Canadian Civil Liberties Association

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Canadian Civil Liberties Association
Formation 1964
Headquarters Toronto, Canada
6,500 members
Official language
English, French

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association or CCLA, is Canada's leading national organization devoted to the defence of civil liberties and constitutional rights, both inside and outside the courts. The organization's work focuses on constitutional litigation, law reform, advocating on civil liberties issues before public officials and elected bodies, and public education. The CCLA is a nonpartisan, non-governmental organization supported through the donations of its members and the public; the CCLA does not accept funding from any level of government. The CCLA is closely connected with the Canadian Civil Liberties Education Trust (CCLET), the non-profit research and educational arm of the organization, that works with schools, educational institutions, and faculties of education to educate Canadians about their rights and freedoms.

The CCLA notably spoke out vigorously against the 1970 invocation of the War Measures Act by then Prime Minister of Canada Pierre Trudeau in response to the October Crisis in Quebec. Since that time, the CCLA has spoken out publicly on a number of leading civil rights issues such as capital punishment, national security, minorities' fight for decent housing, the police complaints procedures and the Quebec government's handling of the Oka crisis.[1]

It has often taken principled positions on issues like the protection against censorship of hate speech and pornography, and the removal of public funding for religious education, that have proven controversial.[2]

The CCLA defended figures such as neo-Nazi Ernst Zundel and anti-Semite schoolteacher Jim Keegstra against censorship.[3]

More recently, the CCLA has become one of the leading voices advocating for accountability and review of policing relating to the 2010 G20 Summit in Toronto, Ontario.

Said former general Counsel A. Alan Borovoy: "A lot can be done by a very few people on a small budget. I don’t ever remember having more than a shoestring but we changed hundreds of statutes."[4]

The CCLA's records are preserved at Library and Archives Canada.[5]

The CCLA has intervened in numerous cases before the Supreme Court of Canada. All of the CCLA's intervenor factums (written legal submissions to the Court) are available on its website. Most of these cases involve the interpretation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Canada's constitutional bill of rights.

The CCLA was founded in 1964 and is based in Toronto, Ontario.

General Counsel and Executive Director[edit]

Sukanya Pillay 2013-present[edit]

Pillay is the current General Counsel and Executive Director (B.A.,LL.B. University of Windsor, LL.M. New York University School of Law).Ms. Pillay was previously the organization's National Security Director, and prior to joining CCLA Ms. Pillay was a lawyer working in the public and private sectors. In the public sector she worked as a law professor at Windsor where she won teaching and research awards including the Holmes Cardozo Award for outstanding conference paper from the American Academy of Legal Studies in Business for a paper on genetic privacy in the workplace; a research award from Windsor for her documentary film 'Robbing Pedro to Pay Paul' which examined the effects of NAFTA on Oaxacan farmers and their rights to food security and food sovereignty, and published yearly in peer reviewed journals on issues of international human rights law, business and the rights of vulnerable persons.

Pillay has worked in a range of leadership positions in the private and NGO sectors; in particular, from 1995-1998, she led the newly formed WITNESS program of the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights (today, Human Rights First), where she advanced the use of video evidence in human rights protection. She also worked as in-house legal counsel at one of Asia's largest multinational corporations and as an associate at a renowned Canadian law firm. In November 2013, Ms. Pillay received the President’s Award from the South Asian Bar Association of Ontario.[6]

Nathalie Des Rosiers 2009-2013[edit]

Des Rosiers (LL.B., Université de Montréal; LL.M., Harvard University; LL.D honoris causa, Law Society of Upper Canada) was the CCLA's General Counsel from 2009 to August 2013.[7] Ms. Des Rosiers had previously served as president of the Law Commission of Canada from 2000 to 2004 and Dean of the Civil Law Section of the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law from 2004 to 2008.

Alan Borovoy 1968-2009[edit]

Prior to Ms. Des Rosiers, Alan Borovoy OC served as CCLA General Counsel since 1968. He served as General Counsel Emeritus until his death in May 2015. The CCLA's current president is Richard Pound and the chair is John D. McCamus. Its current Vice Presidents include Marlys Edwardh, Katherine Govier, and Frank Addario. Its current Board of Directors includes Ed Broadbent, David Cronenberg and Deepa Mehta.

See also[edit]


External links[edit]