Minority Views on the Canadian Anti-Terrorism Act

Appendix 1

Discussion Guide (including handouts)

Discussion Guide
* Anti -Terrorist Act  *

1.  Introduction (10 minutes)

The initial stage of the discussion is to establish a level of confidence and a rapport between the moderator and the participants.  Participants are informed of the purpose of the discussion and what is expected of them.

Note to Moderator 

  1. The Legal Language in this Guide has been Minimized to Allow for Maximum Respondent Understanding, Given that Participants are Ethnic Minorities -- Language Reflects the Essence and Ideas in the Anti-Terrorism Act. 
  2. If participants ask why the group is constituted only of persons of a narrow range of ethnic backgrounds, say: We are interested representing the cultural diversity of Canada.  In order to better understand the views of different sub-groups of Canadians towards the topic discussed this evening, we chose to constitute homogeneous groups. Sixteen groups will be constituted for this project to represent a good range of the multicultural diversity of Canadians.
  3. There may be a tendency to confuse the Canadian Anti-terrorism Act with U.S. measures, given the widespread publicity about American legislation and the actions taken against Canadian citizens. Keep the focus on the Canadian legislation.


  • Word of welcome and introduction of moderator
  • Objectives of the research: "This evening, we will talk about what is being done to address the problem of terrorism, your general opinions on the current state of things, the legislation and tools available, on what is said on the issue." Of course, there are many other issues, which are related to terrorism but tonight; we will focus on the Canadian legislation dealing with terrorism.
  • The purpose is to understand the views of the public with a special attention to the views of Canadians of different ethnic backgrounds. Findings will be used to help better inform Canadians.
  • Confidentiality:  "All your answers will remain confidential.  Your name will not be communicated to anyone and your opinions will be combined with those of other participants. 
  • Observer behind one-way mirror / taping for note-taking purpose only.
  • Moderator's role and neutrality (does not work for the government, is not a legal or criminology expert). Emphasize that no participant is a legal expert and that this evening's discussion doesn't require any specific knowledge.  We are interested in opinions and reactions, not in "professional advice". This is NOT a consultation exercise.
  • Participants' role
  • Duration:  2h00
  • Any questions?


  • First name / age
  • Occupation
  • Question about mother tongue at the moderator's discretion
  • How often do you watch the news on TV/radio?  Read the newspapers – which ones?
  • Use of ethnic media (TV, papers, radio)

2.  Awareness of the Anti-Terrorism Legislation (15 minutes)

So, this evening we will talk about terrorism and the Canadian anti-terrorism legislation. As you know, the issue of terrorism is not new in the world. Many societies are dealing with it in their own ways. As I said in the introduction, this is not a knowledge test. We are interested in your opinions and there are no wrong or right answers. All opinions are acceptable.

  1. Do you know of any terrorist incidents in Canada prior to September 11, 2001? 
  2. How likely do you think Canada will suffer from a terrorist attack in the next 2 years?
  3. Do you recall hearing about any actions that the government of Canada has taken to improve public security and combat terrorism in the past two years?
  4. More specifically, do you recall the passing of the Anti-terrorism legislation in the fall of 2001, Bill C-36?
  5. Do you know whether terrorist acts were dealt with in the Criminal Code before the anti-terrorism legislation was passed in 2001?  (Crimes such as murder, hijacking, hostage taking)

    If some participants are aware of the ATA, Ask:

    • What do you know about the Anti-terrorism Act?  Do you remember anything particular about it?  (Do not probe deeper at this stage)
    • How did you learn about it? (e.g. Mainstream media? Community Media?  Ethnic media?)
    • What feedback, if any, have you heard in your community?
    • What do you think of the Anti-Terrorism Act?
    • What is being said about it – by other people you know? – by the media?

    Moderator: Explore the following issues only if raised by respondents.

    • 1) Backlash of any real or perceived negative sentiments towards participants or their community  
      • after September 11th
      • as a consequence of the enactment of the anti-terrorism legislation 
    • Explore the following issues at your discretion, depending on discussion dynamics. 

      2) What impact, if any, do you think the anti-terrorism law has had on the Charter rights of Canadians, such as the right to counsel?

    Moderator: Distribute Handout #1 the brief description of the Anti-terrorism Act. Say:  this is a very brief summary of the Anti-terrorism Act. Please, take the time to read it.

  6. What do you think of this brief summary?  (Moderator:  probe also feelings)
  7. Do you think the Canadian anti-terrorism law is tougher, less severe, or about the same as anti-terrorism laws in the United States and the United Kingdom for example?
  8. Do you think that the fundamental individual rights and freedoms of Canadian are upheld in this law?

3.  Reaction to Definition of Terrorist Activity (15 minutes)

Now we will look more closely to the contents of the Anti-terrorism Legislation. We will begin by the definition of a terrorist activity.

The Anti-terrorism Act defines what a terrorist activity is. If an activity meets the definition, then the specific measures, provisions, punishments, enforcement powers and investigative tools apply. I'll show you a brief description of this definition, and would like your views.

Moderator: Distribute Handout #2 "Definition of a Terrorist Activity".

  1. What do you think about this definition in the legislation?  Is it too broad?  Do you understand it?
  2. Do you believe this is a useful tool in identifying who is a terrorist and who is not?
  3. Did you know about this definition? 
  4. Would you like or do you think your community should have more information about these provisions?
  5. This is the first time "Terrorist Activity" has been defined in Canadian law.  Do you think we should have definitions like this to help prevent terrorist acts or offences?

4.  Reaction to Listing of Terrorist Entities (5 minutes)

There is a detailed procedure in the Act that outlines how a group can be listed as a terrorist group. Listing a group makes it easier to apply the measures, provisions, enforcement powers, investigative tools related to terrorism.  For example, once a group is listed, it becomes illegal to deal with property that is owned or controlled by that organization. I'll show you a brief description of this procedure, and would like your views.

Moderator:  Distribute Handout #3 "Listed or Designated Entities".

  1. What do you think about this provision in the legislation?
  2. Do you think this provision will be effective in stopping fundraising by listed groups?
  3. Do you believe this is a useful tool to disable organizations that are promoting terrorist activities?
  4. Is this a useful approach to letting everyone know who the Government considers is definitely a terrorist?
  5. Did you know about this provision?
  6. Would you like or do you think your community should have more information about this provision?

5. Reaction to Financing of Terrorism Provisions (15 minutes)

We will now talk about provisions dealing with the financing of terrorism. I'll show you a brief description of these provisions, and would like your views.

Moderator: Distribute Handout #4 "Financing of Terrorism".

  1. What do you think about this provision in the legislation?
  2. Do you believe this is a useful tool in stopping the flow of money going towards terrorist activities around the world?
  3. Is this a useful approach to prevent terrorism and to safeguard us from potential danger?
  4. Did you know about this provision?
  5. Would you like or do you think your community should have more information about these provisions?
  6. Have you ever thought that some charitable organizations may be potentially linked to terrorist groups?
  7. Have you ever experienced problems or difficulty donating money to charitable organizations because they may be potentially linked to terrorist groups?
  8. Do you think it will be more difficult in the future to donate money to legitimate charitable organizations?

6. Reaction to Investigative and Preventive Powers (10 minutes)

Police get new investigative powers and preventive. I'll show you a brief description of these powers, and would like your views. 

Moderator: Distribute Handout #5 "New Investigative and Preventive Powers".

  1. What do you think about these provisions in the legislation?
  2. Do you believe these are useful tools in stopping terrorist activities before they occur?
  3. Is this a useful approach to prevent terrorism and to safeguard us from potential danger?
  4. Did you know about these provisions?
  5. Would you like or do you think your community should have more information about these provisions?

7.  Reaction to Some Mechanisms Associated with Preventive and Investigative Powers (10 MINUTES)

The new preventive and investigative hearing powers will disappear after 5 years (called a "sunset" clause) unless both the House of Commons and the Senate pass a resolution to extend them for another 5 years.

  1. What do you think of this aspect of the law (the sunset clause)?
    • The Attorney General and Solicitor General of Canada are required to report annually to Parliament on the use of these new powers.
  2. How do you feel about this obligation to report to Parliament? 
  3. Do you think this reporting requirement and sunset clause will provide enough opportunity for Parliament and Canadians to monitor how the Act is being used and to prevent its misuse?
  4. Some people worry that the police might abuse these new powers and unfairly target legitimate citizens? How concerned are you about this?
    • Are you concerned that the police might unfairly target Canadians with a minority ethnic background?  Why/why not?
    • Is this an acceptable risk – to give better protection to the country and the people, or not acceptable?

8.  Final Thoughts-Impacts of the Anti-Terrorism Law on Individuals, Family and Communities (30 minutes)

Now that we have discussed a few important aspects of the new Canada's Anti-Terrorism Act 

  • Definition of a terrorist activity
  • Listing of terrorist entities
  • New provisions dealing with conditions, preventive arrest and detention, investigative powers
  • Financing of terrorism
  1. Have any aspects of the legislation had an impact on you personally in your daily activities?  How about on your community?
  2. In your judgement, has the Canadian anti-terrorism legislation had an impact on the following activities:  By impact I mean, on you personally?  On your community? Or on a community that you know of?
    1. Daily activities such as on public transit, streets, restaurants, etc.
    2. Worship
    3. Encounters with police
    4. Social relationships
    5. Attendance to public events and recreational activities such as going to a movie or theatre
    6. Relationships with other people from your community
    7. Children in schools
    8. Travel in and outside Canada
    9. Dealings with Canada customs
    10. Dealings with other Canadian government services
    11. Commercial transactions such as buying or renting a house or apartment
    12. Job and workplace
    13. Other
  3. Do you feel more safe and secure or less safe and secure, now that you know some elements of the Canadian anti-terrorism legislation?
  4. Any other final comments?

Thanks – Conclusion Handouts

Date modified: