The Stand Up for the North Committee all candidates forum tomorrow evening at CNC will focus on Bill C-51 … the Conservatives’ controversial anti-terrorism bill.
It should be a lively debate, although it would be nice to have someone there to defend the bill, Conservative candidate Todd Doherty won’t be in attendance however the Liberals did vote for it so perhaps Tracy Calogheros can defend it. The NDP have said they will scrap it and independent Sheldon Clare, in his role as president of the National Firearms Association, has also opposed it.
In my mind, this should be one of the main election issues but, sadly, it’s barely a blip on the national radar. Here’s a column I did for the Free Press in the spring, when the bill was first introduced.
If you are wondering why the media hate this bill (even Conservatives have some concerns), it’s because history has shown that when police states emerge, the media is first to come under attack.
No one is suggesting that Prime Minister Stephen Harper is going to start rolling out death squads, but provisions in the new anti-terrorism bill will certainly make it easier for government to keep tabs on what you are doing and it will make it easier for the authorities to put you in jail.
Wording of the bill is, likely intentionally, vague and open to interpretation, which is not what legislation should be.
It gives the CSIS powers to take “measured” action to “reduce threats.” However, they aren’t defined. CSIS will, however, have the power to detain citizens, which it didn’t have before.
The bill gives government agencies the ability to share your personal information without your OK.
There is a wonderful graphic going around on the Internet showing the number of Canadians killed by terrorism in the last 40 years or so and the number of indigenous women killed. It’s not hard to guess which number is astronomically larger than the other. And yes, Harper summarily dismissed the larger number and is ready to rip up the Charter of Rights and Freedoms for the other one.
It’s the politics of fear, pure and simple. And it’s dangerous.
As Josh Paterson of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association stressed at the Stand up for the North Committee meeting (in the spring), the Conservatives have yet to explain how any of the provisions in Bill C-51 will make anyone safer. And, they’ve asked.
No one is debating the fact that terrorism is becoming more of an issue, here and abroad and that we have to deal with it. However, becoming a police state isn’t the answer. Eliminating our rights and freedoms in the name of protecting them is astoundingly Orwellian.
Paterson had a good comment that when our way of life and our values come under attack, the first thing the government should do is strive to protect our freedoms, not eliminate them.
There was a good question at the meeting about people saying that because they’re not doing anything wrong, why should they be worried?
I was reminded of the famous poem penned by Pastor Martin Niemoller:
“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out –
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out –
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out –
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.”