(March 14, 2015) – Thousands of Canadians gathered in public squares across the country to protest the Conservative’s government proposed anti-terrorism legislation that would expand the powers of police and Canada’s spy agency.
In Toronto, an estimated crowd of 2,000 people came out to Nathan Phillips Square to join in the countrywide protests billed as the ‘National Day of Action’ to stop Bill C-51.
Protesters then marched to Canadian Security Intelligence Service office in downtown Toronto.
“This bill is reckless dangerous and ineffective”, said protestor Maya Bhullar, a civil liberty activist. “People from the Muslim community, environmentalists, concerned citizens, people who care about our civil liberties….we’re very nervous about expanding police powers with very little oversight.”
The proposed bill would give the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, CSIS, the ability to actively disrupt terror plots, expand no-fly list powers and allow police to have greater control in limiting the movement of a suspect.
Critics of Bill C-51 say it would greatly expand the powers of CSIS, to the point where it will create a “secret police force” and that it lacks appropriate oversight.
Prominent Canadians voiced their concern over the bill at the Toronto rally.
Human rights lawyer Paul Copeland called C-51 the “most dangerous act” since the War Measures Act of 1970.
“[Mr. Harper] wants Canadians to be scared out of their wits,” Green Party Leader Elizabeth May told the rally. “He wants us to be scared of everyone; different cultures, different religions.”
“He wants us to be divided and fearful…. Canadians will not be scared out of their rights,” she said.
The government introduced Bill C-51 in January and it is currently before House public safety committee.
“This bill encourages reckless sharing of our sensitive private information, dangerous new powers for CSIS, and offers zero accountability or oversight,” said Steve Anderson, OpenMedia Executive Director. “Everyone knows the Conservative government is bad on privacy issues, but Bill C-51 takes it to a whole new level.”
“C-51 is so reckless and dangerous it calls for all of us to do all that we can to speak out,” he said. “There will be a steep political price to pay at election time for these reckless, dangerous, and ineffective privacy intrusions.”
Protesters said they are worried the bill will be used to harass or silence critics of the government’s policies, including environmental and aboriginal ones.
According to StopC51.ca, “Canadians have spoken out in over 70 communities across the country.”
“This bill disproportionately targets indigenous communities, environmental activists, dissidents, and Muslims, many of whom are already subjected to questionable and overreaching powers by security officials,” states the StopC51.ca website. “This bill will make it easier and ostensibly lawful for government to continue infringing upon the rights of peaceful people.”