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To protest against Bill C-51, at least 55 actions have been organized and here’s why

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As of Friday morning, there are 55 actions scheduled across Canada to stand up against Bill C-51. You can find the list of events by city here

I believe that even simply looking at the number of planned rallies discloses how important of an issue this is to Canadians.

With such a waif definition of terrorism, I fear this will put a chill on activism, especially organizing. We have already seen this effect in a different context, before-during-after the G20 when the police state targeted GTA organizers.

Numerous experts have pointed out that Bill C-51 will create a secret police force with little oversight or accountability; facilitate government spying and information sharing on innocent Canadians and allow for a variety of violations of our Charter Rights. 

Bill C-51 is one of multiple bills in recent months that will affect the security and privacy of ordinary Canadians – who are speaking out in a Not In My Name campaign – and especially those who are politically and socially marginalized, of Indigenous descent and who are involved in activism.

It will amend over a dozen Canadian laws and is the first comprehensive reform of this kind since 2001.

Regarding dates and timelines, not only were the 9/11 attacks influential drafting and passing security laws in Canada, but these more recent dates are also important:

On October 20, 2014, Martin Couture-Rouleau, deliberately rammed a car into a pair of Canadian Armed Forces soldiers in a shopping centre parking lot in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec. The attack was linked to terrorism by government and police officials including in a statement by Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

On October 22, 2014, a series of shootings occurred on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, conducted by Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, which left one Canadian soldier and one male suspect dead.

Jason Kenney, the Minister of Defense said, “I think it's obvious that the attacks in October were at least inspired by the insane vision of ISIL ... a genocidal terrorist organization that has explicitly, and on several occasions, said that it's targeting Canada"

This latest attempt by the Harper government to combat the threat of terrorism would mean that up to seventeen different government agencies (and in some cases, foreign governments) would have access to people’s private information, including but not limited to their financial status, medical history and religious and political beliefs.

It would also give super powers to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) to spy on Canadians and foreign nationals in this country while providing the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) with new powers of preventative arrest.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for criminalizing the promotion of terrorism, but it really depends on how we define terrorism: I do not believe that an online petition fighting climate change or attending a rally against the tar sands qualifies as terrorism, but with this new bill, we don’t know how far the government will stretch that definition.

I don’t think that being an Indigenous Rights and Environmental Justice activism is akin to "undermine(ing) the security of Canada." According to Harper, things that could undermine the security of Canada as a nation-state include disrupting "critical infrastructure," by demonstrating against tar sands pipelines like Line 9.

While the bill is being framed to combat these scary, international and domestic terrorist threats, it seems the nuanced language is, according to William Ray in Global Research, “stifle social, environmental and Indigenous justice movements in Canada”.

He writes, “.The Conservatives are counting on Canadians ignorance of the fact that if you attend a rally to save your local forest you have likely observed, identified and added to the list of multi-issue extremists.”

Activism Amelia Meister comments, “If the government continues to criminalize environmental protection and defence, what kind of world will we live in? If all the people who care about clean water, non-polluted soils and climate change are arrested, what kind of world do we leave for our children and grandchildren? The answer is an irreversibly ruined global ecosystem. That is a very scary prospect”.

I am also concerned because the RCMP and the government are creating a media stereotype of anti-pipeline activists as being dangerous and violent. However, most people who engage in anti-pipeline and climate change activism are like me, contributing members of society who want to see a better, cleaner world,” she said.  

OpenMedia released a media advisory speaking as the voice of Canadians stated, “The Conservative government is trying to push through the proposed legislation, a law that would infringe on Canadians' civil liberties. While concerns with Bill C-51 are diverse, supporting organizations agree that the bill is reckless, dangerous and ineffective.”

"As Canada's leading digital rights organization and coordinator of the nationwide Protect Our Privacy coalition, we are happy to support these events based on our privacy and accountability concerns," said Steve Anderson, OpenMedia.ca's Executive Director. 

For more information on the campaign, visit the Open Media site here.

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