Over the weekend, people from all across Canada poured on to the streets to protest the Conservative government’s proposed anti-terror legislation, Bill C-51, in a national day of action dubbed “Defend our Freedom.”
Protestors denounced the extensive powers the bill would grant the RCMP and CSIS, Canada’s spy agency, to quell demonstrations they may deem threats to national security. The bill’s vague language has critics on edge, since it leaves it up to the government to consider blockades, anti-pipeline demonstrations or even social media posts terrorist threats. Demonstrators also fear the bill will be used to silence legitimate dissent from the government’s critics, including environmentalists and indigenous people.
In Toronto, hundreds attended a rally at Nathan Phillips Square and also in front of City Hall, where protestors spoke out against the legislation amid chanting and drumming. In Montreal, NDP leader Tom Mulcair reportedly marched with hundreds of protestors through the city before ending in front of the riding office of Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, who has supported the bill publicly. NDP MPs Craig Scott and Linda Duncan also joined protestors in Edmonton.
The website stopc51.ca registers more than 92,000 people against the bill so far. It also states that there were more than 55 non-partisan events planned through the weekend, and shows that as many as 30 digital rights, pro-democracy and civil liberties organizations, including Amnesty International, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, and the Council for Canadians, among others, have denounced the bill.
The Amnesty International website also shows that more than 16,000 people have signed a petition asking the Minister for Public Safety to withdraw the bill and support human rights. On March 12, AI submitted an international brief to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, where the Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde also asked for the bill to be withdrawn. Bellegarde also assured that First Nations would “vigorously oppose any legislation that does not respect and protect our rights.”