About 20 residents concerned about Bill C-51 (Anti-terrorism Act, 2015) impacts turned out to hear what Stand Up for the North Committee (SUFTN) representative Peter Ewart of Prince George had to say about it at the 100 Mile House United Church on March 30.
He lectured for about an hour on the perils of the Anti-terrorism Act, as he, and the committee, sees them.
Ewart said the SUFTN believes it’s important that parliamentary discussions happen, but conversations about the bill should also take place at the community level.
“Once again, far away federal politicians and unelected officials in Ottawa are going to be making major decisions about our rights as Canadians, while we are supposed to be nothing more than bystanders with no say whatsoever.”
The bill could potentially “violate the rights” of and “entrap” all Canadians, he explained.
“The prime minister argued the bill is designed to make Canada safer from Jihadi terrorism, which he claims is one of the greatest threats that government has ever seen.
“However, in the opinion of many legal experts and others, this bill goes way beyond that and … threatens the fundamental rights of all Canadians.”
Ewart added the bill’s “relevant person” wording means they need not be involved in anything questionable to be impacted, such as meeting for coffee with someone who is being watched for perceived security reasons.
“You could become a target of investigation if, in the opinion of secret government agencies like the Canadian Security Intelligence Service [CSIS] … you engage in, and I quote, ‘any activity that undermines the sovereignty security or territorial integrity of Canada … the economic or financial stability of Canada … or that interferes with what is termed as critical infrastructure’.”
He added a huge database with personal information would not only be shared with widespread organizations – and even foreign governments – but theoretically, could also be hacked into.
100 Mile House resident Hugh Thomas said he asked Ewart to come to his community when he heard about similar sessions taking place further north.
“Bill C-51 is very problematic. I see where it comes from, but when I look at it, I agree with a lot of the criticism of it. Because it’s overly broad, it’s vague, it’s overreach and it has a potential to infringe on our privacy and on our Charter of Rights.”
Having printed and reviewed the bill at length, Thomas said, “It’s bad.”
“They are changing the rules over how CSIS can act … and there is something about information can be disclosed to any other part of government in Canada and to ‘any person for any purpose’ throughout the whole world. I could go on and on.”
Local resident Bill Robertson said he attended to find out more about Bill C-51.
“I’ve read some of the concerns that some very prominent people in Canada have about it.”
Noting these include former Supreme Court Justice Louise Arbour, he said hearing her concerns made him realize everyone should “sit up and pay attention” to the seriousness of the issue.
Points to ponder
According to Ewart, a few of the many reasons against passing the anti-terrorism bill include:
• No prior consultation with or disclosure to the Canadian public was done.
• It is highly complicated and complex legislation that many experts say is completely unnecessary.
• Court challenges to the bill could stretch out for years and at significant cost.
• Four past prime ministers, 100,000 signatures, tens of thousands of recent protestors, more than 100 law professors, court justices, the Canadian Bar Association, and Opposition members oppose it.
• Environmental and civil liberty groups, the Assembly of First Nations, major media editorials and many others across the country also condemn the bill.
“Our own [British Columbia] Premier Christy Clark has raised concerns,” added Ewart.
He said it is a convenient tool for the federal government to have if demonstrators face having their personal information passed on to 17 different agencies.
“The bill’s ‘total information awareness’ will definitely put a chill on dissent and protest in this country.”