Bill C-51 was introduced in Canadian Parliament on January 30, 2015 by minister of Public Safety Steven Blaney.It was the inevitable next step in the Harper's Conservative government's accelerating campaign of fear and intimidation, and was therefor obviously named the “Anti-Terrorism Bill, 2015”.If passed, it would drastically increase the powers of government bodies to spy, disrupt and arrest anyone within purposefully vague and unclear definitions.The justification for these attacks has always been defending Canada from “extremist Muslims”, but the rights they are trying to take away are from all poor and working people in Canada.One month after it's introduction, the understanding of the consequences of Bill C-51 are really growing, as well as organizing effort to defeat it.
What They Say It Means. What It Really Means.
We have been repeatedly told that Bill C-51 is a straightforward step towards protecting our security. How simple can a Bill be when its full name is, “ An Act to enact the Security of Canada Information Sharing Act and the Secure Air Travel Act, to amend the Criminal Code, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts”? At 62 pages it’s impossible to be a simple as they tell us it is, and if it isn’t as simple, what are they hiding and why are they hiding it?
As we reported in the last issue of Fire This Time, “the bill gives hugely expanded powers to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and other government agencies, including lowering the threshold of proof for arrest, new allowances for knowingly violating legal rights, increased secrecy of court proceedings and expanding arbitrary ‘no fly lists’.”
What The Guardian newspaper refers to as “a growing chorus of the nation’s leading jurists, academics, editorial-writers and opinion-makers” have also taken issue with the fact that Bill C-51 would target anyone accused of “advocating” or “promoting” terrorism without actually explaining what that actually means, as well as expanding the definition of terrorism to, “interference with the capability of the Government in relation to ... the economic or financial stability of Canada.”
Does that make it illegal to publicly support a strike by workers at the Port of Vancouver for better safety regulations? Technically that would fit within the wording of Bill C-51! The language of a recently leaked RCMP report on environmental activists also makes it clear that they already think many of the those committed to saving the environment fit the description as well.
The Harper's Conservative Party, which holds a majority in Canadian Parliament, obviously supports Bill C-51 entirely. The Liberal Party is also supporting the Bill full force, with some hollow suggestions of possible small changes. It took the NDP more than 2 weeks to figure out whether it would publicly support the Bill or not before finally taking coming out against it. This was well after all of the important issues of Bill C-51 had already been discussed at length and condemned by many sources. Why the delay? Green Party leader Elizabth May, a member of Parliament had no trouble immediately denouncing Bill C-51.
The debate within the halls of Parliament Hill in Ottawa now appears more like a circus than an actual discussion. The centre of the debate is not on the actual changes Bill C-51 would make to the rights of people, but on how many “experts” the Committee reviewing the Bill will hear in its rushed time period. Regardless, the NDP has committed themselves to respecting the March 31 deadline to pass Bill C-51 being pushed by the Conservatives. NDP Public Safety critic Randall Garrison told reporters, “We have conceded that there is an urgency.”
The NDP members of Parliament made a big show of taking their time and slowly voting on a motion to limit discussion of Bill C-51, but that doesn’t take the place of robust debate. Most importantly, where is the input of poor and working people in Canada into this massive bill with huge implications? Where is the public consultation? Why the rush? It might simplify the issue a little, but as many have pointed out, you are more likely to be killed by a moose than a terror plot in Canada. Given that, there is no need to rush through the discussion or bypass public consultation.
We are Getting Stronger
However, despite this failure of leadership among those elected to supposedly represent our interests, a movement is growing among a broad section of people who understand Bill C-51 is something much more sinister than we are being told.
A new coalition of 41 organizations from across Canada, including Amnesty International, the BC Civil Liberties Association, and the National Council for Canadian Muslims has strongly criticized the bill. “Bill C-51 should be of concern to all Canadians as it has the potential to impact on all of our rights given its stunningly far-reaching definitions of what constitutes a threat to Canada’s security,” said Ihsaan Gardee, Executive Director, National Council of Canadian Muslims.
Over 100 professors of law and related fields also wrote a long open letter denouncing Bill C-51 which notes, “the Prime Minister during Question Period has been unable or unwilling to give examples of what conduct he would want to see criminalized now that is not already prohibited by the Criminal Code.”
Almost 50,000 people have so far signed an online petition called, “Reject fear. Stop Stephen Harper’s ‘secret police’ bill”.
Most importantly though has been the growing public actions of indigenous nations, nongovernmental and progressives organizations as well as many individuals opposing Bill C-51.In Vancouver alone there are 4 different actions in 2 weeks against the Bill C-51. The second rally against Bill C-51 in Vancouver was more than double the size of the first,and received numerous supportive honks from passing vehicles. Finally, March 14 has also been announced as a “Day of Action” with communities all across Canada organizing different public demonstrations against Bill C-51.
It is important to remember that the human rights exercised today in Canada were not handed down benevolently on them by the Canadian government – they were won through the organization of poor and working people in unions and other mass social movements. Canada didn’t even have a Charter of Rights and Freedoms until 1982, 115 years after the official founding of the country! Rights are hard won, and even more difficult to regain after having lost them. Bill C-51 represents the most wholesale attacks on human rights in Canada in decades, and must be exposed and opposed at every opportunity. All peace and freedom loving people should join the growing organizing effort demanding, “Scrap Bill C-51!”
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