Bill C-51 - Why We Need To Speak Louder

by GEM Magazine / May 25, 2015 / Comments

If there is an illusion that can finally be shattered, it is the sweet and tender image Canada holds: Bill C-51 can finally lay to rest democratic illusion. Nowhere is this more apparent than in international politics when it comes to Canada; the country known for its “peacekeeping” and politeness.

This trope is common among political landscapes throughout the world, and it is one that propels Canada forward. Hidden behind the façade of cold winters and big grins, is the majority Conservative government who has changed the politics of the country, reversed social programs, and has made activists scramble to keep up with the atrocities taking place.

In January of 2015, the Conservative government tried, at record speed, to push the dangerous Anti-Terrorism Act, Bill C-51, through Parliament. As holders of a majority government, it took the official opposition’s incessant filibustering of the bill, hundreds of protests across the country, and two Days of Action Against Bill C-51, for the people to slow down the Parliamentary readings of the bill.

The people are still fighting for their voices to be heard, or at the very least, acknowledged.

Canada-wide, protesters have taken to the streets on two separate days of solidarity and action. And as one of the organizers for the actions against C-51, I have had the honour of seeing thousands of people in Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC (situated on traditional Lekwungen territory) standing together against the bill. Still, the government did not take the record-breaking signatories on petitions, the protests, or the unity against the bill into account when ramming it through Parliament. It passed the first, second, and third readings with absolute support from the Liberal Party.

The official opposition to the bill did not stand a chance. The people’s voices were ignored. The letters that flooded politicians’ mailboxes were sent to the incinerators and the mass protests did not bat an eyelash.

The term ‘terrorism’ has revealed the type of fight the Conservatives are waging. The world, however, did not notice. The perception is that in this sleepy country, nothing ever happens worth hashtagging internationally, or standing in solidarity with. Resistance movements against Bill C-51 were, and still are, confined to local settings.

The international community, is not used to this type of rule coming from our hushed country. It seems that the world is unaware of just how dangerous this bill is - Canada has only ever had two reported incidents of what can potentially be called 'terrorism', this bill will have the power to strip away civil liberties and fundamental human rights from the people it is supposed to protect.

The problem is that Canada already has existing provisions in place that protect against terrorism. We’ve caught “suspects” in the past and had the provisions to do so. We have the ability to use preventative detention, but to date, Canada has never done so. Now, these untouched existing powers have been dusted off, and to the dismay of an entire country, expanded in a state of no perceived threats.

On the topic of threat perception, Bill C-51 directly and purposely targets communities that post a threat to national security. This means that “terrorism in general” (the words exactly as they appear in the bill) will be applied to activist communities, Muslim communities, Aboriginal communities, and whatever other group the government wishes to target “in general”.

The people are awaiting to see how any democratic country with a dignified court of law will be able to uphold such terminology and how the government will define “in general” in court cases. Meanwhile the Canadian Bar Association has released an open letter condemning the fear-mongering legislation, calling out the Conservative government for going too far. Small businesses, professors, non-profit organizations, and activist groups have all signed on to open letters with massive reach as well.

The quiet, polite country of Canada continues to ignore its people. The silver lining in C-51 is that it has the power to shatter the illusion of Canada as a peaceful oasis located north of tumultuous America.

Here is my appeal to the international community: show your solidarity with those of us currently living in Canada and opposing the seeds of fascism that will pin us against a “common enemy” that does not exist. It aims to create secret No-Fly lists, strip away our human rights, and allow intelligence agencies to obtain secret warrants without public knowledge and with no oversight.

On May 30th, people across Canada will be standing in solidarity against Bill C-51. If the people stand a chance, and if we want Senate to listen to us, we need the world to notice too.

By sofija vrbaški

sofija is an anti-militarist, anti-fa, feminist activist and an MA candidate in Dispute Resolution at the University of Victoria, situated on traditional Lekwungen territories. She is also a head organizer for the Victoria resistance actions for C-51.

People of Victoria, join our peaceful protest -

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