Canada's Security of Information Act violates Canadians' fundamental rights, Stuart Svonkin tells CBC, Ottawa Citizen and Ottawa Sun

August 24, 2006

On January 21, 2004, the RCMP searched the Ottawa Citizen offices and the home of journalist Juliet ONeill. The searches followed a November 8, 2003 Ottawa Citizen article by O'Neill, "Canada's Dossier on Maher Arar," which referred to a document that was described as having been leaked by security officials.

The searches were conducted pursuant to warrants that referred to alleged offences under Section 4 of the Security of Information Act, a provision that is part of the Anti-Terrorism Act passed in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks.

ONeill and the Ottawa Citizen applied to the Ontario Superior Court to have the warrants quashed on a number of grounds. As part of the application, O'Neill and the Ottawa Citizen challenged the constitutionality of Section 4 of the Security of Information Act.

Torys intervened in the proceeding on behalf of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA). Stuart Svonkin, who argued on behalf of the CCLA in court, argued that Section 4 is unconstitutionally overbroad because it criminalizes expression that poses no threat to national security or public safety. He contrasted Section 4 with the United Kingdom’s Official Secrets Act, which—unlike the Canadian law—covers specific categories of protected government information; requires that a leak actually be "damaging" to constitute a criminal offence; requires prosecutors to prove that an accused knew or should have known that he or she was committing an offence; and decriminalizes the “mere receipt” of protected information.

The full article is found on The Gazettes website.

Stuart Svonkin was interviewed by the Ottawa Sun on August 24. He was also featured on CBC's The National on August 21.

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