When the World Trade Center was attacked on Sept. 11, 2001, it signaled a new reality for the Western world — one where the threat of zealotry and attacks in the name of extremist causes were front-and-centre.
Governments around the world, including Canada, issued new laws that criminalized and heavily penalized acts of terror. These new measures were seen as vital in countries where such threats could be staged and executed.
Eleven years later, Canada's top court has determined that the reality of terrorism has not changed.
CBC reports that Supreme Court of Canada upheld the country's anti-terrorism law against a legal challenge by Momin Khawaja, the first person charged under the law.
Khawaja was arrested in 2004 and later convicted of financing and facilitating terrorism by building a device to trigger bombs.
The Supreme Court also rejected appeals by two other men seeking to avoid extradition to the U.S., where they are charged with supporting the Tamil Tigers, a Sri Lankan terrorist organization.
The unanimous ruling to uphold the post-9/11 definition of terrorism was made by a panel of seven judges, who were urged to "moderate the tenor of the times" and reduce the scope of the definition.
The decision can be viewed as an indication that Canada, and perhaps the entire Western world, remains on guard for extremist threats.
In the ruling, Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin wrote, according to the Toronto Star:
Threats of violence, like violence, undermine the rule of law (…) and the very values and social conditions that are necessary for the continued existence of freedom of expression.
The decision upheld a previous decision to increase Khawaja's sentence from about 10 years in prison to life in prison with no parole for 10 years, and also approved extradition to the U.S. for Suresh Sriskandarajah and Piratheepan Nadarajah. In all cases, the terrorist plots were not executed.
Minister of Justice Rob Nicholson said the government was committed to the fight against terrorism.
Nicholson said in a statement:
By upholding this sentence, the court sent a strong message that terrorism will not be treated leniently in Canada.
Canada is not immune to the threat of terrorism. Our Government will continue to work with its domestic and international partners to actively combat this threat at home and abroad.
The law, supported on Friday, will continue to punish those to participate or facilitate terrorist acts, whether or not they are successful, and whether or not the accused is aware of the broader plot.
It is an indication that, while tensions have eased for most Canadians in the decade since the attack on the World Trade Center, the country remains vigilant. And the threat remains real.