Trade and International Affairs

Anti-terrorism legislation threatens to undermine the freedom the government claims it would protect

March 13, 2015

The Canadian Labour Congress says that Bill C-51, proposed anti terrorism legislation, threatens to undermine the very freedoms the government claims it wants to protect.

“Canadians agree that terrorism is a threat and the government has a responsibility to safeguard public safety, but it has not justified why it cannot do that using the existing criminal code,” said CLC president Hassan Yussuff.

“This bill appears to be more about political posturing ahead of a political election than it is about better protecting public safety and our democracy,” he added.

What’s worse, he says, is it is being rushed through without adequate debate and consultation.

“We are alarmed that the government has blocked Canada’s Privacy Commissioner and former Prime Ministers from testifying before the parliamentary committee hearing evidence on the bill,” said Yussuff.

The CLC represents 3.3 million workers and an increasingly diverse membership that includes workers from Muslim and other communities who are being targeted by this bill and the rhetoric being used to promote it.

“We remember too well how after the attacks of 9/11, CSIS and the RCMP harassed many Muslims and workers from other racialized communities in their workplaces, resulting in job losses and harassment by employers and co-workers,” said Yussuff.

“We are opposing this bill on behalf of those communities and because if passed into law it will compromise the rights of all our members and all Canadians,” he added.

What’s wrong with Bill C-51

  • It goes well beyond working to stop genuine security threats, giving CSIS and the RCMP far-reaching new powers, lowering the threshold for preventative arrest and expanding the notion of what constitutes a threat to national security.
  • It leaves peaceful work stoppages, wildcat strikes, and other forms of nonviolent civil disobedience that may be deemed unlawful, susceptible to far-reaching interference and disruption by the RCMP and CSIS. Think of the peaceful yet “unlawful” activism that won women the right to vote in Canada, ended racial segregation in the US and defeated Apartheid in South Africa.
  • It exacerbates an already serious lack of oversight and review of CSIS, the RCMP and other agencies tasked with national security work.
  • This bill introduces a new criminal offense for ‘advocating’ or ‘promoting’ the commission of a terrorism act – terms that could be interpreted very subjectively. This could impact freedom of speech, freedom of opinion, freedom of the press and academic freedom.
  • It allows CSIS to contravene the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and other Canadian laws.

What our allies are saying

The International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group lists links to submissions and presentations made in opposition to the bill by many of our allies, including the Assembly of First Nations, Amnesty International, Greenpeace and the Canadian Council for Refugees.

CLC president Hassan Yussuff is scheduled to appear before the House of Commons Public Safety Committee on March 25.

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