About a thousand people rallied at Winnipeg City Hall on Sat. Mar, 14 and marched through Winnipeg to share their opposition to Bill C-51, a federal Conservative omnibus bill that critics say will undermine Canadian civil liberties in in the guise of fighting terrorism. Similar events took place in more than 40 communities across Canada.
Speakers at the rally included
- Crystal Green, Grassroots Indigenous Water Defence
- Sadie Lavoie-Phoenix, Canadian Federation of Students
- Pat Martin, MP (Winnipeg Centre)
- Andrew Park, Green Party of Canada candidate for Winnipeg South Centre
- Paul Moist, President, Canadian Union of Public Employees
- Idris El Bakri, Manitoba Islamic Association
- Humaira Jaleel, Amnesty International (Winnipeg)
- Miguel Figueroa, Communist Party of Canada
- The Raging Grannies
Bill C-51 was introduced into Parliament on Jan. 30, 2015. Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s bombastic, saber-rattling YouTube video, published two days before the bill was tabled, set the tone. Essentially, his message is that Canada is under attack and the government will do whatever it takes to protect Canadians.
Critics of C-51 argue that it will criminalize speech, make it easier to arrest people who police think might commit an offence, share citizen’s private information between government departments without oversight, and allow the Canadian Security Intelligence Service to have police-like powers and disrupt the organizations they are spying on, all under a veil of secrecy.
Consequently, this bill has attracted a broad and growing opposition, including the Manitoba Association of Rights and Liberties, the federal Green and New Democratic Parties, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, Federal Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien, editorialists at several major daily newspapers, and four former prime ministers. Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau has said that Liberal MPs will support the bill.
Environmentalists, such as Greenpeace Canada’s Keith Stewart, have written that C-51 may be used against climate activists. A recently leaked RCMP document entitled “Critical Infrastructure Intelligence Assessment – Criminal Threats to the Canadian Petroleum Industry” lends credence to this line of analysis.
The Anti-Terrorism Act has come under expert legal scrutiny from two prominent legal experts. Craig Forcese is a law professor teaching national security law at the University of Ottawa and a participant in the Canadian Network for Research on Terrorism, Security and Society. Kent Roach teaches at the University of Toronto law faculty and worked with both the Arar and Air India commissions. They have set up a website to present their analysis, which is well worth reading.
Bill C-51 passed second reading in the House of Commons, with 176 Liberals, Bloc Quebecois, and Conservative members voting in favour. Only the the NDP, Greens, and an independent conservative, Brent Rathgeber, opposed the legislation.
Here is my video report on the Winnipeg rally.