With the anticipated fall federal election fast approaching, Harper is using his usual divisive politics and majority government to ram Bill C-51 through the House before the current sitting of Parliament ends in June. By ramping up public fear of impending terror attacks, he plans to muscle through the Canadian version of the Patriotic Act.
Many Canadians are raising their voices to fight back against Harper’s heavy-handed legislation. On March 14, National Day of Action rallies were held across the country with thousands of attendees rejecting the dichotomy of safety vs. freedom – because obviously we want both. Environmental organizations such as the David Suzuki Foundation and Greenpeace, Aboriginal activists, human rights lawyers and opposition MPs have all painted the bill as a dangerous infringement on human rights. Other critics have called the bill far-reaching and ineffective while providing the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) with immense new powers without appropriate oversight.
To put into perspective what this means, if Bill C-51 is passed, CSIS will be given the power to behave as if they are the RCMP while at the same secretly gathering intelligence, sort of like a secret police force. Canada already has an alarming history of preventative arrest and detention as demonstrated during the 2010 G-20 protests in Toronto where protesters were held without being charged. Bill C-51 will double the amount of time an individual can be detained without charges – meaning that innocent people can be arrested with merely the sniff of a suspicion that they may, sometime in the future, possibly commit a dangerous act. In fact, the government is already using CSIS to spy on protesters who are planning action in response to the conditionally approved Northern Gateway Pipeline project.
While the creation of a so-called secret police force is troubling enough, a keen observer would also notice an increase in anti-Muslim rhetoric by the Tories ahead of the introduction of this bill. The Prime Minister’s Office created a series of jingoistic videos entitled “Canada stands strong and free” featuring images of the Ottawa shooting overlaid with Harper speaking about the Charlie Hebdo massacre, intrinsically linking the two together. Harper has also promised to appeal a court ruling that allows Muslim women to perform the citizenship oath while wearing a niqab because, “that’s not the way we do things here.”
As Conservative MPs from across the country have been freed to express truly racist sentiment, citizens are responding by telling their government that, in fact, a big-brother-style government is “not the way we do things here.” Consider sending the Prime Minister a request for approval of your wardrobe using #DressCodePM, attending a rally or writing to your Member of Parliament to express your views on Bill C-51. If we don’t speak up now, chances are they will be soon be watching us for signs of dissent anyways.