the Informed

Canada's Bill C-51: Shredding The Charter of Rights and Freedoms Before Your Eyes

Canada's conservative government set the tone for their new anti-terrorism bill over the course of the past few years by carefully exploiting isolated incidents such as the shooting at Parliament Hill in October of 2014. 

Prime Minister Stephen Harper addressed the nation on that eve, and with stern conviction told us that we are in danger of losing our way of life and freedom because of the threat of terrorism, because of this one isolated act. This rhetoric sounded all too familiar, and I couldn't help but feel dread as I listened; that this was going to be used as another tool to chip away at our remaining freedom and bully us into accepting new and unwanted policy. Since 9/11, the West has moved towards more surveillance of its population, less freedom of speech, and broader powers of spy agencies to pry and detain and act without warrants or just cause.

What then are we to make of it all, and how will the new anti-terrorism bill affect our way of life? Who to believe? Well, when Ed Snowden speaks, people tend to listen, and he has come forward to condemn the new bill in his typically well-reasoned manner. In a debate as relevant and important as privacy vs. security, he warns that we need to focus on facts and avoid the rhetoric; and this can be difficult when the news projects images of fear on a near-constant basis. When the government and the news media consistently use fear-mongering to push policies like this through, we all become victims of a larger, often hidden agenda, and this is something we need to understand and stand against in unity. For crying out loud, as a Canadian you have a greater chance of being struck by lightning or fatally falling in the bathtub than you do of being killed by a terrorist. Does it not seem insane that we are willing to give away so much of our freedom to protect ourselves from a completely nominal threat? The number of voices in opposition to this legislation are growing steadily, and Canadians' awareness of the severity of the impact of the bill is rising along with it. One hundred academics wrote an open letter to parliament urging the government to dramatically amend the bill, which has been requested to move ahead without a second reading (a typical Harper technique). And, I will safely speculate, the academics who penned this are much smarter and better informed than either Harper or his minions or the corporate interests he serves.

Jingoism, racism, fear, religious fundamentalism: these are the ways of appealing to people if you’re trying to organise a mass base of support for policies that are really intended to crush them. - Noam Chomsky

It's not like like there isn't a precedent for all of this. Do you recall a little piece of American legislation entitled "The Patriot Act"? Has it not proven to be the most absurd and abused set of laws ever enacted in the US? The broad generalisations and sweeping grants of power to law enforcement and security agencies culminated in countless documents leaked proving, without a shadow of a doubt, that the abuse is not only systemic and widespread but in fact flouts and often ignores the law altogether. We cannot accept this similar treatment for Canadians. Where the Americans have failed their people, we must not allow our government to do the same. We are already under heavy surveillance by our government - why would we empower them to do this more aggressively? Would you be willing to give up your rights as a citizen, the right to dissent, to criticise the government, to speak out for what you believe in if it meant you'd be safer from lightning strikes? Of course not. So why, then, do will give our rights and freedoms away for something so unlikely to affect us as a terrorist attack? They would have you believe that it is a real threat by the frequency that it appears in mainstream media, but rest assured - it is not. They are even using tools like Facebook to promote their agenda, against government policy. They are fighting hard to make you believe you need this legislation; they are in the process of manufacturing our consent, and as long as we're watching mainstream news and reading their so-called newspapers, we are unwittingly being indoctrinated into their way of thinking. How else can an otherwise intelligent population buy into such rhetoric and lies? Are we not smarter than all of this?

And now with the militarization of the police force in the US and Europe (and Canada is not far behind), they inch ever closer to a fascist regime, one in which we will wake up one day and wonder how we ever got here (watch John Oliver's brilliant take on this). But by then, it will be too late. They fear us as much as we fear them, have no doubt about that, and this is why these measures are being imposed on the populous. In the information age we are smarter, more informed, more connected and more active in the debate than ever before, and this is a terrifying prospect for those that want to maintain the status quo.

If you are afraid to speak against tyranny, then you are already a slave. - John Bryant 

The bill goes so far as to say:

Every person who, by communicating statements, knowingly advocates or promotes the commission of terrorism offences in general — while knowing that any of those offences will be committed or being reckless as to whether any of those offences may be committed…is liable to imprisonment of not more than five years - Bill C-51

That's right, if you even "promote or advocate" what they deem as terrorism (speaking out about climate change, for example, falls into this category amongst countless other viewpoints) then you can get five years in the slammer. For holding a protest placard, for speaking out about the demonization of Muslims, or for writing articles like this one. This article in the National Post echoes a sentiment felt by many that the bill will actually undermine our anti-terrorism strategy. Rest assured, this bill is less about protecting us from terrorism as it is about controlling the population and having the tools to do so with broad, sweeping power.

These programs were never about terrorism: they're about economic spying, social control and diplomatic manipulation. They're about power. - Edward Snowden

So what of the arguments that we need this type of legislation, and how do we effectively help those proponents of that viewpoint see the light? Interestingly, a non-filtered Internet search for arguments in favour of Bill C-51 yields only page after page of opposition. So who are the proponents of this legislation? That is a good question, and with so many back-room deals with corporations that occur nowadays (military and surveillance companies tend to do very well when these types of laws are passed) it's hard to uncover the true answer to that question. The reality is that there are no sound arguments to defend this bill. That is why they need to resort to propaganda. If their argument was sound, they would simply be able to state it, not quash us with fear until we relent. There are agendas, and you can count on the fact that this legislation will serve the ruling elite, not you and not me.

A Canada under Bill C-51 is not the Canada that I know and love; and I, for one, refuse to see us go the way of the dodo US. We are a nation that prides itself on being peace-keepers and freedom-lovers, not fear-mongers and fascists. Visit Stop Bill C-51, blog, tweet, protest, share on Facebook, inform your friends and relatives, post YouTube videos and dissent - while you are still allowed to. Write a poem, sing a song, make your voice heard. Whatever you have the means and skill and influence to do, do it and know that you were a part in stopping Canada from treading down a path that we will not be able to return from. Gather names for petitions, call, email and go and see your legislative representatives and tell them that you oppose Bill C-51. Bring them a copy outlining exactly what you object to, let them know you mean business. Protect your freedom and your rights while you still can, or risk waking up in a fascist regime one day in a country that was once Canada.

The best way to take control over a people and control them utterly is to take a little of their freedom at a time, to erode the rights by a thousand tiny and almost imperceptable reductions. In this way, the people will not see those rights and freedoms being removed until past the point at which these changes cannot be reversed. - Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf

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