On March 14 roughly 100 people gathered together on the steps of City Hall in Owen Sound. The Owen Sound demonstration was one of over 70 similar demonstrations held in communities across Canada to speak out against Bill C-51, the Conservatives' latest proposed anti-terror legislation.
Opponents are particularly concerned about the changes the Bill makes to CSIS. Formed in 1984 with a mandate to gather and analyze intelligence and to assess risks, if the Bill passes unamended the agency would be given powers previously reserved for law enforcement agencies like the RCMP. Because the work of CSIS does not bear the scrutiny of open court, C-51 has been dubbed the "secret police" Bill.
Local organizers believe that, if passed, the bill may violate Charter rights in its information-sharing provisions, and restrict free speech and open dissent. Some are suggesting this type of public protest is itself at risk if activists are targeted. The country-wide protest has been called a "snap action", organized quickly because of the short period of time public safety committee members and legislators will be studying and debating the provisions of Bill C-51.