David Christopher
Canadians to Trudeau: Let's talk C-51!

| December 1, 2015
Canadians to Trudeau: Let's talk C-51!

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As the dust settles on the recent federal election, the priorities of Canada's new Liberal majority government are becoming clear. Early signs are that the government intends to pursue an ambitious agenda -- there are nearly 300 items on the to-do lists Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has assigned to members of his cabinet.

Near the top of Justin Trudeau's list is, of course, tackling the mess left by the previous government when it comes to Bill C-51, the reckless spying bill that has prompted nationwide street protests and a 300,000-strong repeal campaign.

In his mandate letters to incoming Public Safety and Justice Ministers Ralph Goodale and Jody Wilson-Raybould, Trudeau made clear that C-51 is a top priority, instructing them to: "Work to repeal... the problematic elements of Bill C-51 and introduce new legislation that strengthens accountability with respect to national security and better balances collective security with rights and freedoms."

Now let's be clear about one thing: this is progress, and it would never have happened without so many everyday Canadians standing up and calling for change. It's always inspiring to see what's possible when Canadians work together.

However, given the complexity of Bill C-51 and the multitude of security and privacy issues it raises, it's clear that Canadians should be consulted before any reform package is introduced.

To date, the proposed reforms the Liberals have floated in the media leave key issues unaddressed. And the new government, while indicating it wants to keep parts of the controversial bill, has yet to identify which parts these are, let alone make a case for keeping them.

That's why a diverse range of organizations and experts recently teamed up to send Prime Minister Trudeau a joint letter, urging him to launch a full public consultation as the best way to ensure that the many problems with C-51 are effectively addressed. This letter recommends a straightforward three-step approach to consultation.

Firstly, the government should issue a position statement setting out the government's rationale for C-51, including an assessment of the impact on civil liberties and an explanation for why these are justified.

Secondly, the government should hold a national online consultation process to ensure all Canadians can have their voices heard and acted on before new legislation is tabled.

Thirdly, the government should hold a public consultation with civil society groups, academics, businesses, and other stakeholders on the basis of the government's position statement and plans to move forward.

At the time of writing, we've yet to hear back -- but there are grounds for encouragement. At his swearing-in, Prime Minister Trudeau made clear that he sees transparency, openness and accountability as being at the heart of his new government. And it's clear that C-51 is a real chance for the government to show it practices what it preaches.

It's also clear where Canadians stand -- they want a seat at the table! After months of being ignored by the previous government, there's a lot of pent-up energy out there. In just over a week, for example, over 10,000 Canadians used an OpenMedia tool to email Justin Trudeau to ask him to sit down and talk.

Readers can add their voice to this call at -- and with the government seemingly open to a fresh approach, it's never been more important to ensure your voice is heard.

David Christopher is the communications manager for OpenMedia, a community-based organization that safeguards the possibilities of the open Internet.

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