Full House for Anti-Terror Legislation Meeting
BC Civil Liberties Association executive Director Josh Paterson address gathering at CNC – photo 250News
Prince George, B.C. – A capacity crowd at the College of New Caledonia lecture theatre last evening as folks waited to hear from the BC Civil Liberties Association on the impact of the new anti-terror legislation being introduced by the Harper government.The meeting was organized by the Stand Up for the North Committee, saying the legislation is being “rammed through parliament by the Government.”
Spokesperson Peter Ewart says there are concerns as the new legislation could put environmentalists, First Nations, unions, or anyone who opposes the government under scrutiny, or worse, jail. He said legislation is based on the fear of terrorist activity. “Fear can be a powerful thing” said Ewart, “indeed fear is the icy breath of the frozen police state” adding there is a ” fear bubble” being created over terrorism, “Is it being based on facts? In my opinion, it is not.” said Ewart. He says compared to other forms of crime, terrorism acts remain a small portion of criminal activity in Canada.
It is his opinion the anti-terror legislation “undermines our fundamental rights as Canadians.” Ewart says the legislation could intimidate Canadians into not standing up for their rights. He says there is a myth that we must give up some of our rights in order to have security, but he argues “The stronger our rights, the stronger our security.”
Josh Paterson, the Executive Director of the BC Civil Liberties Association, says people are being spied upon now, “in the last two years, the Government has brought in three different laws to increase the powers of our spy agency.” He said on the day Nathan Cirillo was gunned down in front of the Parliament buildings, the Government was preparing to introduce Bill C-41 which would have given more powers to CSIS. He said that evening, the Prime Minister stood up and said there was a need for new laws, even though there was no clear evidence of what had happened earlier in the day. And that was the spark for Bill C-51 “It is going to dramatically expand the powers of Canada’s spy agencies” said Paterson, even though there is no evidence that would justify the new law “We say that’s a terrible way to make new laws, to make new policy.”
“We in B.C. were the very first ones to cry foul about this Bill” says Paterson. “This week we are going to be in Ottawa to testify against this Bill.”
There will be 9 days of hearings, which Paterson says for the kind of changes proposed is not long at all. He says the Bill poses a real threat to people of colour, Muslim Canadians and First Nations.
Paterson outlined what the BC Civil Liberties Association views as a few of the main planks of the bill:
- CSIS: Gives additional powers to CSIS to reduce threats by taking measures, but doesn’t outline what those measures may be.
- Makes criminals of people who “promote” terrorism but the definition of terrorism is too broad, such as interrupting critical infrastructure that impacts Canada’s economy
- The Bill will make it easier to throw people in jail under the power of “preventive detention” without any evidence of criminal activity or planned criminal activity and length of detention will be doubled from 3 days to 6.
- Proposes new legislation on information sharing. Says it will gut the provision of the privacy act, which protects people from information being shared with other departments in government and anyone else who wants it.
“This bill , is really problematic, It is an unprecedented attack on the rights of the people in this country, on our freedoms, our privacy without one shred of justification that any of it will increase our security.” He says the additional issue is that there is no oversight to see if people are complying with the law. In short, Paterson says the powers are too much, that the bill poses a huge threat to democracy.