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      Repeal Bill C-51!
      Islamophobia, Our Human Rights, and Why Trudeau is Part of the Problem

      Talk given by Thomas Davies on January 30, 2016 at 100th Weekly Action forum at the Vancouver Public Library

      So Bill C-51 has been a law in Canada for over a year. It was called the “Anti Terrorism Act 2015” and was justified as a necessary to protect people in Canada against terrorism. It was a huge bill that involved changing the criminal code, the roles of the spy agencies and police forces, relations between government agencies among many other changes. Basically though, the government is writing itself a big blank cheque to do whatever they want in the name of “national security”. The most blatant examples is that under Bill C-51, CSIS, Canada's Spy agency, is able to apply to pre-authorise violating the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. To pre-authorize breaking any law in Canada. As long as they are not violating your sexual integrity or killing you, everything else is fair game. All they need to do is apply to one judge in a secret tribunal.

      The case that Stephen Harper made when introducing this Bill was completely based in Islamophobia. Complete overblown paranoid hype about the so-called war on terrorism. He was talking about “terrorist tentacles” reaching out onto Canada. He was talking about people who supposedly detest our freedoms and “plurality”. That was what was used to justify Bill C-51. This Islamophobia. This division. This fear. We are seeing the consequences of that today. We saw that consequences of this yesterday in Quebec with the six people that were killed while praying in the mosque.

      So Justin Trudeau can say whatever he wants. He can issue whatever kind of glowing tweet he wants about the rights of immigrants and refugees, but as long as he continues to support and uphold Bill C-51 he's part of the same problem – of division, of disruption and Islamophobia which is creating these conditions of fear. If you read about what the Liberal government has written about why they've kept Bill C-51, it's very difficult to find any difference between what they and the Conservatives are saying.

      So the question is, why do they keep it? If human rights organizations say Bill C-51 violates human rights, and Justin Trudeau says he defends human rights, why does he keep it? If legal organizations say it's a total legal black hole, and Justin Trudeau says he supports the rule of law, then why does he keep it?

      I think Bill C-51 has always been a lot more about creating a climate of fear and creating space for the government to target opposition than it was ever about security. We saw that play out so blatantly yesterday, where they were unable to stop the shooter who was a supporter of Trump, of white nationalism – all of these things which have been fomented in Canada and the United States.

      What they've used as the thin edge of the wedge to attack our rights is this Islamophobia and racism. They start with a vulnerable community. The campaign of Islamophobia has been so strong to justify their wars abroad, and it's been the same thing at home as well. So if we are able to rationalize or accept that young Muslim men in Canada have been detained on “security certificates” for years on end, indefinitely, without ever being able to see the evidence against them. If we can accept that, accept that one group of people can have their rights taken away, that's one step towards everybody else’s rights being taken away.

      That's why Islamophobia is so dangerous. And that's why Bill C-51 is so dangerous. Because it really is the thin edge of the wedge.

      Does anybody here think that their healthcare got better in the last 10 years? Education? Social services? Is there anything that has gotten any better in Canada in the last 10 years? Maybe now they have more sophisticated weapons, more sophisticated bombs and ways to kill people. The government of Canada knows that the majority of people are not benefiting from their policies and the way that they are conducting business. And they know that when people get angry they have a tendency to organize. So they need to be prepared for when people are organizing even more.

      This is nothing new. This use of racism to justify attacks has happened every single time Canada has gone to war. In World War I it was the Ukrainians, Austrians and Germans. They started targetting them, and then moved very quickly to trade union organizers. In World War II – thousands of Japanese-Canadians were forced into internment camps. As soon as they had done that, they moved on to anti-war organizers and labour union organizers.

      We have seen in the United States how governments are willing to go against our rights, but also how large and encouraging the fightback has been. There is still a lot of organizing that needs to happen, but people haven't just let Trump do whatever he is trying to do.

      Bill C-51 is important because we need it for every single social justice struggle that we need to engage in in the coming years. There are a lot of them, and we need to be active in a lot of different ways but if we don't have the space to be active we can't do it.

      The exciting thing is, and I repeat it to myself and whenever I have the chance to talk, that they wouldn't be attacking our rights to organize if they weren't afraid of what was possible if we used them – if they didn't feel threatened by that. Because they know that the majority of people do not benefit from what the government is doing today and the majority of people in Canada would benefit from some big changes.

      This is an opportunity. Bill C-51 attacks so many different people in so many different ways. We are all under attack so we all have an interest to join the struggle, and that's why I think that we've been able to organize for 100 consecutive weeks. And like I said, every single week we find meaning in the work we are doing, in the interactions that we are having, the education, organization, and mobilization.

      Recently someone wrote, “Remember sitting in History thinking 'If I was alive then, I would've...' Well, you're alive now. Whatever you are doing is whatever you would have done.” I think it's a good lesson. We live in important, dangerous, dynamic and crucial times. So it's really important that we play an active role in these times. That poor and working people realize their power in coming together and fighting against the politics of division and fear and repealing Bill C-51 and defending all of our democratic and human rights.

      REPEAL BILL C-51!

      Follow Thomas on Twitter:@thomasdavies59

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