.S. to face trial on charges of supporting the Tamil Tigers, a banned terrorist group.

The court flatly rejected a series of constitutional challenges brought by the three men, dismissing arguments that the new law was too broad, criminalized harmless activity and violated the charter guarantee of freedom of expression.

The ruling essentially means the December 2001 anti-terror law, introduced by the then-Liberal government and supported by the two opposition parties that eventually became the Conservative party, contains no rights violations and doesn't have to be changed.

For Khawaja, it means the end of the road in a long legal saga that began with his arrest in 2004 and ran through a hard-fought trial in an Ottawa courtroom and his 2008 conviction.

He was found guilty of training at a remote camp in Pakistan, providing cash to a group of British extremists and building a remote-control bomb detonator known as the Hi-Fi Digimonster.

Justice Minister Rob Nicholson applauded the high court for upholding the harsher sentence.

"By upholding this sentence, the court sent a strong message that terrorism will not be treated leniently in Canada," Nicholson said in a statement.

The Supreme Court dismissed the argument that the law was overbroad in its definition of terrorism and could ensnare innocent people.

"Social and professional contact with terrorists -- for example, such as occurs in normal interactions with friends and family members -- will not, absent the specific intent to enhance the abilities of a terrorist group, permit a conviction," the high court held.

It also dismissed a claim that the law violated the rights of free expression, saying threats of violence don't deserve protection.

"Threats of violence, like violence, undermine the rule of law," the court wrote. "Threats of violence take away free choice and undermine freedom of action. They undermine the very values and social conditions that are necessary for the continued existence of freedom of expression."

Khawaja's lawyer, Lawrence Greenspon, said he was disappointed with the ruling, but said it wouldn't mean an end to the unfair targeting of ethnic or religious groups by authorities.

"It's a very unfortunate ruling for minorities in this country," said Greenspon.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 15, 2012 A20

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Jets players discuss outcome of Game 3 and hopes for Game 4

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A pelican comes in for a landing Wednesday afternoon on the Red River at Lockport, Manitoba - Standup photo- June 27, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • A baby Red Panda in her area at the Zoo. International Red Panda Day is Saturday September 15th and the Assiniboine Park Zoo will be celebrating in a big way! The Zoo is home to three red pandas - Rufus, Rouge and their cub who was born on June 30 of this year. The female cub has yet to be named and the Assiniboine Park Zoo is asking the community to help. September 14, 2012  BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

View More Gallery Photos


What do you think of the government's announcement that there will be no balanced provincial budget until 2018?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google