Enemy of the State?

Please chip in to support rabble's election 2019 coverage. Support rabble.ca today for as little as $1 per month!

When Toronto lawyer Rocco Galati walks into a courtroom to defend those accusedof terrorist acts, he carries 800 years’ worth of civil rights law with him.

Galati has a file — just a little thinner than an average magazine — with nine tabs, each representing a milestone in the West’s legislative journey towards a constitutional democracy.

It starts with the Magna Carta of 1215 and ends with Canada’s Charter of Rights andFreedoms of 1982. He refers to it regularly when arguing cases. He has never considered the file a historical collection until now.

“This has been extinguished,” he said, holding the file before an audience at an open forum on Canada’s anti-terrorism laws on Sunday at the University of Toronto. “We’ve turned it on its head.”

He’s referring to the Anti-Terrorism Act (Bill C-36), and its broad definition of what constitutes a terrorist. Passed late last year, the Act increased police powers and limited public protest, suppressing dissent, Galati said. He warned that activists demonstrating around the G8 Summit this week could fall under the legislation’s definition of a terrorist. Some activists groups have expressed concern about being deemed “terrorist organizations” under the law and the implications this has on free democratic participation.

The Act defines terrorism as threats to the security of Canada, including the economic security of the state. C-36 built on the economic logic behind legislation like C-35, which expanded the definition of what constitutes an internationally protected person from diplomats to mere delegates of a trade conference.

“If you’re the vice-president of Coca Cola or Nike, you’re a protected person,” said Galati. But if you want to protest global corporatization? “Those become terrorist acts.”

“We used to define a crisis as a situation in which the usual form of elite rule has been broken down,” said University of Victoria professor Larry Hannant. “Sometimes that crisis is not a crisis for the people, if it’s popular protest. It’s a crisis for the state.”

Though there have been several occasions where legislation like the War Measures Act have been invoked to deal with specific instances of violence, Hannant said, governments are now creating a state of perpetual crisis. “There is a need to create enemies,” he said.

Anima Sherazee, counsel for the Canadian Arab Foundation, said she came to the forum unsure whether she should discuss the effect of the anti-terrorism laws on Arab people or on political activists.

In the end, she addressed both, arguing for stronger links between the fight against racism and corporate capitalism. “These laws eliminate any form of dissent,” she said, arguing they equate product boycotts and labour strikes with terrorist acts.

“[These activities are] absolutely unrelated to terrorism, but they provide a solution to the government each and every time it needs one.”

The day-long forum was jointly hosted by Science For Peace and LawyersAgainst War.

Further Reading

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.