Public Views on the Anti-Terrorism Act (formerly Bill C-36)

2.0 INTRODUCTION (cont'd)

2.0 INTRODUCTION (cont'd)


Qualitative Approach

Given the purpose and research objectives of the study and in keeping with the method used in the first phase of the research, a conventional discussion method of focus groups was used. Most of the groups were made up of 9 to 11 participants, with a few made up of 5 to 7. (See Appendix D for a complete description of participant profiles and group composition in each location.)

The focus group format facilitated open discussion and exploration of participants' awareness, perceptions, views, and attitudes. The moderator's role was not to inform or provide correct answers, but to facilitate the discussion and encourage the participants to interact freely, as well as to observe and to collect information. The findings from this study provide unique insights into perceptions and attitudes surrounding various issues relating to terrorism and to the Anti-terrorism Act itself; however, given that it is a qualitative study, not a quantitative one, these findings may or may not be statistically representative of the population as a whole.

Focus Groups

As age reflects generational and life cycle factors which can affect attitude formation, participants in this study were assigned to focus group sessions according to age. Those who were between the ages of 18 and 39 were assigned to Group 1 sessions, the 'young' discussion groups, and participants who were 40 and over were assigned to Group 2 sessions, the 'older' discussion groups. Given the resulting increase in homogeneity within groups, the age breakdown was expected to enrich the discussion surrounding the law.

Group 1 and Group 2 sessions were held in every city included in this study, with discussions being held in English and French according to the area (see Table 1).

Table 1. Focus Group Sessions by Location and Age Group
Location Number of Groups
Group 1 (aged 18-39) Group 2 (aged 40+)
Toronto 1 English 1 English
Ottawa 2 English1 French 1 English
Montreal 1 French1 English 1 English
Quebec City 1 French 1 French
Halifax 1 English 1 English
Calgary 1 English 1 English
Regina 1 English 1 English
Vancouver 1 English 1 English
Total 12 groups 10 groups

The focus group sessions were conducted in 2004 on the following dates:

  • Toronto (2 English groups on February 2)
  • Ottawa (3 English groups* and 1 French group on February 2 and 19)
  • Montreal (2 English Groups on February 6 and 2 French Groups on February 9)
  • Quebec City (2 French Groups on February 17)
  • Halifax (2 English Groups on March 5 - postponed from February 19, due to the winter storm in Halifax)
  • Winnipeg (2 English Groups on February 5)
  • Calgary (2 English Groups on February 9)
  • Regina (2 English Groups on February 12)
  • Vancouver (2 English Groups on February 13)

An additional English Group 1 session (*) was conducted in Ottawa on February 19, 2004, due to poor attendance at the initial session.

A total of 196 people participated in the group sessions (see Table 2). The duration of each session was 2 hours.

Table 2. Number of Participants by Location and Age Group
Location Number of Participants
Group 1 (aged 18-39) Group 2 (aged 40+) Total
Toronto 10 9 19
Ottawa (English) 5 11 17
Ottawa (French) 6 - -
Winnipeg 10 10 20
Montreal (English) 9 9 18
Montreal (French) 9 9 18
Calgary 6 9 15
Regina 9 9 18
Vancouver 10 10 20
Quebec City 10 10 20
Ottawa (English) 10 - 10
Halifax 7 9 16
Total 101 95 196

Participant Selection

The selection method aimed for an equal number of male and female participants and a good mix of education levels (high school and post-secondary) in each group (see Appendix A for the screening tool used). The focus groups included people of very diverse socio-economic and occupational backgrounds, which is arguably representative of the Canadian population. Included in the groups were students, blue-collar workers, teachers, professionals, clerks, programmers, sales representatives, homemakers, even a retired university professor of criminal law.

As the target population specified was the general public, members of visible minority groups were included at random. Although the majority of participants in the sessions were Caucasian, a few of the participants in Toronto, Vancouver, and Calgary were members of visible minority groups.

Persons who worked for a federal or provincial government department, or had family members who did, and persons who had participated in a focus group session on any topic in the previous 12 months were screened out.

For each session, 10 participants were recruited to ensure that at least 8 showed up in every group. Participants were informed both during the screening phase and during the introduction to the actual focus group session that a sensitive topic would be discussed. During the introduction, they were told that the discussion would focus on the provisions of the anti-terrorism legislation.

Participation Incentive

An incentive of $50 was offered to participants for their time, which is a standard incentive for qualitative research involving the general public.

Discussion Guide

Participants in all 22 groups were interviewed according to a discussion guide (see Appendix B). This discussion guide was similar to the one used in the first study, with slight modifications making the questions more appropriate for the general population.

At the beginning of each session, the moderator informed participants that they did not have to be legal or criminology experts to give their opinions on the topic. The moderator then explained the background of the research project and conducted a short 'warm-up' exercise with each participant, in order to create rapport as well as to explore the media habits of the participants. After this exercise, an initial discussion took place to determine the participants' level of awareness of terrorist acts and of the Anti-terrorism Act itself.

The moderator then introduced the five provisions of the Anti-terrorism Act separately: (1) a brief summary of the Act; (2) the definition of a terrorist activity; (3) the listing of terrorist entities; (4) the financing of terrorism; and (5) the new investigative and preventive arrest powers. For each provision, the moderator handed out an outline of the provision in plain language (see handouts in Appendix C). While the legal language of the Act was minimized in these outlines in order to allow for maximum understanding, the summary still reflected the ideas included in the actual Anti-terrorism Act. The participants were then given a few moments to read the outline and a discussion on the provision followed. This procedure was repeated until all five provisions had been discussed.

After the discussion on the fifth provision (the new investigative and preventive arrest powers), the moderator introduced two elements associated with these new powers: the 'sunset clause' and the obligation the Attorney General and the Solicitor General have to report to Parliament annually on the use of these new powers. The participants were then asked for their reactions to these clauses.

Each group session ended with a discussion about the impact these provisions may have had on participants personally or on a family member, friend, relative, or work colleague and an exploration of the level of safety participants felt after having been informed of the Act and its provisions.

Moderating and Analysis

Millward Brown Goldfarb conducted the focus group sessions for this study. This public opinion company was formed in July 2002 as a result of the merger of Goldfarb Consultants and Millward Brown Canada.

Given the number of sessions to be conducted in this study and the need for some sessions to be conducted in both English and French, three moderators were used.

Ted Doering
Senior Research Executive, acted as the project manager and was responsible for client liaison, design of the screening document in English, the moderation of ten (10) English groups in Winnipeg, Calgary, Regina, Vancouver, and Halifax as well as preparation of the final written report.
Allison Scolieri
Senior Vice President, was responsible for the moderation of two (2) English groups in Toronto and participated in the preparation of the final written report.
Pierre Legendre
President, Legendre, Lubawin Marketing Inc., was responsible for the translation of the screening documents and the moderation of five (5) French groups in Ottawa, Montreal, and Quebec City as well as five (5) English groups in Ottawa and Montreal. He also participated in the preparation of the final written report.

All three moderators reported relatively similar findings and observations across both age groups and throughout the nine cities where the sessions took place. This similarity in the results adds to their validity.

Warming Up

As a 'warm-up' exercise, the moderator asked participants how regularly they paid attention to the news (either by watching it on television, listening to it on the radio, reading it in a newspaper, or accessing it online). Responses ranged from "very attuned" to the news (e.g. following it daily in a variety of media) to "indifferent." While a few participants said that they do not pay attention to the news because they find it to be "too depressing," most participants across both age groups and in all cities said that they regularly kept in touch with what was going on around them. Most watch the news regularly on television and read a daily newspaper, at least occasionally. In general, the older respondents appeared to follow the news more closely than the younger ones.

Date modified: