Canada’s War On Activists

On October 20, 2014, Martin Couture-Rouleau deliberately ran into two Canadian Armed Forces soldiers with his car in a shopping center parking lot in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, killing one soldier and injuring another. Couture-Rouleau was killed by police after he rolled his car while trying to escape.

Two days later, on October 22, 2014, a series of shootings took place in Ottawa, Canada. Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, a 32 year old Canadian, shot and killed a soldier on ceremonial guard duty, and shot at and missed two other guards. Zehaf-Bibeau then went to the Canadian parliament building, where he shot a guard in the foot during a struggle. He was shot and killed by Kevin Vickers, the Sergeant-at-Arms of the House of Commons.

Stephen Harper. Photo by World Economic Forum - Remy Steinegger [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Stephen Harper. Photo by World Economic Forum – Remy Steinegger [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The Canadian government was quick to call both events acts of terrorism. Prime Minister Stephen Harper referred to the October 20 incident as an ISIL-inspired terrorist attack in his address to the Canadian people following the October 22 shootings. Interestingly enough, in a poll conducted after the Ottawa shootings, more Canadians considered the shootings an act of mental illness than considered it an act of terrorism. But, we digress…

We’ve seen governments push through legislation stripping away civil rights and due process under the guise of “fighting terrorism” all too often, and Canada, like the US after 9/11, jumped at the opportunity to gain even more control over its citizens.

The first legislation to be proposed was C-44, which is scheduled to go up for its final vote tonight (Monday). C-44 strengthens the protection of intelligence sources; in fact, with very few exceptions, it would be illegal to identify sources. We can immediately see problems with this, as it allows the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) to basically prosecute based on hearsay evidence from the source, and the defendant wouldn’t have a chance to respond directly to his accuser. Another thing C-44 does is allow CSIS more latitude in obtaining warrants for putting Canadians overseas under surveillance. We feel the problems inherent with this are obvious.

Last Friday, Prime Minister Harper unveiled C-51, another “anti-terrorism” bill. While C-44 could be seen as a chipping away of the average Canadian’s rights, C-51 is nothing less than an outright assault on them. What makes C-51 so bad?

For one thing, C-51 would allow a judge to impose up to a year of house arrest on someone who has neither been convicted nor charged with any crime, as well as require him/her to wear an electronic monitoring bracelet at all times.

It would also criminalize the communication of statements that promote and advocate terrorism. Needless to say, that’s a very frightening thing, because it’s the government who decides what fits that definition, and not the courts. A judge needs to issue the warrant, but we haven’t any doubt that there will be judges who will give the CSIS whatever they want.

This becomes very worrisome when taken in context with previous statements from Canadian law enforcement. For example, in a report acquired under an Access of information request (equivalent to our FOIA request) last October, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) stated that Canada’s energy sector is more vulnerable to “environmental extremist” actions than from religiously inspired terrorist organizations.

By classifying any form of activism that the government doesn’t approve of as “extremism,” C-51 basically gives the Canadian government the right to detain anybody who says anything against their policies. According to the Huffington Post, the Muslim community in Canada is “deeply troubled” that Harper “implicated Canadian mosques as venues where terrorism is advocated or promoted.” Under C-51 as it’s currently written, anybody attending services at a mosque, or even interacting with people who do could be subject to surveillance and/or arrest.

The bill is tabled for the time being as the parliament debates the contents. We urge them to completely reject C-51 as being both anti-democratic and unnecessary. It’s already a crime in Canada to plan or support terrorist activity; the only purpose we can see for this bill is for the government to be able to arrest activists and suppress dissent under the guise of “stopping terrorism.”

We will not be silenced…

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