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      The Battle Against Bill C-51 Is Not Over!

      By Thomas Davies

      “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” - Martin Luther King Jr.

      On June 18, 2015 the widely controversial and even more widely hated Bill C-51 officially became a law in Canada. Bill C-51 became a law even though it was clear to everyone that the majority of people in Canada, as well as a broad front of major legal, human rights, civil liberties, labour and media organizations, opposed the Bill.

      They opposed it for the obvious reason that it is a massive and unnecessary attack on our democratic rights, human rights and civil liberties. People in Canada have become all too familiar with the government ramming new laws down our throats, but Bill C-51 became the last straw for many, and grassroots organizations and coalitions grew all over Canada. Now that the Bill is passed it is more important than ever that we continue to organize against it, to show to the government that Bill C-51 will not be successful in its main objective of silencing our voices or stopping us from coming together to defend our rights. Our demand must now be, “Repeal Bill C-51!!”

      You Cannot Justify Injustice

      There are seemingly unending reasons to oppose Bill C-51, and the massive body of writings created in opposition to Bill C-51 is an important demonstration of the broad and engaged opposition. The text from the new petition created to demand a repeal of Bill C-51 by the Working Group to Oppose Bill C-51 in Vancouver offers a good summary of some of the most important points:

      “Bill C-51 drastically attacks the rights, freedoms, liberties and privacy of all Canadians.

      It dangerously increases the police powers of Canadian Security Intelligence Services (CSIS) and RCMP, including the power, with a warrant from a judge, to violate in secret the constitutional and legal rights of any citizen or resident “suspected” of “terrorism,” an overly- broad ill-defined notion.

      All serious legal and academic opinion in Canada including the Canadian Bar Association, Civil Liberty Associations, Amnesty International, all provincial privacy commissioners and international legal opinion condemns C-51 as a breach of rights, freedoms, liberties and privacy in Canada.

      The argument that a ‘balance’ is needed between ‘rights’ and ‘security’ is false; the security of Canadians can only be defended when the political, social, legal and economic rights of all Canadians are guaranteed.”

      The Need to Continue

      Despite the desired “chill” on dissent intended by Bill C-51, the summer months have seen groups continue to educate, organize and mobilize against the new law. In Vancouver, the Working Group to Oppose Bill C-51 has continued to organize its consecutive weekly picket actions against Bill C-51 in busy transit hubs across the city and the surrounding areas, with next week being the 20 th picket in 20 weeks. Anyone who participates can attest to the fact that public outcry against Bill C-51 has not diminished. People continue to ask for more information and for different ways they can oppose Bill C-51.

      Now is absolutely the most important time to continue the grassroots public campaign against Bill C-51. The Conservative government has taken advantage of the fact that despite the majority of people in Canada opposing policies like Bill C-51, they have not yet become active and engaged to oppose them. The campaign against Bill C-51 has so far been a major step forward for getting people active and engaged in defending their rights - in coming to rallies, in talking to their friends and families - in become active participants in a political process. History has demonstrated time and time again that this is absolutely necessary if we wish to change anything.

      Grassroots organizations cannot afford to not put the brakes on and simply hope for the best in the upcoming Federal Elections. If it was that easy we would not be in this position! The elections are tentatively slated for October 19, 2015 – over four months away. A lot can change and lot can happen in four months, and it is possible that all of the hard won organization and momentum we have built so far could be lost if we don’t continue to move forward. There must continue to be an independent political movement against Bill C-51 that continues to build on the successes so far. The basis for this is confirmed every time we organize a public action against Bill C-51.

      Broader Fight

      This grassroots organizing becomes so much more necessary when we realize that Bill C-51 is not the only dreadful law recently passed in our broken and corrupt political system. The Canadian government is preparing itself for a massive attack on the rights of poor and working people, and Bill C-51 is only the tip of the iceberg. If we don’t prepare ourselves and organize to defend our rights the loses will be tremendous.

      On May 29 of this year, Bill C-24 became law. The Conservative government tried to justify its creation as part of the same fight against “jihadi terrorism” as Bill C-51, but in reality it is just another attack on the most attacked and most vulnerable in Canada. Bill C-24 gives the government the power to revoke the citizenship of anybody with dual citizenship (or even just the possibility of obtaining it). As the Globe and Mail national newspaper wrote in their recent editorial condemning Bill C-24, “The consequences are disturbing and unfair for Canada’s 863,000 dual nationals...There is an ugly, xenophobic side to this law...” At minimum Bill C-24 is intended to scare immigrants and refugees into silence, but it also opens once again the door to the deportations of protesters, activists and social justice organizers which were a common practise of the Canadian government during the early years of union organizing in Canada, especially during World War I.

      Also, just before taking their summer break, the government rammed through the anti-union Bill C- 377. Conservative Party Senators used their majority to overrule their appointed Senate Speaker, Leo Houskas, who had attempted to rule their motion to cut debate and force a final vote on the Bill out of order. Like Bill C-51, the government has failed to provide any real argument for why they want to force unions specifically to open their financial records to the public , especially because unions are already subject to federal, provincial and territorial regulations regarding their finances. As summarized by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, “It’s highly discriminatory. Bill C-377 specifically targets labour organizations for highly detailed reporting and disclosure on a public website. No other organization in Canada -- public, private or crown corporations, non-profit organizations, charities, political parties, even fully-publicly funded government departments, ministers, members of parliament or senators -- are required to report and publicly disclose details of their internal finances and affairs to anywhere the same degree unions will have to under Bill C-377."

      It’s another example of a deliberate antagonistic attack on labour unions, which have traditionally been a part of leading the organizing efforts for the major victories of poor and working people in Canada, and continue to exist as an important force which stands in the way of a complete assault on our living conditions by the government of Canada and its big business allies.

      Moving Forward

      As we discussed in the last issue of Fire This Time, the battle against Bill C-51 is part of a broader historical effort by poor and working people to defend and extend our rights in the face of constant attacks. Regardless of any election outcome, this fight must continue. We must acknowledge the very real threat to our rights and livelihoods if we allow the government to force us down their current path. They wouldn’t be attacking our rights if they weren’t afraid of what happens when we use them. So let’s make use of them! Let’s continue organizing and coming together, to oppose Bill C-51, as well as any attack on anybody’s rights!

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