Grand Chief Peters: Bill C-51 about silencing citizens, not terrorism

As Indigenous peoples we have experienced the oppression and control of Canada’s colonist government for the past 150 years. We have suffered through policies and laws that have tried to exterminate us, assimilate us, oppress us and silence us. This is our experience in our homelands, and it continues to this day.

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Gord Peters is Grand Chief of the Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians

Our peoples have become quick studies when it comes to assessing the underlying dangers that are tucked away and hidden in pieces of legislation. We are, rightly so, often suspicious and critical of policies and laws that are packaged and sold to us as being in our best interest or designed to protect us. It is with this lens that we can share a resounding warning call to Indigenous peoples and Canadian citizens alike. Bill C-51 the Anti-Terrorism Act, is about control, not terrorism.

Bill C-51 is about making us afraid of something in the name of silencing citizens and controlling civil disobedience. The language of terrorism is rhetoric used to sell you on war and to get buy in for economic security measures. It’s the monster under your bed, built up on propaganda and political posturing. It’s also less likely to kill you than a freak accident involving your own lawnmower.

Across the country over the past three years, we have seen the Idle No More movement take to the streets in protest of legislation that infringed on Indigenous rights and weakened environmental protections. Indigenous peoples stood up to the government for the sake of our collective futures. We blocked railroads, highways, marched to parliament, fasted in protest, and generally did our best to disrupt Canada to have our voices heard and our inherent rights recognized.

It’s deplorable that we have to resort to civil disobedience to be heard, but it’s the only weapon we have when the Federal government has zero regard for the honour of the Crown, which is both a legal and constitutional responsibility. Bill C-51 will take away the one weapon we have and label us as terrorists for fighting for our inherent rights.

Bill C-51 gives the government the powers of a secret police force, control over what is said in digital spaces, and the ability to punish citizens for protesting.

Bill C-51 does protect some things, though. It protects capitalism and prioritizes the economy over civil rights. It protects the government from public backlash, enabling it to make decisions without fair oversight. It protects imperialistic ideologies that continue to suppress and control the Indigenous populations and our lands and resources.

Canadians need to take a page out of the books of Indigenous peoples across Canada and approach Bill C-51 with the mistrust and cynicism it’s owed. Trust us, like so many pieces of legislation before it that have worked to oppress us, this bill is about controlling you, not protecting you. We need to collectively stand up and fight it.

We need an open public dialogue with Indigenous peoples and all Canadians. Together, we need to stop Bill C-51 before it becomes law.

Gord Peters is Grand Chief of the Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians which represents the Batchewana First Nation, Caldwell First Nation, Delaware Nation, Hiawatha First Nation, Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte, Oneida Nation of the Thames, and the Wahta Mohawks. For more information check out

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