Has treason run its course in Canada?

Michael Taube
March 1, 2010
Don’t look for another case of treason any time soon argues Michael Taube in a column that supplements this month’s treason issue…

Has treason run its course in Canada?

Michael Taube
March 1, 2010
Don’t look for another case of treason any time soon argues Michael Taube in a column that supplements this month’s treason issue…
Share on facebook
Share on Facebook
Share on twitter
Share on Twitter

If anyone would wish to write a book on the history of treason in Canada in the 20th century, heed this fair warning: it would be rather slim.

To be fair, our country is well prepared to deal with treasonous behaviour and activity. Section 46 of the Criminal Code of Canada has provisions for both “high treason” (which includes provisions for war, as well as the assassination – or attempted assassination – of the Queen) and “treason” (which includes provisions for attempting to overthrow a federal or provincial government, as well as conspiring with a group or individual in the act of high treason).

Yet, instances of convictions for treason in Canada have been few. Since Louis Riel was hanged for treason on November 16, 1885, only one other Canadian citizen (Inouye Kanao, also known as the “Kamloops Kid”) has been executed for the same crime – and that happened on foreign soil.

Also, although there cases that could be described as nominally treasonous – such as the FLQ crisis, Air India and the Toronto 18 terrorist plot – none of the participants were charged under Canada’s legal definition of treason.

Obviously, Canadians should feel secure in the knowledge that treasonous activity isn’t common. But is it an accurate depiction of treasonous behaviour in Canada? Or does it show that our judicial system is unwilling to consider actions that appear like treason, to be defined as treason?

Will there ever be another case of treason in Canada?

There are various reasons why treasonous activities have gradually become less of a major concern in Canada. They are as follows:

First, Canada’s legal definition of treason is broad yet narrowly based.

In lawyer Bob Tarantino’s view, Canada’s definition of treason is rather broad. He wrote, “you do not need to be a Canadian citizen to commit treason, and if you are a Canadian citizen or a ‘person who owes allegiance to Her Majesty,’ any treasonable acts are prosecutable whether they were committed in Canada or outside of the country.”

On the surface, that’s a fair analysis. However, it could also be argued that the legal definition of treason is also narrowly based. Our legal parameters simply haven’t included nominal instances of modern treason, such as the FLQ crisis. Instead, there is more focus in modern Canadian law on the lighter charge of sedition, or the rebelling against and/or opposition to an existing order – which is what the FLQ faced as one of its charges. This could ultimately mean that previously understood cases of treason in the past won’t fall (and aren’t falling) under the same legal definition in the present and future.

Second, when it comes to punishing those people, our country’s legal and judicial system falls far short of expectations.

Activist judges on the Supreme Court of Canada are, as London Free Press columnist Rory Leishman writes, “not loathe to commit major breaks with precedent for the purpose of changing the law to accord with their personal ideological preferences.” With this in mind, it’s unlikely that a future accusation of treason would last long enough to survive the claws of judicial activism in Canada. And if politicians and judges are unwilling to enact proper amounts of punishment for certain crimes, treasonous behaviour will most certainly not be properly punished, either.

Third, Canada has a minor role in international affairs and this has arguably led to fewer instances of what be generally agreed on to be treason.

While our country is now willing to take the lead in military missions like Afghanistan, support forceful stands against terrorist groups like Hamas, and walk out on UN speeches from vicious tyrants such as Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in spite of this, Canada is still regarded as a middle power (at best) on the international scene. Therefore, it’s a less valuable resource for potential treasonous acts than in larger countries like Britain, Germany, and the U.S. due to a lack of power, influence, key stakeholders and available information. This perception could change in time depending on Canada’s willingness to get involved in world affairs in a post-Harper government. But at this moment, our country’s influence is more associated with strong words rather than brute force – meaning that we are still seen as being a minor player.

Fourth, Canada has not suffered Western Europe’s fate with terrorist cells and immigration problems…yet.

To date, Canada’s experience with terrorist groups and third world immigration has not reached Western European levels. For instance, it’s true that terrorist groups like Hamas, Hezbollah and Egyptian Islamic Jihad previously established small bases on our soil. But Canada has still not faced France’s 2005 race-based riots, or Denmark’s 2006 cartoon controversy, or wide-ranging concerns that the growth of radical Islamic thought in Western Europe is well underway. It’s possible that Canada could face some of these problems – and more – in due course, which could lead to a surge in treasonous-like activity. For now, this is not the case.

This does not mean Canadians should have a lax attitude about treason. Far from it. We should always be on guard to prevent this type of behavioural pattern from spreading, and our laws should become stronger and tougher to make our citizens safer and more secure. But as things currently stand, it appears treason as a common occurrence and a crime actively prosecuted may have run its course in Canadian society.

Love C2C Journal? Here's how you can help us grow.

More for you

Future of Conservatism Series, Part V: Could Canada Handle a Trumpian Populist?

Democratic politics must continue even in times of war. Despite suspension of the federal Conservative leadership race amidst the coronavirus, members and supporters still need to think about how to shape their party and pick the right leader to best meet the many challenges of our era. C2C Journal has looked at revived Red Toryism, at uncompromisingly principled conservatism and at the decidedly compromised but successful Harper way. We have sought insight from abroad. And now we turn to populism. Barry Cooper applies his usual fearless thinking and cheerful bluntness to evaluate whether the Canadian political landscape has become hospitable terrain to a Canadian Trump.

Want More Affordable Housing in Canada? Build More Houses

Solving Canada’s housing crisis shouldn’t require more than a single lesson in economics. When prices are high, a free market always responds and supplies more. Yet amidst Canada’s severe problems of housing affordability, this foolproof mechanism is continually frustrated by governments that are either ignorant of how markets work, fixated on preserving the status quo or display naked contempt for the profit motive. Peter Shawn Taylor looks at the scorn heaped on land developers, landlords and the rest of the housing supply industry and wonders how they became the villains of this story.

Thinking Clearly in a Time of Panic

How should the conservative mind respond to the coronavirus pandemic? Panic and despair are in ample supply, and the urge to succumb appears widespread. Others have steered, via deliberate ignorance, to fatalism, though the walls are closing in on such rebels. Both extremes are beneath thoughtful conservatives. C2C Editor-in-Chief George Koch counsels that however dark today might appear, the eternal search for objective truth – the foundation for all conservative thought – is the first necessary step along the path to seeing humankind through to brighter days.

Future of Conservatism Series Part IV: Rallying the World’s Centre-Right Parties

As Canada’s Conservatives evaluate leadership hopefuls and ponder what their party is about and which path might lead to electoral victory, it’s easy to ignore international politics. They should take a look, for the world holds dozens of established centre-right democratic parties, and many are tackling challenges of relevance and adaptation at least as steep as those burdening Canada’s Conservatives. John Weissenberger travelled to Washington, D.C. for the annual conference of the International Democrat Union (IDU) and provides his assessment in this essay. Later this year, once international travel is restored, Weissenberger heads to Vienna to deepen his understanding at the IDU’s 2020 Forum.

Averting “Climate Poverty” for Canada’s Middle Class

Pursuing grandiose visions tends to cloud judgment, and when the vision is saving our very planet from an apprehended climate crisis, it’s little surprise that numbers are fudged, logic is twisted, the hardest-hit are ignored and entire social classes are cast into the trash. Matthew Lau, however, refuses to be dazzled by dreams. In this article, Lau remains rooted in reality and fixed on crunching the numbers to come up with some arresting conclusions about the huge costs of government climate policies to working people here and now, set against marginal if not ephemeral benefits to come over the next 80 years.

Hit the Bench: Beverley McLachlin’s Reputation Takes a Dive in Retirement

When Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada Beverley McLachlin stepped down in 2017, she was regarded as one of the most consequential jurists in Canadian history, largely due to her court’s activist approach to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Her career arc was also widely considered a triumph of progressive feminism in the face of an entrenched legal patriarchy. That reputation is due for a re-assessment. Grant A. Brown sifts through the evidence of McLachlin’s autobiography and various post-retirement missteps, and unearths what he feels is a surprising lack of principle, objectivity and sound reasoning.

Share This Story

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on print

Donate

Subscribe to the C2C Weekly
It's Free!

By clicking SUBSCRIBE, you agree to receive emails from C2C Journal. You can unsubscribe at any time.