Protestors gather against “anti-terrorism” bill

Councillor urges City to take official stance on Bill C-51

Protestors marching down Princess St. in demonstration against Bill C-51.
Protestors marching down Princess St. in demonstration against Bill C-51.

City Councillor Jeff McLaren hopes to use the momentum of a series of anti-Bill C-51 protests to encourage Kingston to officially take a stance against the bill.

On March 2, there was a community discussion about the bill. More recently, protestors gathered in front of City Hall on March 14 for the National Day of Action to Stop Bill C-51.

Bill C-51, or “Anti-terrorism Act, 2015”, was proposed to the federal government by the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. It would give the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) new surveillance powers and make it easier for police to detain terror suspects.

McLaren, who represents Meadowbrook-Strathcona District, has circulated a petition against Bill C-51 and will propose a motion for City Council to take an official stance against it.

Concerns have been circulating about the broad definition the act gives for what constitutes a “terrorist”, which some say could include protestors against government policy.

McLaren’s motion states that the bill may “go far beyond targeting terrorists and target ordinary conscientious objectors, giving rise to the legitimate concern that Kingston citizens … could be secretly identified by the Canadian Security Intelligence Agency or another similar body as terrorists and have their right to leave the country and other rights stripped from them without a hearing”.

“I’m an activist and as such I could be considered a terrorist, but I’m not — at least I shouldn’t be,” McLaren said.

“But this bill could endanger myself, my life, my family and the people I care about.”

McLaren said he hopes that if Council passes this motion, the City of Kingston will show the federal government that this bill “is not in the best interest of the people and that the people of the City of Kingston don’t want it”.

“Hopefully that will help [the government] wake up,” he added.

Although the bill is under federal jurisdiction — and therefore City Council has the right to consider the petition out of order — there’s a possibility that Council will decide to consider the motion because of its support in the community.

Rally organizers Andrew McCann and Aaron Visser said the turnout was good considering the spontaneity of the event — they’d only organized it a few days prior via social media.

They added that one of their main concerns is student engagement with these issues.

Visser said although many students replied on Facebook that they would be attending the information session that happened on March 2, he counted only a handful of students at the session.

“A key issue from a Queen’s perspective is, when you organize an event outside of the Queen’s bubble, then a lot of Queen’s students realize ‘oh wait it’s out of our bubble’, and they don’t come,” he said.

Visser said he encourages the Queen’s community to get involved in holding events on campus in support of the protests.

“Queen’s students are interested,” he said. “This is of huge national significance.”

— With files from Ryan Broe


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