LETTER: Bill C-51 too vast, vague and unnecessary

Bill C-51 is still a vast and nasty piece of business. It is clearly unnecessary when Canadian police in several provinces have used current laws to apprehend people planning acts of violence. C -51 is also far too broad to be a useful law since it does not make clear what limits it should work in. Its lack of clarity and its breadth are the result or the cause of its vague language: either way is bad. The Canadian Bar Association has said so. We should trust them

Bill C-51, which the Conservative government sought to rush through Parliament, states in its opening pages that it will revise the following acts: Information Sharing, Secure Air Travel, Criminal Code, Canadian Security Intelligence Service, Immigration and Refugee Protection, Aeronautics and Canada Evidence. Later on, it slides in more acts to revise including the Chemical Weapons Convention, the Youth Justice Act and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Something is fishy when a government is in an unseemly hurry to modify so many and fundamental laws.

The language of the bill is slippery. The bill says that someone who “may” cause harm can be detained. What is the threshold of proof of this “may”? Accusations of terrorist activity can be made in secret and even tried where the accuser is screened from the view of the accused. Some would say not to worry about this, but keep on the right side of me, or I’ll finger you as a fanatic.

Bill C-51 identifies as acts of terror, “activities which threaten the security of another state”. Leaving aside that Canada, through its spies and export of volunteers and/or soldiers to war scenes around the world, supports such activities, it is obvious that this provision only applies to some states not others. When a Canadian enlists, for instance, to support the Ukrainian government, will that person be secure from accusations of terrorism when Canada’s desire to unload wheat from the western provinces, trumps our historical connections to Kiev and causes us to befriend Russia, again?

Several definitions of terrorism equate it to interference with economic growth, or critical infrastructure. So a pipeline protest, a local group trying to stop a dump, a strike, a Native group blocking a rail line, or a group of farmers taking their tractors onto a highway all constitute terror. Hardly! Worse, terrorism can be “an act or an omission” meaning that because you did not do something you can be accused of doing something serious. Seriously? This defies logic.

The current government is famous for concealing nasty bits in other legislation. The gutting of many environmental protections happened in budget bills. Like those, this one is over-reaching, poorly thought and too broad to be useful. Nothing is clear in how the law should work or should be required to respect us and our laws. It is clear, however, that it targets Canadians who disagree with the government. Even with the revisions, it needs to be stopped by Parliament while it still has the power to do so.

Bryan Smith, Sweaburg


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