Terrorism is an extremely serious offence in Canada. Even financing terrorist activities carries severe penalties. It is not something to be taken lightly. You should consider retaining a lawyer as soon as possible to ensure you understand your rights and the case against you.
What is terrorism financing?
Terrorism financing is when property, including funds, are directed to support terrorist groups and terrorist activities. This may include funds that have been raised through legitimate sources (such as donations or profits from a business) as well as funds that are raised through illegitimate and criminal sources (such as through the drug trade, fraud, extortion, and the smuggling of weapons).
The Criminal Code criminalizes a range of activity, from collecting property to using it. The three main terrorism financing offences are: Providing or collecting property for certain activities (section 83.02), providing or making available, property, or services for terrorist purposes (section 83.03), and using or possessing property for terrorist purposes (section 83.04).
What is a terrorist activity?
Terrorist activity has a very broad definition in the Criminal Code under section 83.01. A terrorist activity includes any act or omission committed in or outside of Canada that is part of an enumerated offence in a listed international convention. It is also an act committed for a political, religious, or ideological purpose or cause that has the intention of intimidating the public with respect to its security. It can also compel a person, government, or an organization to do or refrain from doing anything. It must intentionally cause death through violence or represent a serious risk to the health and safety of the public (among other things).
Arrest and bail:
When you are arrested, officers must tell you of your right to counsel. This right allows you to speak to and retain a lawyer following arrest. It is always a good idea to exercise this right and obtain legal advice before speaking to police.
Due to the serious nature of the offence, you will be held for bail. You will be brought in front of a judicial official within 24 hours of your arrest. Not only will a lawyer tell you what to do and what not to do when interacting with police, they can also start working on your release if you are being held in custody.
Everyone has a constitutional right to reasonable bail with respect to the amount of money sureties pledge and the conditions imposed on you. Reasonableness also includes the fact that you should not be denied bail without “just cause.”
While it is usually the Crown’s responsibility to show why you should be detained, there are some offences, like terrorism offences, that require you to demonstrate why your detention is not justified.
There are three grounds of detention upon which you can be denied bail. They consider:
- Whether you are a flight risk (primary ground);
- Whether you pose a threat to the public (secondary ground); and
- Whether your detention is required to maintain confidence in the administration of justice (for example, due to the seriousness of the allegations and/or the strength of the Crown’s case) (tertiary ground).
You will need to demonstrate that these grounds are not a concern. The court will look at factors, such as your ties to the community, your personal situation (including the presence of a criminal record), the offence itself, and the strength of a proposed bail plan and adequacy of sureties, when considering these grounds.
As part of considering your release, the court will determine whether conditions should be imposed and what they should be to mitigate concerns, such as ensuring that you attend court and do not commit any further offences. In reverse onus situations, you will need to counter the concerns surrounding the seriousness of the offence and your release, so you will likely need to propose stringent conditions, such as:
- Supervision through sureties;
- Curfews or house arrest, including ankle monitoring;
- No contact with certain individuals; and/or
- Restrictions on where you can travel.
If you are denied bail, then you will remain in custody until your trial or resolution, although it is possible to ask for a bail review at the Superior Court.
Obtaining bail can be an uphill battle, especially when it comes to terrorism offences. Furthermore, being responsible for showing why you should be released can be overly onerous. A lawyer knows what conditions to propose according to the circumstances, and they are in the best position to run a successful bail hearing. As such, hiring a lawyer maximizes your chances of being released.
It is important to recognize that breaching the terms of your bail conditions can result in further charges against you and the revocation of your bail.
A lawyer can start preparing a successful defence for your case as soon as possible.
It is important to note that due to their national (and international reach) and ties to criminal organizations, the Public Prosecution Service of Canada (PPSC) typically handles these cases. The PPSC is Canada-wide and consists of federal Crowns (while most other offences are prosecuted by provincial Crown Attorneys). A lawyer will ask the Crown for the disclosure of all relevant evidence against you. The Crown is obligated to disclose evidence about your case to your lawyer, regardless of whether or not that evidence will be used by the Crown in court. This disclosure is a fundamental feature of our criminal justice system. It helps to ensure that you have a fair trial and that you have the information needed to provide a full answer and defence. Having a lawyer by your side can be an advantage, as there are certain items of disclosure that the Crown will only release to counsel. If you do not have a lawyer, you may have to make arrangements with the Crown to review this evidence, which can be extremely time-consuming.
In some cases, disclosure can include hundreds (and sometimes thousands) of pages of documents, as well as hours of police interviews and surveillance footage. A lawyer will review these documents and can use them to effectively advocate for you.
A lawyer will then take steps to move the case along. Once disclosure is reviewed, a Crown pre-trial (CPT) is typically scheduled. The CPT allows the defence and the Crown to discuss issues in the case, as well as the Crown’s position. The CPT can be a springboard for further discussions and negotiations with the Crown. Depending on the case and how it proceeds, a judicial pre-trial (JPT) may also take place. The JPT allows a judge to weigh in and provide guidance in a more informal setting.
If you have retained a lawyer, you will not be present at the CPT or JPT. A lawyer’s expertise and experience can be invaluable at this stage. If you do not retain a lawyer, you most likely will have more difficulty speaking to the Crown, and your JPT will take place in open court instead of the judge’s chambers. You will be responsible for advocating for yourself, which can be an unnecessary stress added to an already challenging experience.
There can be a number of court appearances before a case is set down for trial or a plea is entered. A lawyer can explain the purpose of these appearances and even appear on your behalf, so you have one less thing to worry about.
If the case goes to trial, there will come a time when you will be asked to make an election regarding your mode of trial. You will have the option of being tried by a provincial court judge, a judge alone in the Superior Court, or a judge and jury in the Superior Court. Making your election is a strategic decision. You will no doubt benefit from the support of a lawyer advising and guiding you through this lengthy and complicated process.
Consequences if found guilty:
Due to their serious nature, these offences are “straight indictable” offences. The Crown must proceed by indictment, and you can face a maximum sentence of ten years in prison. Hiring a lawyer means that you have someone with years of legal training by your side who can effectively advocate for the best possible outcome in the circumstances.
It’s vital to hire a lawyer
Being charged with a criminal offence, such as terrorism financing, is a stressful and tolling experience. It is important to seek professional advice from a lawyer about your rights from the beginning.
A lawyer can also do much more. They can:
- Work to secure your release with the most favourable conditions;
- Help you navigate the criminal justice system;
- Ensure that the Crown meets its disclosure obligations;
- Identify systematic or administrative errors in the criminal process, including Charter rights violations;
- Speak to the Crown on your behalf, negotiate, and advise you of your options;
- Assess all the evidence against you and build a strong defence, so the charges are withdrawn or you are acquitted;
- Gather further evidence to support your version of the events;
- Obtain a more lenient sentence in the event a guilty plea or conviction is entered.
All criminal cases are complex and fact specific. We have provided general information about how terrorism financing cases are handled. Hiring a lawyer provides your best chance at mounting a successful defence. For more information about how we can help, please contact our team.