Anti-terrorist Bill C-51 is so far-reaching that it could be used to stifle labour unrest, strikes, and other forms of civil protests, Canadian Labour Congress President Hassan Yussuff told the committee hearings on Bill C-51.
Yussuff spoke about how the bill opens up the definition of a national security threat to include "interference" with "critical infrastructure" and "the economic or financial stability of Canada." C-51 could be use to muzzle labour, Indigenous rights, and environmental activist groups.
"C-51 means work stoppages and rallies that are peaceful but deemed unlawful could be seen as 'national security threats," tweeted the CLC during Yussuff's presentation.
"This bill is reckless. Its implementation will undermine the very freedom the government claims it wants to protect. We stand with many Canadians who have concluded that the bill is more about posturing ahead of an election than it is about protecting our public safety," said Yussuff.
Several other witnesses, including representatives from the Canadian Bar Association, joined Yussuff in condemning the bill for not striking a proper balance between national security and citizens' rights.
Chair of the Criminal Justice Section of the Bar Association Eric Gottardi argued that several unconstitutional sections of C-51 should be deleted from the bill. Gottardi also said that the most troubling change proposed by the bill was the transformation of CSIS from an intelligence gathering agency into a law enforcement body like the RCMP.
In addition to thousands of Canadians who participated in protests against C-51, the bill has also been condemned by a number of prominent Canadians, including former Liberal and Conservative prime ministers.
C-51 has been under review by the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security since March 24. This is the second round of Parliamentary hearings held to discuss C-51.
Ella Bedard is rabble.ca's labour intern and an associate editor at GUTS Canadian Feminist Magazine. She has written about labour issues for Dominion.ca and the Halifax Media Co-op and is the co-producer of the radio documentary The Amelie: Canadian Refugee Policy and the Story of the 1987 Boat People.