I have been talking about Bill C-51 with my friends and family members for the past few weeks now as I am greatly concerned about the impact that passing this legislation will have on the freedom and rights of all Canadians. Many people however, seem confused as to why I would even waste my time and energy getting upset about this matter. They seem to believe that as long as one is not engaging in terrorist or criminal activity, one should have no cause to be concerned with this legislation. It is very important that every Canadian citizen read the proposed bill C-51 in order to understand how the language used in the bill’s writing is so broad that it could certainly encompass people taking actions that would not necessarily be deemed terrorist, or even criminal. This bill is worded in such a fashion that it could very well be interpreted in ways that would remove our inherent and constitutional rights to free speech.
Bill C-51 states that any person who “by communicating statements, knowingly advocates or promotes the commission of terrorism offences in general — other than an offence under this section — while knowing that any of those offences will be committed or being reckless as to whether any of those offences may be committed, as a result of such communication, is guilty of an indictable offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than five years.” (http://www.parl.gc.ca/HousePublications/Publication.aspx?Mode=1&DocId=6932136&Language=E&File=32#1 16. The Act is amended by adding the following after section 83.22:)
Marni Soupcoff, Executive Director of the Canadian Constitution Foundation, helpfully breaks this jargon down into laymen’s terms for us in her article “Bill C-51: Think Inside the Box” :
“Bill C-51 doesn’t just deal with statements that advocate terrorism; it also covers statements that “promote” terrorism. To be found guilty, the person who made those statements doesn’t need to have known his words or images would lead to an act of terrorism. It’s enough that he was simply “reckless” about whether what he was saying might cause someone out there to commit a terrorist act.” (http://theccf.ca/articles/bill-c-51-think-inside-box/)
Does this mean that if a law abiding Canadian were to write a blog post denouncing the government’s continued involvement in the war in Afghanistan, and that if a deranged person who read this article decided that to engage in a terrorist act against a government institution in retaliation, that the author of the blog post is complicit in the terrorism? With the language being used, it could definitely be argued that yes, the blogger was “reckless” as to whether or not his post might have caused another person to engage in a terrorist act. With such broad language being used, it is conceivable that self censorship could soon become the required norm if one wishes to avoid prosecution and imprisonment!
While the Prime Minister has continually denied that this bill could be used against law abiding citizens exercising free speech, he also has not been able to explain why this legislation is even necessary. It is already illegal under the criminal code of Canada to knowingly promote terrorist activity, but the Prime Minister has been unable to explain why it is necessary to criminalize people who have no wish or intention to incite terrorism, and are simply exercising their right to free speech.
In an open letter to Parliament, over 100 academics, mostly involved in legal studies, are imploring the government to alter the wording of Bill C-51. Their condemnation of the bill is harsh, but accurate stating that “Bill C-51 is a dangerous piece of legislation in terms of its potential impacts on the rule of law, on constitutionally and internationally protected rights and on the health of Canada’s democracy.” (https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/1678018-open-letter-on-bill-c-51.html)
There will be a public presentation and discussion about Bill C-51 in Kingston Ontario March 2 2015, 6:30PM at Kingston City Hall.
Sharry Aiken, Queen’s Law Professor, former chair of the Canadian Council for Refugees
Matthew Behrnes, writer, coordinator Homes not Bombs
David Murakami Wood, Canadian Research Chair in Surveillance Studies, Queen’s University
All are welcome to this free event – please invite others and spread the word!