TORONTO, Feb. 22, 2017 /CNW/ – On February 25, 2017 Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) will join a coalition of civil society, media and labour organizations in five locations across the country. These groups will be participating in creative, peaceful public vigils to reinforce their concern about national security policy, surveillance and freedom of the press.
Canadians rallied in the thousands when the Anti-Terrorism Act, 2015 (formerly Bill C-51) was introduced. The controversy surrounding the national security legislation became a touchstone during the 2015 federal election campaign.
The Toronto vigil is being organized directly by CJFE, which works to defend and protect the right to free expression in Canada and around the world. Organizers have called the vigil for 2pm EST on February 25 in Trinity-Bellwoods Park.
In addition to the controversy surrounding Bill C-51, CJFE learned in fall 2016 about police surveillance of journalists in Quebec. The organization has also been working to support VICE journalist Ben Makuch who is appealing a court ruling which would force him to disclose confidential details of his source records to the RCMP.
“Whether it is police spying on journalists, using the courts trying to compel journalists to give up source information or using laws like Bill C-51 to chill dissent, our position is that the government simply must do more to defend free expression and protect press freedom.” said CJFE executive director Tom Henheffer.
Two years after C-51 was first introduced in the house, the Trudeau government has promised reforms through a wide-ranging consultation process.
Henheffer continued, “It is more important now than ever before to let the government know we are prepared to hold them to account for promises they made to reform Canada’s national security system.”
Organizers are making three specific requests of the Government:
1) End mass surveillance and protect the private data of people and groups in Canada, including Indigenous communities, Muslims, journalists, environmentalists, labour organizers and academics while creating and empowering independent watchdog agencies for privacy and national security.
2) Support the Private Member’s Bill C-303 which would implement a line-by-line repeal of the provisions enacted by the Anti Terrorism Act, 2015 (formerly Bill C-51).
3) Support Private Member’s Bill S-231 which would create a press shield law and strengthen protection for advocates, whistleblowers and journalists.
Groups are gathering in Toronto, London, Ottawa, Montreal, and Vancouver to underscore that the public is watching Trudeau’s actions on press freedom, C-51 and mass surveillance of Canadians.