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-by David McLaren

The terrorists will have won if we voluntarily surrender the very rights and freedoms Mr Harper says they hate us for.

For that is what Bill C-51 is, a surrender.

I have read the Bill, and I've read the terrorist provisions now in the Criminal Code, and the new Canadian Security Intelligence Act that passed into law even as Parliament began debate on new police powers for the Canadian Security Intelligent Service under C-51.

In the Criminal Code there are already a dozen definitions of terrorism. In section 83.01, a terrorist activity must "serve a political, religious or ideological purpose ... and with the intention of intimidating the public ... or COMPELLING a person, a government ... to do or refrain from doing any act ... and that intentionally causes death" or harm, including harm to an essential service. (s.83.01(1)b)

That this works is proven by the various hair-brained and hair-raising schemes police and CSIS have already uncovered and put before the courts.

Bill C-51 amends the Criminal Code (and other acts) and creates a much expanded definition of terrorism. Now it is enough merely to INFLUENCE government by unlawful means; or interfere with critical infrastructure, whether harm is intended or not. (s.2(a)&(b))

By this definition, Mahatma Gandhi would be branded a terrorist for burning passes in South Africa and making salt in India. Rosa Parks would fall into the murky world of C-51 for sitting in the white section of a Montgomery bus. And New Brunswick First Nations would be labelled terrorist groups for trying to prevent fracking in their traditional territories.

Under C-51 police can lay charges even if they only believe "a terrorist activity MAY be carried out." And they can arrest you, without a warrant, if they thought you were "likely" to carry out an act of terrorism. (s.17)

Once detained, you could be held for extended periods of time. You would be compelled to answer questions (in spite of the common law principle that you do not have to cooperate with the police). Your personal and tax information would be shared among enforcement agencies.

Put all this together with what we know is already going on ...

  • Unprecedented surveillance of Canadians by Canada's Communications Security Establishment (CSEC) and US's NSA (Google: illegal CSEC spying);
  • A 2014 RCMP report that warns government of a growing "anti-petroleum" movement ;
  • The Canada Revenue Agency's aggressive audits of civil society groups such as the Canadian Centre of Policy Alternatives and now PEN Canada, apparently for asking questions about who is being audited and why (Google: PEN audit);
  • A June 2014 order from the federal government for all its departments to monitor all demonstrations (including, one presumes, the 150 people who showed up at Owen Sound City Hall last Saturday);
  • The mistakes we know CSIS has made carrying out its duties (Wikipedia: CSIS).

It is doubtful that the expanded powers granted CSIS and the police under C-51 would have prevented Michael Zehaf-Bibeau from killing Cpl Cirillo. Other measures are needed to prevent loners from becoming angry enough to kill someone. But this is something we have known since the day Mark Lépine separated women from men at l'École Polytechnique, wounded ten of them and killed fourteen.

It does no good to say, "well we'll hold our noses and vote for C-51 and fix it later." As a University of BC woman told Mr Trudeau recently: "Sir, I must say that supporting the bill that you know is dangerous while promising to reform it when you've been elected to government is tantamount to putting our rights hostage, and our vote is our ransom."

Sometimes you've just got to stand up and say "This is wrong."

I'm under no illusion about ISIS. It is a terror-mongering aberration and is clearly an enemy of civilization however you define it.

But let us not be frightened by Bush-league politics into throwing our rights and freedoms under the bus. For, as Tommy Douglas was fond of saying, "The best way to protect democracy is to make it work."

David McLaren is an award-winning writer now living at Neyaashiinigmiing in the Bruce Peninsula. He is the nominated NDP candidate for the riding of Bruce Grey Owen Sound in the upcoming federal election. Other of his writings are at http://jdavidmclaren.wordpress.com/.


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