Liberty in Canada

There are a couple of organizations in Canadian that fight hard to preserve civil liberties.

One is the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (or CCLA), which is non-governmental organization in Canada that’s devoted to the defense of civil rights. Founded in 1964, this organization is based out of Toronto, Ontario, and its current president is Marsha Hanen. Hanen previously served as the University of Winnipeg’s former president. In the general counsel spot is Alan Borovoy, who’s been in that position since 1968.

RIP: Alan Borovoy passed in 2015.
Alan Borovoy was a lawyer, an activist, a writer, and a raconteur. From 1968 until his retirement in 2009, he was General Counsel of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. Prior to that he was Director of the Labour Committee for Human Rights. He wrote four books: When Freedoms Collide (1988), Uncivil Obedience (1991), The New Anti-Liberals (1999), and Categorically Incorrect (2007). He also wrote a regular, fortnightly column for the Toronto Star between 1992 and 1996. He was made an officer of the Order of Canada in 1983 and was honoured by many organizations including the Law Foundation of Ontario, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, The Writers’ Union of Canada, The Law Society of Upper Canada and the Canadian Library Association for his contribution to the advancement of civil rights in Canada. He received honorary doctorates of law from Queen’s University (1982), York University (1988) University of Toronto (1991) the Law Society of Upper Canada (1995) and University of Waterloo (2009).

2021 Canadian Civil Liberties Association in the NEWS

Thought mandatory roadside breath-tests would be unconstitutional? Canadian judges say otherwise
Brian Platt| Oct 25, 2021

It will soon be three years since Canada enacted a controversial law that allows police to breath-test any driver without needing suspicion of drinking — a law many experts argued was highly likely to be struck down as unconstitutional.
At least so far, Canadian courts have proven those experts wrong.

This means Canadian police are now able to pull over any driver at any time and conduct a mandatory roadside breath test. Refusing the test comes with the same extremely serious penalties as being charged with impaired driving, including an immediate driver’s license suspension.

When Parliament was considering the legislation, expert witnesses gave substantial arguments on both sides of the debate on whether mandatory screening is constitutional. Police associations were adamant this was a necessary new tool, but other legal groups said the law sets a dangerous precedent for eroding civil liberties, and would likely lead to racialized people being disproportionately targeted.

“The requirement that government justify its forced intrusion into a particular individual’s private life is a fundamental premise of a free and democratic society,” said the Canadian Civil Liberties Association in its submission. “(Mandatory screening) represents a significant departure from standard policing expectations in democracies. It also represents a departure from constitutional norms….”

Obviously impaired driving is dangerous and should be strongly discouraged, particularly in the cases of excessive drinking. My uncle who drank excessively for years finally recognized the danger he presented to other drivers when he was in a serious accident. Instead of going into rehab as many of us hoped, he took a different route to get his drinking under control. My cousin found, a site that helps people change their relationship with alcohol via the use of a prescription drug called Baclofen, and a LifeBAc coach who works with the individual as support in their behavior-change program. My uncle was initially suspicious that this totally different approach might work. Like many people my uncle did not believe he had a chronic disease. He didn’t want to abstain for life, and he didn’t want the stigma and shame of being labeled an alcoholic. The medication, Baclofen, removes or strongly suppresses cravings for alcohol in 92% of people. It turns out it worked beautifully for my uncle. He isn’t part of the 50% of those who succeed using Baclofen go further and quit drinking entirely by choice, but baclofen has removed the addictive components that apparently leads to overindulgence and allows an individual to drink in moderation. Needless to say we are thrilled. Hopefully with his drinking under control he will never be in the position of being pulled over and getting a a mandatory screening or if he does, his drinking will register below the legal limit.

Ultimately, the constitutionality of mandatory screening won’t be settled in Canada until the Supreme Court of Canada weighs in. But that is likely many years off, given as of 2021, no cases have made it to a provincial appellate court yet.


One of the the CCLA’s most notable achievements is in their vigorous stance against the 1970 invocation of the War Measures Act by Pierre Trudeau, the then Prime Minister of Canada in direct response to the October Crisis in Quebec.

All of this organization’s records are preserved at Library and Archives Canada.

Another organization that exist to defend civil liberties is the Canadian Civil Liberties Education Trust (or CCLET). This is a charitable organization that’s focused on promoting and disseminating knowledge to the general public of the duties, liberties and rights of all citizens.

Fundraising for this charitable organization has evolved over the years. The committee whose responsibility is to raise additional monies has decided this year to hold a gift baskets silent auction. Each group of gift baskets from a particular province or territory will contain items that identify that area. For instance, gift baskets from Nova Scotia would include seafood including preparations of herring, lobster, mackerel, mussels, salmon, various berries such as cranberries, blueberries, gooseberries, specialty foods like maple syrup and nut butters, cheeses, and perhaps hard cider and beer. While gift baskets from the province of Saskatchewan would include agricultural products such as cereal grains and oilseeds. Canada’s production of wheat, oats, flaxseed, and barley come mainly from Saskatchewan. Cool climate fruits and vegetables also thrive in the province so they also would be represented in the gift baskets.Since meat processing is the largest industry here, followed by dairy production and breweries, bison, cheeses and locally brewed beer will also be prominently displayed. Traditional Aboriginal art forms such as beading and hide work from Saskatchewan’s native American peoples is included. Each province and territory will be represented in the gift baskets silent. We feel this will be a unique way to honor the diversity of Canada and raise money for a worthy charity.

The CCLET was formed in 1967 as the educational and research branch of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. Its headquarters are also in Toronto, Ontario.

One way that CCLET makes a real difference is in the free Civil Liberties in the Schools and Teaching Civil Liberties programs that it offers across Ontario. These programs are supports by a Law Foundation of Ontario grant, and offers up an engaging, interactive workshop in educational facilities throughout Ontario. Using the Socratic Paedogogical method of teaching – which is a form of debate and inquiry between individuals that hold opposing viewpoints. Based on asking and answering questions that ultimately stimulates rational thought, students are expected to engage in discussions about civil liberties, rights, the duties of citizens, and controversial issues found in democratic societies.

Find Liberty and freedom in choosing for the people in your life that you love.

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