Onlookers might have been confused to see a large group of people crowded together in the middle of one of the most iconic squares of downtown Vancouver. They spaced themselves out deliberately with a larger group spreading out to surround a smaller group standing close together. It wouldn't have made sense right away, but it will to Justin Trudeau when he gets an aerial photograph of people making the shape of an eye with the caption, “Trudeau, We're Watching You!” In fact, Justin Trudeau will be getting photos from groups across Canada who participated in the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression's National Day of Action “Protect Press Freedom”.
That National Day of Action was called in response to an Ontario court ruling that VICE news reporter Ben Makuch must hand over confidential correspondence to the RCMP from his reporting on an alleged Canadian member of ISIS in Syria. The case could set a dangerous legal precedent in Canada, opening the door to police to force journalists to hand over their confidential sources and information, and undermining their independence and ability to report on sensitive issues.
Importantly, organizers connected this fight to overall struggle in Canada to defend our democratic and human rights. The Day of Action also called for a repeal of the controversial Bill C-51, and an, “End mass surveillance and protect the private data of people and groups in Canada, including Indigenous communities, Muslims, journalists, environmentalists, labour organizers and academics while creating independent watchdog agencies for privacy and national security.”
The Vancouver action was hosted by the Working Group to Stop Bill C-51. It also made the evening news on CBC, CTV and Global, as well as being featuring on the News 1130 and many other local print and web-based publications.
Actions also took place in Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, St. John's and London. Important community, media and human rights organizations also got on board including the Fédération professionnelle des journalistes du Québec, Leadnow, Scrap C-51 Now, OpenMedia, Unifor, Reporters Without Borders, Rabble, and the Communications Workers of America (CWA/SCA Canada).
The cross-country action took place while Canada is at a human rights cross roads. Many felt they were voting for a human rights defender in Justin Trudeau in the last federal election – and have been severely disappointed. A recent Edelman poll found that only 43 per cent of Canadians say they trust their government — down from 53 per cent a year earlier. Also, 80 per cent feel the country's elites are out of touch with society.
Here's a couple of examples why:
- Despite a Liberal election promise to repeal a measure under Bill C-24 that allows the government to revoke the citizenship of foreign nationals, at least 236 people have been served notice of Canadian citizenship revocation since the Liberals came into federal office - a dramatic increase over the 65 total people targeted between 2007 and 2014 under Stephen Harper. None have been allowed a court hearing.
- After promising to make public all of the submissions to its national security “public consultation”, the government of Canada has been silent and avoided the issue – much like everything else related to controversial Bill C-51.
The message of “Trudeau, We're Watching You!” is important. We must constantly compare which the Trudeau Liberal government says, and what the Trudeau Liberal government does. There are often huge contradictions which need to be exposed, especially when it comes to sensitive and important areas like human rights. Bringing this many organizations and cities together to organize for common demands is an important initiative which can and should be built on continue a longterm campaign to defend our human rights.
Trudeau, We're Watching You!
Protect Press Freedom!
Repeal Bill C-51!
Follow Thomas Davies on Twitter: @thomasdavies59
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