Open letter to federal leaders: Do not expand anti-terrorism laws in the name of anti-racism

This letter was originally sent on Feb. 22, 2021, to the leaders of the five political parties represented in the House of Commons, signed by 175 individuals and organizations with expertise in anti-racism, law, and/or human rights. We are still accepting signatures to the statement. If you or your organization would like to be added, please click here to fill out the form.

February 22, 2021

The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau
Prime Minister of Canada
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2

The Honourable Erin O’Toole
Leader of the Opposition
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON  K1A 0A6

Jagmeet Singh
Leader of the New Democratic Party
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON  K1A 0A6

Yves-François Blanchet
Leader of the Bloc Québécois
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON  K1A 0A6

Annamie Paul
Leader of the Green Party
Green Party of Canada
812-116 Albert Street
Ottawa, ON K1P 5G3

Via email

Re: Use of anti-terrorism laws to combat racism and white supremacism

Prime Minister Trudeau, Mr. O’Toole, Mr. Singh, M. Blanchet and Ms. Paul,

As organizations and individuals with expertise in anti-racism, law, and/or human rights, we write to express our deep concern about the use of anti-terrorism powers to address the threat of White supremacism.

The growth, proliferation, and emboldening of White supremacist and far-right groups across Canada – numbering more than 300, according to one recent academic count[i] – is alarming, and urgently requires a strong response. We applaud and support the intention to condemn White supremacism communicated by the recent addition of the Proud Boys, Atomwaffen, the Base, and the Russian Imperial Movement to the terrorist entities list. However, the entrenchment and expansion of problematic anti-terrorism tools threatens to further intensify racism, rather than alleviate it.

Serious issues with Canada’s terrorist listing procedure identified by civil liberties groups, lawyers, and legal academics include: the imposition of serious financial and possibly criminal consequences on the basis of unaccountable executive listing decisions; the use of secret evidence; the likelihood of false positives; and the absence of adequate avenues for challenging listings and obtaining redress. This is exacerbated by the seizure of assets, making legal counsel difficult if not impossible to retain.[ii]

These shortcomings and the need for a substantive overhaul of the listing procedure were highlighted by many experts and advocates when Bill C-36, the Anti-Terrorism Act, was debated and adopted twenty years ago, and have been consistently pressed over the years since.

As University of Toronto Law Professor and noted national security expert Kent Roach has observed: “Unfortunately, a few token additions [of far-right organizations] to long lists of proscribed groups does nothing to address the many due process and operational flaws of proscription.”[iii]

Indeed, nine more groups identified as “Islamist” were added as terrorist entities at the same time as the Proud Boys and others. This perpetuates the discriminatorily Muslim-centric focus of Canadian anti-terrorism in general,[iv] and the listing procedure in particular,[v] despite the far greater toll inflicted by White supremacist and right-wing actors within Canada.[vi] The listing of organizations like the Proud Boys alongside Palestinian and Kashmiri groups – as well as charities like IRFAN, proscribed for donating medical equipment to the Gaza Strip[vii] – conflates groups originating under or responding to long-term military occupation,[viii] with White supremacists and neo-Nazis, all under the rubric of a broad and inconsistent concept of “terrorism.”[ix]

Moreover, given repeated revelations about the use of anti-terrorism surveillance tools against Indigenous land and water protectors and rights advocates,[x] we are profoundly concerned about the possibility of future listings being deployed to target Indigenous nations defending their sovereign, constitutional, and international rights.

The systemic racism pervasive in Canadian national security institutions has been documented by, inter alia: the 2006 O’Connor Inquiry (regarding the torture of Maher Arar);[xi] the 2008 Iacobucci Inquiry (regarding the torture of Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad Abou-Elmaati, and Muayyed Nureddin);[xii] the 2016 BC Supreme Court decision in R v Nuttall (detailing the entrapment of two Muslim individuals struggling with mental illness);[xiii] the 2020 report of the National Security Transparency Advisory Group;[xiv] the consistent findings of United Nations human rights bodies (including their condemnation of Canada’s complicity in torture and the use of security certificates);[xv] and multiple lawsuits against CSIS alleging severe racial discrimination and harassment against Muslim and racialized employees.[xvi] In 2011, the Canadian Human Rights Commission called on national security agencies to collect and analyze race-disaggregated data about their practices[xvii] – a basic transparency measure that remains unimplemented.

And so, instead of expanding anti-terrorism in the name of anti-racism, we urge you to address the pressing concerns raised repeatedly by civil liberties and anti-racism organizations[xviii] about the anti-terrorism apparatus itself.


Azeezah Kanji
Legal academic and journalist

Tim McSorley
National Coordinator
International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group

Signatories (for individual signatories, institutional affiliations are listed for identification purposes only):

  1. Idle No More Ontario
  2. Amnesty International Canada (English Section)
  3. Canadian Civil Liberties Association
  4. BC Civil Liberties Association
  5. Sherene H. Razack, Distinguished Professor, UCLA
  6. Rinaldo Walcott, professor and writer
  7. Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg scholar, writer, and artist
  8. Mohammad Fadel, Professor of Law, University of Toronto Faculty of Law
  9. Sunera Thobani, Professor, Department of Asian Studies, University of British Columbia
  10. David Palumbo-Liu, Louise Hewlett Nixon Professor, Stanford University
  11. Kiké Roach, Unifor Chair in Social Justice & Democracy at Ryerson
  12. Niigaan Sinclair, Associate Professor, University of Manitoba
  13. Desmond Cole, journalist, author, activist
  14. Russ Diabo, Indigenous Truth Before Reconciliation Network
  15. Alex Neve, OC; Senior Fellow, Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, University of Ottawa
  16. Imam Dr. Hamid Slimi, Chair of the Canadian Centre For Deen Studies
  17. El Jones, Department of Social Justice and Community Studies, Saint Mary’s University
  18. Imam Yusuf Badat, Islamic Foundation of Toronto
  19. Peggy Mason, President of the Rideau Institute and a former Canadian Disarmament Ambassador to the UN
  20. Imam Dr. Shabir Ally
  21. Canadian Union of Postal Workers
  22. Hanna Kawas, Chair, Canada Palestine Association
  23. South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario (SALCO)
  24. Yavar Hameed, Human rights lawyer
  25. Dr Arun Kundnani, writer
  26. James L. Turk, Director, Centre for Free Expression, Ryerson University
  27. Paul Champ, lawyer
  28. Roger Waters, musician
  29. Human Rights Research and Education Centre, University of Ottawa
  30. Arab Canadian Lawyers Association
  31. Canadian Arab Institute
  32. Imam Sayyid Muhammad Rizvi, Jaffari Community Center
  33. Canadian Anti-racism Education and Research Society
  34. Inter Pares
  35. Dr Shahina Siddiqui, Executive Director, Islamic Social Services Association
  36. Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME)
  37. Canadians for Peace and Justice in Kashmir (CPJK)
  38. Canadian Friends Service Committee (Quakers)
  39. Cooperation Canada
  40. Mathabah Institute
  41. MiningWatch Canada
  42. Ivan Kalmar, Professor, University of Toronto
  43. Mehmet Tohti, Executive Director, Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project
  44. Independent Jewish Voices Canada
  45. Rideau Institute
  46. Dr Jeremy Wildeman, uOttawa
  47. Dr. Baljit Nagra, Assistant Professor, University of Ottawa
  48. Dimitri Lascaris (lawyer, journalist and activist)
  49. Randa Farah, Academic
  50. Chris Ramsaroop, Course Instructor Caribbean Studies, University of Toronto and Clinic Instructor Migrant Worker Clinic, Univeristy of Windsor Faculty of Law
  51. Dr. Alex Khasnabish, Associate Professor, Mount Saint Vincent University
  52. Khaled Mouammar: Former Member of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
  53. Richard Fung, Professor Emeritus, OCAD University
  54. sylvat aziz , academic
  55. Jackman & Associates, lawyers
  56. Tim McCaskell, writer
  57. I. Abdillahi, professor and writer
  58. Roch Tassé, policy analyst
  59. Harry Smaller (Ph.D), York University
  60. Idrisa Pandit, anti-racism educator
  61. Faisal Bhabha, Associate Professor, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University
  62. David Antonacci, writer
  63. Robert Fantina, author and journalist
  64. Jeffrey Monaghan, Associate Professor, Criminology, Carleton University
  65. Najia Mahmud, Lawyer
  66. Omer Aijazi, Academic
  67. John Greyson, Associate Professor, York
  68. Justice for All Canada
  69. Yousuf Syed, Co-Founder of Canadians Against Oppression And Persecution (CAOP)
  70. Nikolas Barry-Shaw, writer and researcher
  71. Yasmin Jiwani, Professor
  72. Israt Ahmed, community organizer, advocate, and social justice advocate
  73. Nahla Abdo, Professor, Carleton University
  74. Rev. Dr. Cheri DiNovo CM
  75. Maria Christina Conlon, artist
  76. David Baker, BakerLaw
  77. Martin Lukacs, journalist
  78. Jehad Aliweiwi, Executive Director, Laidlaw Foundation
  79. Nadia Abu-Zahra, Associate Professor, University of Ottawa
  80. Ria Heynen – justice activist
  81. Molly Kane, human rights activist
  82. Robert Fox, civil society activist
  83. Syed Hussan, anti-racist organizer
  84. Bianca Mugyenyi, Director, Canadian Foreign Policy Institute
  85. Just Peace Advocates/Mouvement Pour Une Paix Juste
  86. Karen Rodman (Rev), M.Div. M.Sc. (Extension Education)
  87. Jen Moore, Associate Fellow, Institute for Policy Studies
  88. Oumer Kinnarath- Fascist Free Treaty 1
  89. Hengameh Saberi, Associate Professor, Osgoode Hall Law School
  90. World BEYOND War
  91. Hassan Law, law firm
  92. Cheryl Gaster, LL.B., C. Med
  93. Karl Gardner, PhD Candidate, York University
  94. Heidi Matthews, Assistant Professor, Osgoode Hall Law School & Co-Director, Nathanson Centre on Transnational Human Rights, Crime & Security
  95. Faith In The City, a coalition of multi faith leaders fighting for social justice
  96. John Liss, lawyer
  97. Natalie Kouri-Towe, Assistant Professor, Concordia University
  98. Mark Ayyash, Associate Professor of Sociology, Mount Royal University
  99. Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network
  100. Dalya Al Masri, Journalist & Human Rights advocate
  101. Helmut-Harry Loewen: Fascist Free Treaty One (Winnipeg), University of Winnipeg (Ret.), and Associate, Institute for the Humanities at Simon Fraser University
  102. Canadian Arab Anti Discrimination Committee
  103. Rev. Shawn Newton, Unitarian clergy
  104. Calgary Anti-Racist Action
  105. Robie Liscomb, poet
  106. Diana Ralph, Ph.D.
  107. Rev. Dr. Loraine MacKenzie Shepherd, United Church minister
  108. Martha Ruben MD, PhD
  109. Ronald Stockton, Labour & Human Rights Lawyer
  110. Harjeet Badwall, Associate Professor, York University
  111. Matthew Behrens, Campaign to Stop Secret Trials in Canada
  112. Nader Hashemi, University of Denver
  113. Regini David , Project Director, West Scarborough Community Legal Services
  114. Ann Rogers, Dept of Political Studies, Vancouver Island University
  115. Luk vervaet, former teacher in prisons
  116. James Beirne, PhD student, York University
  117. Natasha Bakht, Professor, University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law
  118. Dr. Sujith Xavier, Associate Professor Faculty of Law University of Windsor
  119. Dr. Ghada Ageel, University of Alberta
  120. Dania Majid, social justice lawyer
  121. Katherine R. Matchett, University of Windsor
  122. Sam Tecle, Assistant Professor, New College, UofT, SBL, JFAAP
  123. Margaret Rao former President Canadian Unitarians for Social Justice
  124. Grahame Russell, lawyer; adjunct professor, University of Northern British Columbia; Director, Rights Action
  125. Daniel C. Gallant (MSW, RSW, JD) Barrister & Solicitor
  126. Audrey R. Dwyer, School Settlement Worker, refugee & immigrant rights advocate, social & racial justice advocate, JFAAP
  127. Brian K Murphy, author, educator & policy analyst
  128. b.h. Yael, Professor/Artist, OCAD University
  129. thohahènte
  130. Karen Peters, Community Development Worker
  131. Amber-Sky Morin, Indigenous Family Advocate
  132. William Woolrich, Professor, Community Worker Program, GBC
  133. Rashmi Luther, School of Social Work, Carleton University (retired)
  134. Reem Bahdi, Professor, University of Windsor Faculty of Law
  135. Ratiba Hadj-Moussa, York University
  136. Bob Thomson, civil society activist
  137. Rev. Sharon Moon United Church clergy
  138. Selwyn Burrows, member Order of Manitoba, Coordinator, Point. Powerline
  139. Sylvia Nowak, PhD Student (Queen’s University)
  140. Aaron Brown, higher education professional
  141. Rowa Mohamed, community organizer
  142. krishna e bera, human rights and environmental justice activist
  143. Nima Hussein, Herongate Tenant Coalition
  144. Garrett Halas, University Instructor
  145. Canadian Voices for Palestinian Rights (CVPR)
  146. Vasanthi Venkatesh, Faculty of Law, University of Windsor
  147. Mike Hoolboom, artist
  148. Elizabeth Mudenyo, community organizer and writer
  149. Alisa Gayle-Deutsch, Musician
  150. Dr Jon Burnett, academic
  151. Moilene Samuels, CSW
  152. David Barsamian, journalist, author, activist
  153. Alan Dutton, Director, Canadian Anti-racism Research and Education Society
  154. Jamie Kneen, researcher and activist
  155. Chandni Desai, Assistant Professor, University of Toronto
  156. Global Peace Alliance BC society
  157. Jean Symes, activist and policy analyst
  158. Deborah G. Headley, RSW Clinical Social Worker, Educator, Consultant, Activist
  159. Sara Carpenter, Associate Professor, University of Alberta
  160. Karin Baqi, Lawyer
  161. Sarah Beamish, lawyer
  162. National Security Oversight Institute
  163. Katie Cameron, writer, activist, library worker
  164. Frederika Rotter, Lawyer
  165. Jail Accountability and Information Line
  166. Criminalization and Punishment Education Project
  167. Souheil Benslimane, abolitionist organizer
  168. Esperanza Moreno. Consultant
  169. Yves Engler, journalist and author
  170. Stefan Christoff, Artist and community organizer
  171. Dr Sanober Umar, Assistant Professor, York University
  172. Lia Tarachansky, Israeli filmmaker
  173. Janet Conway, Nancy’s Chair in Women’s Studies, Mount Saint Vincent University


[i] Alex Boutilier, “Researchers to probe Canada’s evolving far-right movements,” 6 March 2019, Toronto Star,

[ii] Craig Forcese and Kent Roach, “Yesterday’s law: Terrorist group listing in Canada” (2018) Terrorism and Political Violence,; Jim Bronskill, “Terror list a ‘problematic’ way to fight white supremacists, civil society groups say,” 30 January 2021,

[iii] Kent Roach, “Counterterrorism and the challenges of terrorism from the far right” (2020) Common Law World Review,

[iv] See for example, Fahad Ahmad,Securitization and the Muslim community in Canada,” 17 July 2019, Broadbent Institute,; Tabasum Akseer, “Understanding the Impact of Surveillance and Security Measures on Muslim Men in Canada” (2018), Centre for International and Defence Policy, Queen’s University,; Azeezah Kanji, “Calling Islamophobic violence ‘terrorism’ won’t make Muslims safe,” 29 June 2017, Toronto Star,; Baljit Nagra and Jeffrey Monaghan, “Security Governance and Racialization in the ‘War on Terror,’” in Contemporary Criminological Issues: Moving Beyond Insecurity and exclusion (2020),

[v] 56 out of 73 currently listed entities are identified as Islamist or Muslim-linked. Public Safety Canada, “Currently listed entities, “

[vi] Since 2001, White supremacist and right-wing actors have been responsible for at least 22 fatalities, and individuals identified as Islamist for 2; see Canadian Network for Research on Terrorism, Security and Society, “Canadian Incident Database,”; Jacob Serebrin, “Ceremonies marking fourth anniversary of Quebec City mosque shooting begin with call for gun control,” 29 January 2021m Global News, ; Leyland Cecco, “Toronto van attack suspect says he was ‘radicalized’ online by ‘incels,’” 27 September 2019, The Guardian,

[vii] Daniel Leblanc and Colin Freeze, “Charity that worked with Palestinians added to Canada’s terror list,” 29 April 2014, The Globe and Mail,; Darryl Greer, “Canadian charity fights to remove ‘terrorist’ label,” 9 March 2017,

[viii] On Palestine, see Amnesty International, “Israel and Occupied Palestinian Territories,”; on Kashmir, see Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, “Report on the situation of human rights in Kashmir,” 14 June 2018,

[ix] Kent Roach, “Be careful what you wish for? Terrorism prosecutions in post-9/11 Canada,” (2014) Queen’s Law Journal,, especially sections III A and B “Legislative overbreadth in defining terrorism and terrorist offences” and “Freedom fighter issues.” See also Lisa Stampnitsky, Disciplining Terror: How Experts Invented ‘Terrorism.’ Cambridge University Press, 2013; Sharryn J Aiken, “Manufacturing ‘terrorists’: Refugees, national security, and Canadian law,” Refuge (2001),; Jeffrey Monaghan and Kevin Walby, “Making up ‘terror identities’: Security intelligence, Canada’s Integrated Threat Assessment Centre and social movement suppression,” (2012) Policing and Society,

[x] See, for example: Proulx, Craig. “Colonizing Surveillance: Canada Constructs an Indigenous Terror Threat.” Anthropologica, vol. 56, no. 1, 2014, pp. 83–100. JSTOR,; Abigail Curlew, “The New Threat Threshold,” 1 March 2017, Briarpatch Magazine,; Ainslie Cruickshank, “Documents to be released years after allegations that Canada’s spy agency monitored pipeline protesters,” 5 July 2019, Toronto Star,; Jorge Barrera, “RCMP reactivated list of flagged activists days before Trans Mountain decision, documents show,” 14 January 2020, CBC News,; Jorge Barrera, “Aboriginal Affairs shared wide range of information with spy agency to bolster Idle No More surveillance: documents,” 18 March 2015, APTN,

[xi] Dennis O’Connor, Commissioner, “Report of the events relating to Maher Arar” (2006),

[xii] Frank Iacobucci, Commissioner, “Internal inquiry into the actions of Canadian officials in relation to Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad Abou-Elmaati and Muayyed Nureddin” (2008),

[xiii] R v Nutall, 2016 BCSC 1404,

[xiv] National Security Transparency Advisory Group, “Initial report: what we heard in our first year” (2020),

[xv] For example: UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, “Concluding Observations on the Combined Twenty-First to Twenty-Third Periodic Reports of Canada,” 13 September 2017,, para 15; UN Committee Against Torture, “Concluding Observations on the Seventh Periodic Report of Canada,” 21 December 2018,, paras 38, 42, 44, and 46.

[xvi] Jonathan Gatehouse, “A ‘second-class’ spy: Muslim CSIS agent alleges discrimination, abuse,” 21 January 2020, CBC News,; Michelle Shephard, “CSIS settles multimillion-dollar lawsuit with employees who claimed workplace Islamophobia, racism and homophobia,” 14 December 2017, Toronto Star,

[xvii] Canadian Human Rights Commission, “Human Rights Accountability in National Security Practices: A Special Report to Parliament,” (November 2011),

[xviii] See, Canadian Bar Association, “Submission on the Three Year Review of the Anti-terrorism Act,” May 2005,; Canadian Civil Liberties Association, “Submission to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security regarding Bill C-51, Anti-Terror Act, 2015,” March 2015,; International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group, “In The Shadow Of The Law,” 14 May 2003,; International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group, “Brief on Bill C-59, the National Security Act, 2017,”; B.C. Civil Liberties Association, “Submission to the Consultation on Canada’s National Security Framework,” 13 December 2016,