The Harper government easily passed C-51 with the support of the Liberals. When first introduced, the bill was supported by over 80% of the public. Before the vote two thirds of Canadians thought C-51 was bad legislation which would seriously jeopardize the rights and the freedoms of Canadians while promising little improvement to public safety.
Canada’s privacy commissioner, ex-CSIS officials, former prime ministers and Edward Snowdon have all raised alarm about the bill’s impact on Canadian’s freedom and privacy. This kind of law basically does away with all privacy giving the government agency the right to snoop and gather data on all of us.
The Civil Liberties Association of BC has summarized the major concerns that Canadians should be made aware of in C-51, The Anti Terror Act:
1. Bill C-51 drastically expands the definition of security. The new expanded definition of security could have you arrested for being at a public demonstration which the government sees as a threat to national security.
2. It gives the government too much discretion to pick and choose which individuals and groups to target for further scrutiny. So if your group is protesting the government’s wasteful spending, does this make the group a security threat.
3. It criminalizes speech acts that have no connection to acts of violence. The bill creates a new offence called “advocating or promoting terrorism.” Anyone could report overhearing your conversation and infer that you were supporting terrorism and be charged. Pretty dangerous.
4. It would severely chill freedom of expression. Canadians will be afraid to express their opinions for fear of being recorded and falsely charged.
5. Canada’s no-fly list would become a secret list compiled with secret evidence, only reviewable through court proceedings that may also be secret.
6. It will allow government institutions like Health Canada and the Canada Revenue Agency to share information about you with the RCMP.
7. Canada already has a troubling regime of preventative arrest and detention (Liberal Anti Terrorism Act C-36, 2001). Bill C-51 proposes to make it even worst .
8. It would give CSIS the power to act like a police force, while still allowing it to operate as secretly as an intelligence gathering service. Under the current security legislation, CSIS is not allowed to operate as a police force. The last thing we need in our democracy is a secret police force. This would mark the end of our liberty.
This whole exercise in my opinion is about Harper playing the fear card using terror and division as a way to stay in power. Free speech is the first pillar of freedom and liberty. Harper’s anti terror bill C-51 does nothing more than spread terror on Canadians. Tens of thousands have protested against C-51 to no avail. All freedom loving Canadians need to express their views to their Member of Parliament.
Inky Mark is a former member of the House of Commons of Canada, representing the Manitoba riding of Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette. Follow Inky Mark on twitter: @inky_mark