Trudeau won't say if Bill C-51 is constitutional despite support for legislation

'We don't have to make a choice between one or the other,' Trudeau says of rights, freedoms and security

Protesters outside the Vancouver Art Gallery. (Jonathan Hayward, CP)

Protesters outside the Vancouver Art Gallery. (Jonathan Hayward, CP)

BROSSARD, Que. — Justin Trudeau won’t say if Bill C-51 — the controversial anti-terror bill introduced by the Conservatives — is constitutional, even though the Liberals backed it in Parliament.

At a morning campaign event Thursday, he said his party will always defend the Charter of Rights, enacted when his father was prime minister in 1982.

But the Liberal leader would not clearly weigh in on the constitutionality of the anti-terror legislation, which has been questioned by some legal experts and the New Democrats who refused to support the bill.

Maclean’s election primers: What you need to know about C-51 

“That’s a debate that’s ongoing, but the fact is the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is there to ensure that our rights are not violated, that we are protected,” Trudeau told reporters.

“The Liberal party will always defend the Charter of Rights and Freedoms at the same time as we defend Canadians’ security … we don’t have to make a choice between one or the other.”

Bill C-51 has created political ripples in Quebec, where Trudeau has spent most of the week campaigning.

In March, the Quebec government indicated it had serious concerns with the Conservative bill and criticized the federal government for failing to consult the provinces before drafting the legislation.

To that end, three Quebec ministers sent a sharply worded letter to federal ministers which was also tabled in the national assembly.

It said the Quebec government had “many concerns” with C-51.

Interview: Justin Trudeau defends his stand on C-51 

“It is worrisome that the bill gives CSIS such vast powers, including the possibility to take certain actions that violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and Canadian law,” the letter stated.

The NDP, which dominated the political landscape in Quebec in the last federal election, has promised to repeal the legislation if it forms the government after Oct. 19.

Trudeau is to meet Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre on Thursday before moving on to Toronto.

This morning, he announced a Liberal government would ditch the proposed toll system for the Champlain Bridge.


    Looking for more?

    Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.