Bill C-51 is anti-terrorism legislation that was proposed on Jan. 30. After the attacks in Ottawa and Montreal in October, the Harper government promised that measures would be taken to strengthen security to prevent future attacks. The bill has sparked conversation regarding personal privacy and free speech.
What is Bill C-51?
Bill C-51, also known as the Anti-terrorism Act, 2015, was created to enable information sharing between the Canadian government and other government institutions in order to protect Canadians against anything that threatens the security of the nation. This will mean giving law enforcement agencies the power to arrest or detain anyone suspected of terrorist involvement, allowing federal institutions to share private information between themselves, and allow security agencies such as the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) to look into potential terrorist activities. The bill also allows law enforcement to monitor online activity and order the removal of terrorist propaganda. Bill C-51 will also change certain divisions of the Immigrant and Refugee Protection Act, allowing evidence used in the immigration process to be re-evaluated without the individual being made aware.
Why the Harper government wants it
According to the government, Bill C-51 would ensure safer transportation for Canadians, including clarifying the laws regarding Canada’s no-fly list, and will allow law enforcement to arrest anyone they suspect is going to carry out a terrorist attack. The bill will also provide protection for any witnesses who step forward with information regarding terrorist activities. The government believes that these measures are being taken to ensure a safer environment for Canadians.
Why opponents don’t want it
Many Canadians are hesitant to accept the proposed bill, because they believe it infringes on personal privacy and restricts freedom of expression. The bill could allow for federal institutions such as the Canada Revenue Agency, the Public Health Agency of Canada, and the Immigration and Refugee Board to share private information with the RCMP without their knowledge. Under C-51, the definition of a security issue has not yet been properly defined, and as it stands could potentially include peaceful protests and other forms of free speech.
Another concern is that the Conservative government is trying to move the bill to ensure its enactment before the next election. This could mean that many key terms might be left undefined, such as the definition of a security issue or terrorist propaganda. Without a clear definition of what sort of content is prohibited, civil rights experts are worried that Canadians could be persecuted for what is now seen as free speech.
What is going on now?
On Feb. 23, the bill was read and passed along to the Commons standing committee. Since then, Canadians have been protesting all over Canada, and many organizations such as the Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR) have released commentary documents to discuss problems they are finding with the bill. Canadians have been expressing their thoughts, concerns and support for the bill on social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Reddit.