Original Source: Ottawa Citizen
Members of the Idle No More community and supporters protested on Parliament hill Saturday to loudly reject the Conservatives’ anti-terror legislation, Bill C-51.
Despite the government’s recent proposed amendments to the legislation that would safeguard protesters from being detained by the new measures, demonstrators say that their rights to freedom of speech are still threatened.
On the steps below the Peace Tower, a large crowd of activists held their signs high as Alex Neve, secretary general of Amnesty International, addressed protesters. He stood up, microphone in hand, recognizing Parliament Hill as “unceded Algonquin land,” with a clear message to listeners: “Bill C-51 has to go.”
“This legislation is so flawed … I can tell you that on every single page of Bill C-51 there is something that violates, undermines, attacks or affronts human rights. We don’t solve that by a little tweak here … by removing a word here,” he said.
The struggle to fight for the rights of First Nations people is already hard enough without the bill, said Lynda Kitchikeesic Juden, the protest’s organizer.
She’s part of the Idle No More movement that has peacefully rallied across the country for the protection of indigenous land and water. She’s afraid the bill will give the government secret policing powers to stop these kinds of protests.
“I see paperwork coming from CSIS, and every one of our events is listed as a possible threat on the same order as, say, an earthquake in Greece and terrorist act in Tunisia.”
The bill, introduced in January, would restructure Canada’s security laws to allow police to detain terror suspects more easily, ban the “promotion of terrorism,” enhance powers of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) to gather and share data, and allow the government to add people to Canada’s “no-fly” list. Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the changes would protect Canadians from the “evolving threat of terrorism.”
On Friday, the Conservative government announced that it would make amendments to the bill that will narrow the scope of what is considered a terrorist-related activity. This comes after a wave of protests across the nation rallying against Bill C-51. The government said it would also put forward an amendment that clearly states that CSIS agents would not have the power of arrest.
But for Ferrukh Faruqui, who joined the protest, the amendments do not address the biggest flaw of the legislation: the lack of oversight of CSIS.
“CSIS was created to make a distinction between intelligence gathering and law enforcement. If there is no clear distinction, then there’s abuses of power,” said Faruqui, who is also a member of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women.
She said the bill will chill free speech. “We should be able to stand up and say, ‘Yes, I know you are my elected prime minister’, and if we disagree with what they’re saying, then we have a right in a democratic society to dissent and not be afraid that our words are going to be misconstrued.”
She believes there is a great potential for the bill to be misused and criminalize law-abiding Canadians. “This is not the hallmark of a free society,” she said.
As musicians banged on a drum and protestors marched in a circle, Faruqui said: “I am standing on the grounds of Parliament today to exercise my right to free speech, which is something that I think we all need to have.”