To get right into it, the fact that Bill C-51 was passed in Senate disgusts me. It is invasive, manipulative and creates all too much opportunity for government agencies to abuse and disregard the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Back in January of this year, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced his ‘anti-terrorism’ legislation proposal with Bill C-51, with the first reading being done on Jan. 30th. On June 9th, that bill was passed in Senate (44 votes in favour, 28 against) and is currently awaiting royal assent from Governor General David Johnston.
The broad and circumventive wording of this bill is alarming. It was the most recent addition to a number of bills affecting privacy and security guidelines in Canada, alongside Bill C-13 (immunity from lawsuits to companies that voluntarily offer information to government) and Bill S-4 (allows companies to voluntarily share information with each other).
The effects of this bill are broad and will change the information sharing standards across Canada. It grants government agencies the ability to more easily share individuals’ information and by amending over a dozen existing laws in the Canadian Criminal Code.
The Conservative government introduced this legislation under the explanation that this bill will help keep Canadians safe under threat of terrorism. However, the wording of the bill also changes the current standard of agencies being able to arrest someone on the grounds that an act of terrorism ‘will be carried out’ to ‘may be carried out.’
I get the idea that it’s supposed to be proactive, but in order to do this, the government will receive the powers to bypass the fundamental freedoms of, ”Thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication.”
As a reporter, a writer and a reader I am curious to see when all of this censorship will trickle into media. I’m annoyed because people already have a hard time trusting newspapers and news outlets so this is going to add even more of a challenge if people begin to be censored on content published online or in print.
Freedom of association is also threatened because if at some point in your life, you associate with someone eventually tied to a terrorist act, your information can be dragged up and shared on the grounds that you yourself may also be a terrorist.
I don’t appreciate the broad definition of terrorism to such as extent that protestors or outspoken online dissent could lead to a charge or label of terror. Also, if people could stop throwing the word ‘terrorist’ around every opportunity, it’d help prevent fear-mongering tactics like those that pushed this bill towards Senate.
Is it sounding extreme enough yet?
Government agencies will follow more closely the personal lives of citizens through information sharing, slack privacy standards and extending the powers of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) – which is reviewed periodically and by the (severely underfunded) Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC).
Really the only part of this bill I find acceptable is the ability for agencies to monitor youth who are posting radicalized statuses, photos or other media on the Internet. I think it’s a great way to prevent a tragedy among a population that is easily susceptible to influence.
Generally, the bill is an unnecessary scare tactic that Harper and his team created to bring more power to their already over-privileged government. I am appalled and surprised that Justin Trudeau hopped on board after proclaiming the bill needed to be re-written.
I am upset that the Government of Canada, where people are supposed to be free and expressive, has turned towards such extremes that in all reality aren’t needed.
The proposed legislation creates even more of a power imbalance and should alarm people. It should be pulled as an option and thoroughly re-written to address the vague umbrella captioning. Better yet, it should be scrapped along with Harper’s regime.