Protests against Bill C-51 ramp up across Canada
Protesters gathered in cities across Canada on Saturday to rally against the government's proposed anti-terror legislation, just days before the bill could face a final vote in the House of Commons.
Rallies against Bill C-51, which seeks to expand the powers of police and spy agencies, took place in many cities including Halifax, Ottawa, Windsor, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver and Victoria.
The controversial legislation was introduced by the Conservative government in January, and is now headed for its third and final reading before the House when Parliament resumes next week.
Krista Simon, who attended a rally in Halifax, told CTV Atlantic that Bill C-51 is "draconian" and infringes upon Canadians' privacy.
She added that the bill will also be used to crack down on dissent, by using terrorism as an umbrella term to cover the actions of activists and aboriginal groups.
Lorena Sheply, an organizer for Idle No More, echoed Simon's statements, saying that Bill C-51 will also be used to target environmental groups.
"Anybody who is interfering with the economic infrastructure of Canada -- meaning tar sands pipelines and fracking -- if you're involved protesting or demonstrating those things you can be labelled as a terrorist," Sheply said.
Sheply said that the Conservative government is using "fear tactics" to push the legislation through parliament.
In Winnipeg, protesters gathered outside city hall. Some carried Canadian flags and held up signs that read "No C-51."
Riel Willmott, a member of “Winnipeggers against C-51,” said that one of the most "alarming" issues with the bill is that it lacks oversight and provides unlimited, unchecked power to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.
"They will be able to look at everybody's information all of the time – it won't just be people they suspect of terrorism," Willmott told CTV Winnipeg.
Despite the outcry, the Conservative government insists that the anti-terror legislation arms law enforcement with the necessary tools to disrupt terror plots before they take place.
Bill C-51 would give CSIS the ability to expand no-fly list powers, allow police to have greater control in limiting the movement of a suspect and increase the amount of time they can be kept in preventative detention. It would also allow for increased intelligence sharing between law enforcement agencies.
The NDP and the Green Party oppose the anti-terror legislation, while Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau has said that his party will support it despite some reservations.
At demonstrations in Montreal last Month, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair said the party will be unwavering in their opposition to the bill, which he said "compromises" the rights and freedoms of Canadians.
He added that the bill's scope is "too wide" and that existing legislation is already adequate.
The NDP and the Liberals have put forward numerous amendments, but the Conservatives have voted them down.
Sofija Lazovic, an organizer of the rally in Victoria, B.C., said that she hoped the actions of protesters on Saturday could help sway Trudeau to change his stance and oppose the bill.
"We want them to oppose the bill, to scrap the amendments and to scrap the bill entirely because none of the amendments are nearly enough," Lazovic told CTV Vancouver Island.
The Conservatives have instituted a handful of changes to address some concerns surrounding Bill C-51, including:
- Removing the word "lawful" from a section of the bill that deals with protests. The goal is to ease fears that peaceful protesters engaged in civil disobedience could be targeted.
- Clarifying that CSIS officers will not gain the power to make arrests.
- Setting limits on inter-agency information sharing.
- Eliminating a clause that would have granted the public safety minister the ability to direct airlines to do "anything" that the minister considered "reasonably necessary" to prevent a terror act.