Top court to hear terrorism law challenge

First man charged under anti-terrorism law to appeal conviction


The Supreme Court of Canada said Thursday the first person ever charged under anti-terror laws will have a chance to appeal the legal definition of “terrorist activity.” Momin Khawaja was sentenced to 10 ½ years in prison in 2008 after he was convicted of five terrorism charges, but Ontario’s highest court later increased his sentence to life with no chance of parole for 10 years. Khawaja’s lawyer has argued to Ontario’s appeals court that the definition of “terrorist activity” is unconstitutional, but the court rejected the appeal.  His lawyer says the definition violates the Charter right to express religious beliefs and political opinions because it requires the terrorist act to be done for political, religious or ideological reasons. Khawaja’s lawyer is expected to also try to get his sentence reduced.

CTV News

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Top court to hear terrorism law challenge

  1. Seriously? They want to argue terrorism should be considered a form of religious expression and thus be allowed under the Charter? That’s how it reads here (and in the CTV story).

    It seems to me that the “motive” clause provides an “out” to some acts; if it isn’t motivated by one of the reasons as set out, as heinous as it may be it isn’t terrorism. Striking the clause would broaden – not narrow – the types of acts that could be considered terrorist acts. I’m not sure how that helps his client.

    • I don’t think that is how it reads in the CTV article.

      The justifications:“If we say to the authorities, ‘look there’s this law that has this motive clause in it, and as a result it gives to the police an opportunity _ indeed a right _ to go and investigate people on the basis of their political or religious or ideological beliefs,’ that to me is a slippery slope,” said Greenspon.


      “Motive, used as an essential element for a crime, is foreign to criminal law, humanitarian law, and the law regarding crimes against humanity,” Rutherford ruled in October 2006.

      “While the hate motive may be an aggravating factor at sentencing, in the traditional criminal law, motive _ the reasons ‘why’ someone commits a criminal act _ neither establishes nor excuses a crime.

      ”Rutherford ruled that an “inevitable impact” of making motivation part of terror investigations would be to focus police suspicions on particular groups _ “exactly that sort of phenomenon that has given rise to concerns for racial or ethnic profiling and prejudice in the aftermath of notorious terrorist actions.”

      Make interesting arguments.  

      1. Does this law cause security organizations to specifically target certain religions?  If so, does this violate the Charter?

      2.  Is it appropriate to convict a person based on their motives, rather than their actions?  Could this have unanticipated consequences (i.e. criminalizing thought)?

      Although, I’m guessing that the SCC agreed to hear the case simply because this was the first case involving this legislation to be appealed, and because of the disparity in sentencing between the lower courts.  This is an opportunity to set the correct precedence, and sort out any ambiguity in the legislation.

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