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      Bill C-51 One Year Later:
      Justin Trudeau, Don't Kill Time, Kill Bill C-51!

      By Thomas Davies

      June 18, 2016 will mark one year since the status of human and democratic rights in Canada took a dramatic turn for the worse. On that day the infamous “Police State” Bill C-51 officially became law. Since Justin Trudeau and the Liberals voted in favour of the Bill, have now held a majority government for more than half of its existence, and have been issuing directives to the police, secret police and government agencies on how to implement its broad powers – the dubious ownership of Bill C-51 now belongs just as much to them as it does to Stephen Harper and the Conservatives.

      Government agencies, the RCMP and CSIS have all admitted to using Bill C-51’s new powers on an ongoing basis, but have refused to explain how they are using them. Under Bill C-51, they don’t have to. The Liberal government’s directives to them on how to implement Bill C-51 have also been kept a secret.

      Dangerous Period

      As the days, months, and now a year goes by there is a real danger that we become used to this situation. That we become used to 17 different government agencies sharing our personal and private information amongst themselves, used to spy agencies having undefined powers of “disruption” and the RCMP using powers of arbitrary detention, used to Federal Judges secretly pre-authorizing violations of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom or lawbreaking, used to language of so-called “Anti-Terrorism” legislation so vague it means that anyone even voicing an opinion in contradiction to the governments could be targeted. This is no exaggeration, and this isn’t even a complete list of the injustices of Bill C-51 which have all been outlined by organizations like the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA), the Canadian Bar Association, the United Nations Working Group on Human Rights, among many others.

      These are violations of our basic human rights that no one should get used to.

      Another danger is that we become fooled that possible alterations to Bill C-51 currently being discussed by the Liberals will change its nature as an unsafe, unnecessary law which violates our basic human rights. Minister of Public Safety Ralph Goodale said recently in an interview with CBC that he “hopes” that a national security review committee is created before parliament adjourns for the summer in four weeks, that the government will be “consulting” with people in Canada during the summer, and that they will be proposing amendments to Bill C-51 in the next parliamentary session. It is significant that they feel pressured to present these changes, but Bill C-51 should have never existed in the first place.

      Creation of Bill C-51

      It is helpful to look back at the origins of Bill C-51 to help remember why repealing it is so necessary.

      In October of 2014 there was both an attack on Parliament Hill in Ottawa which left one Canadian soldier and the shooter, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau dead. Two days before, on October 20, Martin Couture- Rouleau deliberately rammed a car into a pair of Canadian Armed Forces soldiers in Quebec. Both died. Zehaf-Bibeau and Couture-Rouleau were both recent converts to Islam and both were also in obvious need of psychological assistance.

      The Conservatives and Stephen Harper wasted no time in taking advantage of the crisis, pushing forward new “anti-terrorism” legislation which granted CSIS more power for spying on Internet use inside and outside of Canada and protecting the anonymity of its informants. They also also announced that Canada’s national security strategy was no longer sufficient and they were quickly moving forward with further anti-terrorism legislation.

      In a country where laws or amendments often take years to create and to pass, Bill C-51 was rushed into and through parliament a few months later. In announcing the new legislation at a campaign style rally Stephen Harper said, “Violent jihadism is not just a danger somewhere else...It seeks to harm us here in Canada — in our cities and in our neighbourhoods, through horrific acts... We are targeted by these terrorists for no other reason than that we are Canadians. They want to harm us because they hate our society and the values it represents.”

      With months to go before calling a Federal Election, the Conservatives saw what they thought was a perfect opportunity to capitalize on the fear created by the two terrorist attacks to advance legislation severely limiting the right to dissent in Canada, as well as putting their party in what they hoped would be a strong position going into the election.

      Unfortunately for them, it backfired. After some initial confusion protests sprung up all around Canada as every major legal, civil rights, human rights and press organization denounced the Bill. In February 2015, an Angus Reid poll had found that support for the bill was at 82 per cent. By early March according to Forum Research it was down to 45 per cent, and at the end of March it plummeted to 33 per cent. Importantly, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association revealed, “Although we asked the government repeatedly, not once did we receive specifics on how any part of C-51 could have prevented the attacks of 2014, or on why pre-existing legislation was insufficient to protect us.” There were already 14 “anti-terror” provisions in the Canadian Criminal code before C-51.

      Oversight, Amendments, Consultation – Aren’t These a Step Forward?

      We have detailed at length in the pages of Fire This Time the specific limitations and failures of each of the proposed Liberal initiatives in regards to Bill C-51. How the experience of countries like the US and UK demonstrate that a parliamentary oversight committee guarantees nothing, how potential Liberal amendments would still leave in place huge human rights violations and how the public consultation has yet to be defined and will surely have nothing in place obligating the government to follow through with anything they have heard. The list goes on.

      But the most important thing to focus on is: Why do we need to discuss these things in the first place? The government on Canada, under both the Conservatives and the Liberals, has yet to make a real case for why Bill C-51 needs to exist. The CCLA outlined how the Conservatives failed and/ or refused to explain how Bill C-51 makes anyone anywhere any safer. The Liberals have also refused to try and convince people of the public safety necessity of Bill C-51.

      So what’s the basis for taking away our rights?

      We can’t forget that the Conservatives also made some amendments to Bill C-51 to try and confuse and derail the movement against it. The move failed because people understood that the 62 page law had nothing to do with national security and public safety and everything to do with political opportunism and silencing dissent. The Liberals have not done any better. These initiatives are all like someone trying to sell you a broken-down house by promising to put on a nice looking coat of paint and do some yardwork. It doesn’t change the fact that the foundation is rotten and unlivable.

      What’s a Life Without Human Rights?

      On May 24, a Federal Court judge found the Canadian government’s designation of Mahmoud Jaballah as a threat to national security unreasonable, and ordered that the security certificate against him should be removed. This is the third time a court has ruled in his favour. For 16 years Mr. Jaballah has been alternately imprisoned in maximum-security settings, put in solitary confinement, put under house arrest, spied on and separated from his family. Under “security certificates”, the Canadian government can detain and deport permanent residents or foreign nationals considered to be a security threat using secret evidence that the accused is not allowed to see. Four other Muslim men known as “the Secret Trial 5” have all undergone the same horror as well None have been convicted of any terrorism- related charges. All were detained under Liberal governments and their conditions were continued under Conservative ones.

      Sixteen years of intense injustice in the name of “national security”. There is no apology that will give Mr. Jaballah those years back, that can compensate for the time without family and freedoms. Under Bill C-51’s massive new scope how many more stories of injustice and rights violations will we hear about years after its too late. How many will we not hear about because they were blanketed in secrecy?

      The Way Forward

      It’s possible that the Liberals will continue to delay and side-step the issue of Bill C-51. It looks more likely that they will feel obligated to move on their promises in an attempt to slow down opposition. Either way, our job remains the same: Continue to take public action demanding the immediate repeal of Bill C-51, and continuing to explain to people why anything less would be a travesty against our human rights. The Working Group to Stop Bill C-51 has organized 65 consecutive weekly actions in Vancouver against Bill C-51, and will continue to organize until the law is scrapped in its entirety. Groups and individuals around Canada know that we have huge public backing against Bill C-51 and must continue to organize to, “REPEAL BILL C-51 NOW

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