Powers of new C-51 law ‘all sweeping, easily abused’ – Canadian activist
The stringent bill, dubbed C-51, was passed into law in the Canadian Senate by a vote of 44-28 on June 9, despite strong opposition of many Liberal Party members and nationwide public protests.
Critics say the law is too heavy-handed and too vague. It implies that advocating terrorism, even when there is no intent to commit a crime or commit a violent offense, is a crime. It also potentially bans activism and protest: for example, a non-sanctioned demonstration in favor of Quebec separatism or against an oil pipeline could be deemed as a threat to national security.
Police are now able to detain anyone they suspect of being a
terrorist and there is no need to prove that someone was going to
commit a crime. Federal departments are able to share an
individual’s personal information and spy agencies can breach
people’s privacy and freedom of expression.
RT:James, the law was introduced over safety concerns, that is the argument. Memories, of course, still fresh of last year’s parliament shooting, surely it was expected that measures would follow?
James Gordon: Yes we all knew there would be something like that but no-one guessed it would be as extreme as what we’re seeing with this bill.
RT:What makes this so non-democratic as you see it?
JG: Well, you really outlined it very well I think in your description of it. If it is entirely up to the CSIS (Canadian Security Intelligence Service) or a spy agency to determine who is a terrorist and who is not. Those powers would be all sweeping and could be easily abused. It goes so far, according to some people, that I could be, as an activist myself, as an artist who is used to using a form of expression sometimes to point out what’s going on with our democracy. Maybe just you and I having this conversation right now could put me at risk.
RT:Canadians know very well how widespread spying turned out to be for the United States, why would they follow the same pattern knowing the fall out that we would see?
JG: That’s a very good question and I think because it’s an election year, I think there is an agenda that does not actually fit in with the reality that is happening with terrorism in Canada. We already have checks and balances and measures in place to deal with such incidents, but these overly non-democratic powers are for a different agenda many people think, that it suppresses just dissent with our own regime, not necessarily about terrorism at all.
RT:How has the Canadian public reacted to this? I mean this isn’t exactly being covered wall to wall in the mainstream media, most people might even not know that this law was passed, the reason we’re covering it is because our audience members wrote to us asking us to cover this story, so how have people reacted in Canada?
JG: Well, that’s a very good point too, because the mainstream media is often more sympathetic to the ruling Harper government. It sort of stayed under the radar for quite a while. But I think thanks to social media, thanks to good work activists are doing to raise awareness about it; I think the statistics have changed very quickly. For instance, when the Liberal Party decided to endorse the bill, they did after polling that suggested that’s what Canadian were looking for, and according to my information, it’s almost turned right around now. I think only 40 percent of those polled would approve of this bill, so it’s really put a different slant on our upcoming election, and I think it will be a major factor in it.
RT:What about the masses, though? Of course there are those who watch the mainstream, social media can take us pretty far, we saw reaction to the NSA and their surveillance programs, but they tend to die down eventually. How much can the people of Canada stop this law from taking action?
JG: Well, we tried. It is in-effect now, this law, so our only recourse is to vote for parties that are vowing to repeal the law if they get into power at the election. That is our only hope, and I think because there is going to be a large election issues. Going back to your question about the masses, the platform that an election allows the different parties means that everyone is going to be crisscrossing the country talking about it, except the Conservative Party that doesn’t seem to want to talk about anything.