Editor: It’s a strange time indeed when NDP Opposition Leader Tom Mulcair; Green Party Leader Elizabeth May; and former prime minsters Jean Chretien, Joe Clark, Paul Martin, and John Turner all agree in their concerns about the federal government’s Bill C-51 which, among other things, redefines national security threats to include interference with critical infrastructure and threats to economic and financial stability.
Conservative MPs argue this legislation is necessary solely to prevent terrorist threats to our nation.
However, under current laws, the RCMP and CSIS have been able to break up numerous terror plots. Our security services have sufficient powers under the Criminal Code and other statutes to deal with terrorism and security.
So does Prime Minister Stephen Harper have other targets in mind?
The government has shut down critics in the past. They’ve silenced scientists who produce research that conflicts with Conservative government policy. They’ve taken away financial support or threatened audits of non-profit organizations in an effort to suppress criticism of the government.
And soon the government may have Bill C-51. The focus on economic stability could see new classifications of who is a terrorist. First Nations, labour organizations, academics and environmentalists should all be concerned.
Aboriginal groups protesting pipelines or advocating for land claims could be seen as a threat to the energy policy and economy of the government, and therefore deemed terrorists.
A union’s strike action might threaten the economic agenda of the government and result in members being placed under intense CSIS and RCMP scrutiny.
Academics criticizing or complaining about the diplomatic agenda of the government of Canada may be spied upon.
The RCMP recently called the “anti-petroleum” movement a growing and violent threat to Canada’s security. Under Bill C-51, environmentalists could be detained on mere suspicion, even if they have not committed any crime.
We should heed the words of our former prime ministers, as they wrote last week: “Protecting human rights and protecting public safety are complementary objectives, but experience has shown that serious human rights abuses can occur in the name of maintaining national security.”
This bill stifles free speech and gives much more power to secretive policing activities with no oversight and no accountability. It will undermine our rights and freedoms.