Last year, when the Conservative government of Stephen Harper introduced Bill C-51, it didn't expect that Canadians would forcefully oppose it. Was it the "straw that broke the camel's back" effect, a sort of en masse cri de coeur, that clearly expressed the population fed up with the intrusive conservative policies and measures that have been gradually invading Canadians laws over the last decade?
Regardless of the interpretation of this massive opposition to Bill C-51, the message was loud and clear: Canadians did not want more powers to be given to security intelligence forces, they didn't want to restrict their freedom of expression and dissent, they didn't want their information to be shared with 17 federal agencies, they didn't want Canadian judges to violate the Charter and allow intelligence officers enter their home or seize their laptops without a judicial warrant.
It is worth mentioning that one of the polls conducted last April 2015 showed that 75 per cent of Canadian youth opposed Bill C-51 and that 77 per cent of Canadian who vote for the Liberal party opposed it as well.
The Conservative government had a majority and ironically, with the help of the Liberals MPs who were on the opposition, Bill C-51 passed and became the Anti-Terrorism Act 2015.
Despite all the gymnastics and contortions the Liberals had to undergo to defend their position as to why they voted for what Kent Roach and Craig Forcese, two prominent law professors, describe as "the most radical national security law ever enacted" since Canada's Charter was created. We have today one of the worst legislation that was introduced more as a tool of fear and never justified with facts and numbers.
Today, the political landscape has changed. We have a government that promised to conduct public hearings on several issues and to listen attentively to the demands of the population. We have a popular prime minister that wouldn't be embarrassed to take selfies with women in hijab in stark contrast with the previous prime minister, who campaigned against the right of some women to wear niqab. We even have a prime minister who would issue a statement in the aftermath of the Paris attacks to advocate against hatred and racism as opposed to the previous prime minister, who would use mosques as an example of where terrorist acts can be plotted.
Contrary to what some politicians might think or argue, a repeal of Bill C-51 wouldn't make us unsafe nor more vulnerable to terrorist attacks.
Nevertheless, when it comes to solid gestures and courageous actions, there seems no political appetite to tackle Bill C-51. Instead, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale hastily tabled in Parliament, one day before the House of Commons rises for the summer, a new legislation, Bill C-22, to create a parliamentary oversight. Can this legislation justify all the violations of rights that Bill C-51 would cause and entail? Absolutely not!
A parliamentary committee can never solve decades of lack of accountability affecting many agencies. It can't deal with the huge consequences of the information sharing. It can't examine issues that are deemed sensitive to "national security" by the public safety minister and many more limitations
Contrary to what some politicians might think or argue, a repeal of Bill C-51 wouldn't make us unsafe nor more vulnerable to terrorist attacks. There is already the Anti-Terrorism Act that was passed immediately after the 9-11 attacks in 2001, and if this is not enough, Stephen Harper introduced the Combating Terrorism Act in 2013 that among others allowed for the imposition of a recognizance with conditions on a person to prevent him/her from carrying out a terrorist attack.
Moreover, there is the Protection of Canada from Terrorists Act that passed in 2015, and it particularly granted Canadian Security Intelligence Services more powers of surveillance on Canadians suspected of terrorism within and outside Canada and, finally, we shouldn't forget the Passenger Protection Program, commonly known as the No-Fly List, that was implemented in 2007.
All these legislations exist, are part of our Canadian laws and have been enacted and used. It doesn't make them perfect and always justified, but for those who are saying that we can't live without Bill C-51, it is clear that they aren't aware of what we have in store already.
Do we still need Bill C-51? No! Do we need political courage to repeal it? Definitely, yes.
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