Terrorist Babble & the Limits of Law: Assessing a Prospective Canadian Terrorism Glorification Offence

TSAS Working Paper No. 15-02

51 Pages Posted: 9 Jan 2015 Last revised: 17 Jan 2015

Craig Forcese

University of Ottawa - Common Law Section

Kent Roach

University of Toronto - Faculty of Law

Date Written: January 2015

Abstract

Since 2007, the Canadian government has repeatedly expressed interest in a terrorism ‘glorification’ offence, responding to internet materials regarded by officials as terrorist propaganda and as promoting ‘radicalization’. In the wake of the October 2014 attacks, this idea clearly remains on the government’s shortlist of responses. This article addresses the merits of such a criminal offence. It include analyses of: the sociological data concerning ‘radicalization’ and ‘radicalization to violence’; existing offences that apply to speech associated with terrorism; comparative experience with glorification crimes; and, the restraints that the Charter would place on any similar Canadian law. We conclude that a glorification offence would be ill-suited to Canada’s social and legal environment. This is especially true for Charter purposes, given the less restrictive alternative of applying existing terrorism and other criminal offences to hate speech and speech that incites, threatens or facilitates terrorism. We are also concerned that new glorification offences could have counter-productive practical public safety effects. Instead, we recommend modest amendments to the existing criminal law allowing the government to respond effectively to speech that is already criminal under existing Canadian terrorism or other criminal offences. Specifically, we favour a carefully constructed means of deleting (or at least ‘hiding’) the most dangerous forms of already criminal internet speech.

Keywords: glorification, terrorism, Canada, United Kingdom, France, free expression, anti-terrorism

Suggested Citation

Forcese, Craig and Roach, Kent, Terrorist Babble & the Limits of Law: Assessing a Prospective Canadian Terrorism Glorification Offence (January 2015). TSAS Working Paper No. 15-02. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2546555 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2546555

Craig Forcese (Contact Author)

University of Ottawa - Common Law Section ( email )

57 Louis Pasteur Street
Ottawa, K1N 6N5
Canada

HOME PAGE: http://www.cforcese.ca

Kent Roach

University of Toronto - Faculty of Law ( email )

Toronto, Ontario M5S 1A1
Canada
416-946-5645 (Phone)
416-978-2648 (Fax)

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