We Must Stop Bill C-51 Now!
Bill C-51 Must be Defeated Decisively!
Bill C-51 is the Beginning of the End of Our Civil Liberties!
March 15, 2015 was a day the Canadian government was hoping would not happen. A National Day of Action against the increasingly controversial Bill C-51 took place with over 70 well attended actions organized from coast to coast. The initial strategy of naming the bill, “ANTI-TERRORISM 2015” and riding a wave of Islamophobia to justify it did not last past the initial confusion when it was introduced in parliament without any public consultation. Legal experts, human rights organizations, indigenous, labour, student and faith groups, as well as tens of thousands of concerned people have taken to the streets, airwaves and everywhere else in between to denounce the bill which is the most wholesale attack on democratic and human rights in Canada in more than 100 years.
Now known popularly as the “Secret Police Bill”, if passed, Bill C-51 would see the Canadian government granting itself unprecedented powers to spy on, disrupt and detain anyone falling under the purposefully vague and undefined accusation of "supporting terrorism". It would also grant CSIS the power to purposely break laws and disregard human rights, as long they can find a judge to allow it. Many are left asking, “What's the point of making a law in the first place then?”
The newest national opinion poll also shows an important shift of public opinion against Bill C-51. Among people aware of the controversial bill, 50 per cent now disapprove of it. Just 38 per cent now approve. This is down from 82 per cent support when the bill was introduced in February. As well, 61 per cent of respondents were also opposed to provisions in Bill C-51 that would allow security services to infiltrate and track environmentalist groups, First Nations and oil pipeline protesters.
Proposed New Amendments to Bill C-51 – A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing...is Still a Wolf
Now, the Conservative government is trying to introduce some weak amendments in a new attempt to stall the growing wave of opposition. In response, almost immediately 7 leading human rights organizations in Canada issued a joint statement outlining why Bill C-51 must still be defeated. Amnesty International, the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the Canadian Muslim Lawyers Association, the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group, La Ligue des Droits et Libertés and the National Council of Canadian Muslim all continue to say that despite the amendments, “The Bill has to go.”
The Harper Conservative government promises the new amendments:
- Clarify that protest or dissent will not be targeted by the bill, by deleting the word “lawful” from protests which are exempt from C-51's broad reach.
- Clarify that CSIS agents will not have the authority to arrest people as part of new legislated powers to “disrupt” threats to national security.
- Limit national security information sharing among 17 government and security agencies, rather than “with any person for any purpose.”
- Delete wording that could allow the minister of Public Safety to order an airline to “do anything that, in the Minister’s opinion, is reasonable and necessary” to prevent someone on the “no-fly” list from travelling.
Responding as part of the joint statement, Ziyaad Mia of the Canadian Muslim Lawyers Association said, “We have highlighted that Bill C-51 is replete with provisions that violate the Charter of Rights and other provisions in Canadian law. That has been repeated consistently by legal academics, former parliamentarians and numerous other expert witnesses who have appeared before the Committee. The government has refused to disclose the advice it has received from its own lawyers about the Bill’s compliance with the Charter.”
Writing in the Globe and Mail Newspaper in response to the amendments, law professors Kent Roach and Craig Forcese said, “In sum, the government has not made its security case. Meanwhile, the major liberties concerns in C-51 remain, including: the privacy issues; a new speech crime that comes without defences and will reach speech far removed from threats of terrorist violence...”
An Answer Without A Question
Completely lost in the entire debate, by all major political parties and new sources, whether they support Bill C-51 or not, is questioning why Canada needs a severe new anti-terrorism Bill to begin with. How real is the threat of, as Prime Minster Stephen Harper actually called it, the “jihadist monster’s tentacles”?
Comedian Rick Mercer addressed the use of hysteria and fear to justify Bill C-51 in a recent piece titled, “The Politics of Fear”. In his usual tongue in cheek manner he said, "You wanna go down the fear road, there's a lot of things you ought to be afraid of...Do you have any idea how many Canadians are killed every year in the summer, doing summer things? It is our deadliest season. And yet we are encouraged to go outdoors. That needs a rethink...If you go the online and research all the frightening things in this world you will realize Stephen Harper is right, we have every reason to be afraid. But if we give into that fear, we would never debate a bill, go outdoors or take a shower again."
How is it self-evident that a new bill is justified? 3 people have died in terrorist attacks in Canada. If the Canadian government was so concerned about the lives of people living in Canada it would not continue to refuse an inquiry into the over 1200 missing and murdered indigenous women in Canada. If the Canadian government was so concerned about the lives of people in Canada there would be no ongoing crisis of veteran suicides.
Yet all they can produce for us is a fear campaign and a terrible new “anti-terrorism bill”.
Would Oversight Really Solve Everything?
Much of the criticism of Bill C-51, especially by the NDP and Liberal Party, has focused on the lack of oversight within the bill. True enough, there is no structure of oversight. However, even if there was oversight, would that still justify the attack on our democractic and human rights?
Both critics and supporters of Bill C-51 have called on the government to create civilian oversight for Canada’s spies. Canada is the only member of the “Five Eyes” security partnership — including the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand — without such an oversight body. However, have those oversight bodies stopped any of those countries, especially the United States, from consistent and blatant disregard of human and democratic rights? Even a brief search into what Edward Snowden, a former administrator for the CIA and National Security Agency (NSA) in the United States, leaked to the public is proof that the existence of “oversight” bodies does not actually equal the safeguarding of human rights.
Bill C-51: Legalizing State Terrorism
Is is not widely known that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) was actually created in 1984 an attempt to appease the public outcry when details came to light that the RCMP had been and engaged for over in a systematic campaign of dirty tricks consisting of break-ins, arson and theft targeted at left-leaning press and political parties during the 1970's. Vancouver journalist John Sawatsky, who exposed many of these activities, wrote that, “Illegal activity was accepted with enthusiasm since it was exciting, was good for one's career and contributed to the fight against communism.” This led to the disbandment of the RCMP's Security Service and finally the creation of CSIS as an independent organization with powers only of investigation and without enforcement.
Now “Communism” has been replaced by “Terrorism” as the new bogey-man to justify any and all manner of human rights violations, and under Bill C-51 CSIS would receive the explicit direction to “disrupt” organizations and individuals. This would be sanction for state terrorism, and if the RCMP acted with such massive disregard for human rights even without a specific mandate in the 1970's, imagine what CSIS will be capable of in 2015 if it receives one!
Rolling Back 800 Years of Rights
This year will see celebrations marking the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta, an agreement King John of England was forced to sign recognize certain rights on June 15, 1215. It became the foundation of Western understanding of law and liberties, especially with provisions such as:
“No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgment of his equals or by the law of the land.”
“To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice.”
Bill C-51 authorizes these violations specifically! Not content to go back to the 1970's, Stephen Harper proposes we now go beyond 1215 in our understanding of liberties and rights.
Don't Stop Now!
“To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity.” - Nelson Mandela
We should not disregard the fact that the Conservative government of Prime Minister Harper are now proposing amendments to Bill C-51. If the public outcry didn't exist, they would feel no obligations whatsoever to do this. Importantly, this growing opposition to Bill C-51 has not been led by major political parties. The Liberal Party has already said it will support Bill C-51. It took the NDP almost one month, after very other progressive and non-progressive organization had already out against it, before they finally decided they would oppose the bill. Both parties are now focusing on proposing amendments.
The question is: Why would we accept amendments on our human rights? Human rights are non negotiable, and Bill C-51 seeks to drown them in the in the dark pool of fear and hysteria. Bill C-51 cannot be amended, only defeated. Defending our rights now is challenging, but ultimately much easier than trying to win them back if we have lost them. The exciting unity of so many diverse organizations and individuals must grow and continue to educate, organize and mobilize to demand, “Scrap Bill C-51!”
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