- Like its southern neighbor, Canada seeks to curb freedom of expression in exchange for "security".
- As a longtime member of NATO, Bill C-51 inadvertently (or purposefully?) qualifies Russia a target.
- Ambiguous definitions of "terrorist propaganda" and "threats to national security" might lead to labeling vocal support for Russia a criminal offense
Whenever I come to write about Canada I’m always met with an uncanny feeling, as though my judgments don’t really reflect this nation’s character. Yet when something like Bill C-51 rolls round, I come to realize my criticism isn’t unfounded. To call the public reaction to the bill modest is an overstatement; perhaps unsatisfactory might do. It comes as no surprise from a people so uninterested in its own government, where the last voter turnout rate was 61%, the third lowest in Canadian history. Turning a blind eye quickly becomes a dangerous action with a corporate state seeking to expand its authority.
Largely a reaction to the Ottawa attacks on parliament; the bill fails to surprise. In fact, it is an extension of an anti-terrorism policy well known to the Canadian people. A policy that began well-before its domestic extent had been brought to light: when Canada was revealed to be a member state of the Five Eyes intelligence community. Yet in those times, CSIS, remained an information gathering institution, where the policing was left to forces which have oversight, like the RCMP. Now harper looks towards handing CSIS the enforcement powers it needs to handle internal terrorist threats.
A significant portion of the bill is dedicated to defining just what might pose a direct threat to the security of the nation. It doesn’t take long to come across some troubling details. For those of us who choose to maintain our voice and use it, the reality of who this bill might target becomes very troubling. Those who belong in the “nothing to hide” boat need not worry; but for academics and independent journalists willing to reject the accepted narrative, a grim reality emerges.
Among the possible actions that pose a threat to security, the most striking and out of place provision seems to be what is deemed as “actions taken within Canada that undermine the security of another state”. This, coupled alongside plans to curb the distribution of loosely defined “terrorist propaganda”, makes for a clear picture of how the government might treat those who dare to speak out against its foreign policy.
As an ardent supporter of the Kiev establishment, Canadian authorities have gone so far as unofficially labeling the eastern separatist movement as “terrorist aggression”. So to put two and two together, through the enforcement of CSIS and the ability to seize and disrupt information sharing without warrant, those of us who might show our support might have possibly become unwitting suspects. You might think it paranoia to believe such small fishes would pose any threat to the authorities, but yet I am still inclined to fear for those brave university professors, scientists, businessmen and politicians who are deciding to take a stand. Those are the individuals who can spring the populace into action.
It isn’t a far stretch of thought to see how this bill might extend further into other political issues and areas of protest. Likewise, a government that has proven to be an unflinching defender of Israeli policy—whose leader equates political criticism with anti-Semitism—supporting the Palestinian people would be hard to distinguish from terrorist action by the bill’s definition. Furthermore, the clause which declares interference (not destruction or sabotage) with critical infrastructure as a criminal offence is a direct threat to those unwilling to support state sponsored environmental destruction. Scientists or journalists who seek to investigate or inform on the dangers of pipeline development could be seen as promoting environmental extremism under the state’s eye.
This piece of legislation can only reasonably be defeated with public outcry en masse. If the people of Canada do not show their dissatisfaction with the Harper government’s tilt towards a draconian criminal code, their silent disapproval will only be taken as compliance. An effort has been made to petition against the bill’s passing, which has already surpassed 100 thousand signatures. Yet debate in parliament is impeded by Conservative efforts, as opponents seek to bury the legislation. Protests across the country are beginning to show signs of life and a hope that this bill will never see the light of day. Will another citizenry be so easily convinced to give up their freedoms for a little “safety”? It is yet to be seen; it can be sure that this bill will try to move fast into law and so people must react even faster.
Cosmin Dzsurdzsa is a university student with an interest in Eastern European Literature and International Relations. He has acted as a contributor and editor for a local independent press where he worked to engage students in alternative media. Cosmin was born in Romania and moved to Canada with his family at the age of eight. He has lived in Ontario ever since.