If you're a Canadian who pays attention to what's going on in your country, you've probably heard about Bill C-51. That's the Government-Is-Allowed-To-Spy-On-Us bill. The petition against it is here. stopc51.ca/
I'm also going to share these:
...because they help explain what this bill is all about and why it will be a huge problem if it's passed into law.
Now here's my take on it. Please note that I am not a lawyer and I've never worked in government. I'm just someone who reads up on this stuff as best I can.
The main problem with this bill is that it's vague as hell. CSIS (which is Canada's equivalent to the CIA) is allowed to crack down on anyone who they think is going to do something dangerous. What does dangerous mean? It doesn't exactly say. Who in CSIS gets to decide this? It doesn't say. Is this going to be done out in the open where the media can report on it, people can see what's going on, and the accused gets to defend themselves? Doesn't look like it. Not very Canadian, if you ask me.
So, the first problem is that the bill isn't clear. A law NEEDS to be clear so that people know what's gong on. Laws are for maintaining peace, not leaving loopholes for authorities to basically do whatever they want. The bill SAYS it's for preventing terrorism, but it's really shady how they define it. Basically, this law could target anyone who the government thinks is going to do something wrong. Not just someone who has already done the thing (like an actual terrorist). Not just someone who was intercepted on their way to do the thing and/or admitted that they totally meant to do the thing (like those guys who plotted to derail a VIA Rail train). This law attacks anyone who kinda sorta maybe looks a little terroristy. I don't think I need to explain why this is a problem.
(And, on an inappropriately placed lighter note, I find it funny that my spell check doesn't recognize "CSIS" but it does recognize "terroristy," which is a word I thought I made up).
Anyway, here are the other things about this bill that don't make sense (at least, I couldn't make sense of them):
The bill targets people who "threaten stability in other countries." Technically, Canada did that with its own army when we went into Afghanistan. Let's all just think about that for a moment.
The bill targets people/activities that are "detrimental to the interests of Canada." What interests of Canada? Who in Canada? Are we talking about the Canadian government? Most likely, yes, it's the government, which represents Canada in the legal sense but doesn't necessarily represent us all in the statistic "what we want" sense. A lot of Canadians don't like what this government is doing, so that's not "representing our interests" in the same way that your MP "represents" your riding. Same word, different meaning. You could also look at it in terms of demographic representation. Yes, there is some diversity amongst MPs, but it's out of proportion. Looking only at the House of Commons, you'd think Canada is composed primarily of older, wealthy, white men. Don't get me started on the Senate. So "representation" can mean a bunch of things, and in this case it does not mean what they want you to think it means.
Besides, "Canada" is not just the government. It is communities, businesses, natural resources, etc etc etc. I find it so weird that there is even an idea of what "Canada" (as in, the people of Canada) wants. I lean to the left on most issues. My next door neighbour leans sharply to the right. The space between our houses is less than three metres, so if LITERALLY next door neighbours want different things, how can there be a singular answer for What Canada Wants? That can't begin to account for regional disparities and cultural differences. It's a big country. 35 Million people. Six times zones. One of the most multicultural nations in the world. How do you summarize that?
The bill takes issue with what it calls "foreign-influenced activities." Um... sorry, that's not specific enough. My last almost-job was on a Hollywood production that was being shot in Toronto. That's an American-influenced activity in Canada. Is that against the law? Because with our lower dollar, the Americans are going to keep coming here and filming stuff, and I kinda want in on that. Hey, are co-pro's going to be against the law too? Better arrest everyone who works in TV or movies in this country.
I'm a writer. That means I research stuff. Some of that stuff might be considered incriminating. Not kidding; I had an idea for a spy thriller about a secret agent who foils a terrorist plot. I ditched the idea because I don't want the research from that in my browser history (and, yes, I clear my history, but who knows who's tracking what? That's kind of the point; we don't know). So, I know that's probably me being way too cautious, succumbing to anxious thinking, but the root of that fear stood out to me. I am not afraid of foreign terrorists, but I am concerned about my own government. After 9/11, I was afraid to fly, not because I thought someone would hijack the plane, but because I was afraid of the jacked up security. Maybe that says something about the world and not just about my own mental issues.
If you do something “unlawful,” like protest without a permit, the government can keep and divulge information about your "conduct." So, do that mean, “so-and-so went to a protest” or does it also say they were at a protest that involved violence - regardless if the violence was caused by that person or not? Take, for example, my friend who protested a few years ago at the G-20 Summit - he is a peaceful person who wouldn’t hurt a fly, but there were a lot of rabble rabble window smashers at the protest as well. Does my friend get grouped in with them?
And, even if he’s not associated with that violence, it still says he was at a protest. Which, in a democracy, you've got a right to do. THAT is Freedom of Speech. You know how, all these years, I've been saying "I support Freedom of Speech but..." and it's always been in a situation where someone is committing hate crimes or making threats or spreading lies and they SAY it's Freedom of Speech but it's really not, so I clarify... THIS. This is a Freedom of Speech issue.
So, not only would this bill allow the government to shut down protests, it can tell other entities that ___(your name here)___ was at said protest. I’ve been at protests too (albeit never one that turned violent, thankfully). There are some people who are scared off by that idea entirely. Like, if I apply for a job, is my prospective employer going to know? Once again, the wording in the bill is rather fuzzy. That is not okay.
Harper’s excuse for why he thinks Bill C-51 is okay is “most Canadians agree with it.” <--- saw that on the news; I believe it was CTV news, March 14; they were reporting on the protests against the bill.
So, here’s what’s wrong with that. First of all, the stats say otherwise. There was a poll that said only 29% of Canadians believe we should give more power to police and spy agencies at the expense of personal privacy (cdn.ipolitics.ca/wp-content/up…). Have a look at that graph. The number of those who are okay with it has dropped. The number of those who disagree has risen. They crossed in 2008, so it's been seven years since "most Canadians" agreed with what Harper says on this matter. Also check out those spikes in 2013-2014.
So the trend says, no, we're not okay with it. Let's say you wanted to take the percentage of people who definitely said no to Bill C-51 (40%). Even if the "yes" answers, "meh" answers, and blank non-answers add up to 60%, that's still not "most." It's more, but not most. The "yes" and "no" sides are too similar in number to say there is a clear strong opinion from the population, according to that poll.
The other issue with Harper’s assertion is... “most Canadians?” This never went to an actual referendum, so there is no definitive way to say that because, you know, no one ever asked all of us (or, at least, all of the potential voting population). We don't know how many people were polled in that poll. Harper's statement sounds to me more like a high school argument; “yeah, well, most people think you’re wrong.” It’s a sad day when the Prime Minister has to call in the Imaginary Most People to make his point. Anyway, the link to the petition is here. Please read through the info and sign it if you’re concerned. stopc51.ca/