Letter to the Editor

Letter to the Editor for Friday, March 6, 2015

Re: Bill C-15

Dear Editors,

Am I a terrorist? This isn’t a question I should have to ask myself, but assuming the passing of Bill C-51 – the new “Protection of Canada from Terrorists Act” – I may need to do so.

Proposed on Jan. 30, Bill C-51 aims to strengthen Canada’s anti-terrorism laws, increase the powers of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, and criminalize “advocating terrorism” with the vaguest of definitions.

Despite the rhetoric and fear mongering emanating from the Prime Minister’s Office, Bill C-51 has next to nothing to do with actually and effectively combatting and preventing the distinctly limited threat of terrorist attacks in Canada.

What Bill C-51 does is stifle political expression opposing the Conservative government’s – or any government in power’s – line and put minorities and groups such as environmentalists and Aboriginal activists square in the crosshairs of prosecution simply for challenging those in power.

This Bill regards the advocacy of “terrorism offenses in general” but leaves the definition of those acts distinctly vague as well as “activities that undermine the security of Canada.”

This is the most terrifying part of Bill C-51.

According to Greenpeace Canada spokesperson Keith Stewart, “You don’t even have to actually organize a demonstration or sit-in to trigger the new power – under this legislation CSIS simply has to suspect that you might do something that interferes with critical infrastructure and they can break out their new bag of tricks.”

A recent leak from the RCMP has shown that they are now considering “anti-petroleum militants” a threat to the security of Canada.

The report, obtained by Greenpeace Canada says “there is a growing, highly organized and well-financed anti-Canada petroleum movement that consists of peaceful activists, militants and violent extremists who are opposed to society’s reliance on fossil fuels.”

During the Second Reading of C-51 on Feb. 24, no member of the Conservative or Liberal parties voted against the Bill. While it is common strategy for parties to vote in blocs, with the public opposition to this bill it is clear that parties are more prominently voting at the behest of the party leadership.

The control of the Prime Minister’s Office, and of the leadership of other parties, has been steadily growing over the past several years. In January, I had the opportunity to speak with the Right Hon. Peter Milliken, former Speaker of the House, about this. He argues that the control of party leadership has “made debate much less vigorous in the sense of the exchange of ideas on the floor.”

Bill C-51 does not protect the security of Canadians. If anything, it threatens to destroy their security and basic rights.

Bill C-51 has passed in the second reading and now the Conservatives are trying to rush it through the Committee hearings with little regard for expert testimony and opposition. “I would urge the committee to study the bill as quickly as possible in order to ensure the adoption of these measures to ensure the security and safety of Canadians,” said Stephen Harper during question period.

If the elected representatives of Canada aren’t going to stand against such a dangerous bill, it shows we have already lost the safety of an open realm of political discourse where dissent can be freely aired. Obeying the status quo has been made the norm and so-called radicals are deemed the danger.

Will the fact that I support and advocate for the rights of Indigenous and environmental activists to blockade and disrupt fossil fuel expansion that violates treaty rights make me a terrorist?

Will the fact that I actively campaign for the divestment of Queen’s University’s Pooled Endowment Fund from fossil fuels put me on a list of suspicious individuals, threatening my liberty?

These are questions no politically engaged person should have to ask.

The new legislations passing in Parliament must be challenged on all levels.

Ryan Broe
ArtSci ’15

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