POLITICS

Harper's Anti-Terror Bill C-51 One Step Closer To Becoming Law

05/06/2015 07:10 EDT | Updated 05/07/2015 01:59 EDT

With the support of federal Liberals, the Conservative government's controversial anti-terror legislation passed the House of Commons Wednesday by a vote of 183 to 96.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair attended the vote, but Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who was in Europe this week, was absent.

After months of debate, Bill C-51 now heads to the Senate for final passage. The governor general is expected to give royal assent within weeks.

Several MPs took to Twitter to voice their opposition and blast Liberals for supporting the legislation.

The bill will lower the threshold of evidence needed to label someone a threat to national security. It will also grant Canadian security and intelligence agencies more leniency when it comes to accessing and sharing information between departments.

Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney defended the legislation during a third-reading of the bill on Tuesday.

“Members have heard me many times saying that there is no liberty without security. I would add that there is no prosperity without security,” he said. On multiple occasions, the minister accused the NDP of failing to “call a spade a spade” in reference to the attack a gunman launched on Parliament Hill last year.

NDP public safety critic Randall Garrison responded by saying he was “disappointed” Blaney chose to use the forum as a platform to attack the opposition. He claimed the government was utilizing fear to push the legislation through.

“It was clear that the government intended to marshal the politics of fear to stampede Bill C-51 through the House,” said Garrison during the debate.

The NDP MP also criticized Liberals for supporting broad information-sharing "even though it presents a great threat to our civil liberties.”

Liberals announced earlier in the year they would support the proposed changes to the country's anti-terror laws, but would amend the legislation if they win the next election. Among other things, they pledged to provide more oversight of national security agencies.

The omnibus legislation was presented the the House following the deaths of two Canadian soldiers, Cpl. Nathan Cirillo and Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent in October.

The bill has attracted significant national and international attention from newspapers and civil liberties advocates.

The Globe and Mail’s editorial board published a column on Tuesday calling the bill “as murky as ever” on the eve of its final vote.

“The government has never justified its need to weaken Canada's constitutional protections. It has simply stated that it wants more powers to fight terrorism and then churlishly impugned the motives of anyone who has spoken out against Bill C-51,” it stated.

Earlier this year, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden weighed in on the sweeping measures proposed in the bill, warning Canadians to be “extraordinarily cautious.”

Federal privacy watchdog Daniel Therrien has also shared his concerns over inefficient measures within the bill’s current framework to wholly protect an individual's personal information.

“All Canadians – not only terrorism suspects – will be caught in this web,” Therrien wrote in a March briefing note. “The implications for privacy are serious – especially when we are talking about the highly sensitive information that Canadians entrust to their government.”

He called the potential loss of privacy “clearly excessive.”

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