As someone who speaks freely and at times controversially, Bill- C 51 has me worried. I have no terrorist ideals or sympathies but I am afraid the width of the net the conservative government is casting over us will not filter out legitimate discourse and dissension.
To put Bill C-51 in perspective, these measures and powers would have prevented the American Revolution. Benjamin Franklin would not be on a currency he would currently be behind bars and Paul Revere would have a hard time mounting his horse with handcuffs. The dissenting churches of that era would have been without the ministers who preached revolutionary themes. American defiance would have been defined as terrorist activity. Closer to home the Red River resistance and the Metis who argued against and stood up to the transfer of their territory would have been unable to defend their culture. The province of Manitoba may have been something different.
We can find complacency and comfort in the conclusion that such resistance has no place in a civilized and democratic nation but we can look at history and other locals and find grievous governments. A belief that nothing of the sort should happen in Canada is now being guaranteed by Bill C-51.
It appears that Bill C-51 furthers the agenda of conservatives more than the agenda of all Canadians. If it did not fit neatly into conservative vision we would be seeing something different. It raises red flags when the government is resisting in depth analysis, expert testimony and open comprehensive debate. Many prominent and professional citizens are questioning aspects of Bill C-51 and are openly being ignored or silenced with trimmed meetings and hearings. Why would a government ignore and muzzle individuals with expert testimony and who are calling for more oversight provisions? Shouldn’t a government embrace oversight to ensure fairness and prevent abuse? Is the need to push Bill C-51 through pragmatic or political?
I can see in Bill C-51 a remedy to a degree of terrorist activity and I embrace that but as it is vaguely stated I also see the ability of government and government agencies to quell legitimate though unfavourable or disruptive democratic dissent. Organizations, individuals and activities that we would rationally recognize as being non-terrorist can and may be exposed to scrutiny and impedance. What would have been previously recognized as problematic but not sinister or threatening to national security or public safety can now be categorized, contained and diffused using Bill C-51.
Individual freedom and the right to communicate, organize and express dissatisfaction with government, government agencies or even corporations can be suffocated if they threaten economic activity. Many will consider themselves unaffected in their conservative comfort but what would happen and how would democracy operate or be disabled if we find a distasteful or fanatical government at the helm. It is not beyond the realm of possibilities for an overbearing faction to find itself in power. There are those that enjoy Stephen Harper but what if the NDP formed government and their leader lost his or her marbles? Would we have the ability to rise against or resist the potential chaos?
Presently, we can collude with others and organize and implement civil disobedience and even enact a degree of economic disruption to further our message and gain support or bring about the change we seek. Following 3 days of debate you could find your phone tapped or be detained because of your efforts. My fears are not for terrorists or for myself; they are for any citizen or group of citizens who may be unable to avail themselves of dissension, assembly and demonstration.
I am uncomfortable with security and police agencies under the direction of government deciding what is inherently dangerous. The potential for abuse exists and perceptions of what is terrorist activity can change according to time, place and circumstance. Further, it can be influenced by government. We can find some comfort that judges may be given this oversight but judges are not elected.
I do not advocate violence in any form but under Bill C-51 if I argue in favour of violence without directly urging it I will be the subject of a cavity search and more. If I say the Ukraine should resist Russia with violence does not directly threaten violence. I would simply be expressing an argument and leaving others to decide on its merits. This is not terrorism it is free speech. If you believe these measure will only be used on cowards who behead innocents I think you have lost yours.
We can argue that in a democracy we have the power and ability to remove unsavory governments using the voting system. What if government alters that ability? What if a term of office is altered by the government itself? Stephen Harper has done these things. No? What if waiting the length of the term would be catastrophic? Consider the changes a moderate party and government can enact in a term of office. Someone or a group in power could be mad and do more. Canadian’s don’t elect madmen but sometimes power itself corrupts and one is created. Should Canadians have the ability to overthrow a government?
If the ability to demonstrate and apply pressure on government is removed or impaired to any extent democracy itself is undermined. One person, one vote is a premise of democracy but protest is a promise that propels change and even if disruptive can be a protection for us all.