Conservatives and libertarians speak out against Bill C-51
By Peter Ewart & Dawn Hemingway
A group of individuals who call themselves “principled conservatives and libertarians”, many of whom have supported the Harper government in the past, have penned an open letter (1) strongly criticizing Bill C-51 for undermining the fundamental rights of Canadians, and have called upon the government to kill it.
Signatories include Prince George’s Sheldon Clare, president of the National Firearms Association; Connie and Mark Fournier, co-founders of the conservative publication Free Dominion; Jesse Kline, comment editor, National Post; and others.
The letter specifically criticizes the measure in Bill C-51 which will allow security agencies like the RCMP and CSIS, using “loosely written and vague law”, to pool together sensitive personal information on Canadians from 17 federal government institutions, including Revenue Canada, Health Canada, and other agencies. It argues that this will result in “a giant database and information disclosure [that] is tantamount to developing a long gun registry on steroids.”
According to the letter writers, Bill C-51 will allow for secret trials and “for speech to be censored by removal from the internet or by vague, and even unconstitutional ‘disruption’ measures that can be applied to Canadian website operators. It sets “dangerous precedents, and open[s] up doors to severe violations of Charter rights and privacy expectations of citizens in a free society.”
Instead of listening to the advice of experts, the letter goes on, the federal government “chose to attack those sounding the alarm as leftist ideologues and dismiss their valid concerns.”
One of the main things that this open letter illustrates is that a growing front of Canadians, from all walks of life and political persuasions, are opposed to Bill C-51. As the letter points out, the Harper government has tried to divide the citizenry by reducing the Bill C-51 issue to one of right wing versus left wing, which in today’s world is an increasingly archaic concept.
Fundamental rights, such as freedom of speech, freedom of conscience and right to privacy, are not the private property of any party or political organization, whether labelled “right wing” or “left wing”. They do not have Conservative, Liberal, NDP, Greens or any other party name stamped on them.
Indeed, fundamental rights belong to the people of the country. They are embedded in the bones of the nation. When they are violated, everyone, no matter their politics, no matter which party is in power, must stand up to defend them.
That happened 25 years ago when Canadians stood up to oppose the Charlottetown Accord and the anti-democratic concept of “executive federalism”. It happened 4 years ago when British Columbians rallied together to defeat the HST.
And, although the Harper government may not like it, this is precisely what is happening with the opposition to Bill C-51.
Peter Ewart is a columnist and writer based in Prince George, British Columbia. He can be reached at: email@example.com
(1) Principled conservatives and libertarians against Bill C-51. https://stopc51.ca/Conservative