Keeping Up With The Neighbors

The relationship between Canada and the United States is friendly for the most part. We share a common border. Official business is done in English for the most part in both countries. Until a couple years ago, you didn’t need a passport or Real ID to travel between the two countries. However, as will happen in friendships sometimes, one of the two becomes envious of something the other has, and they decide that they need that item themselves.

Canada felt that way about us. We had something called the Patriot Act which we could use as “legal” justification to violate the civil and/or constitutional rights of people or groups that the government deemed threatening, and Canada didn’t – until yesterday.

Graphic: Government of Canada

Graphic: Government of Canada

Yesterday, Steven Blaney, Canada’s Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, and Peter MacKay, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, welcomed the royal assent of C-51, also known as the Anti-Terrorism Act, 2015.

Graphic by Government of Canada

Graphic: Government of Canada

We’ve written about C-51 before. In our previous article, we pointed out that among other things, C-51 allows 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 also criminalizes the communication of statements advocating what the state deems to be terrorism.

You might be thinking at this point: “OK, what’s the big deal then? The house arrest sounds harsh, but the communication part’s understandable.” The problem here is what the government considers terrorism.

For example, Harper’s linking of terrorism to mosques during a February press conference drew condemnation from the Muslim and legal communities. Under C-51, anybody attending services at a mosque, or even interacting with people who do could be subject to surveillance and/or arrest.

Another example: 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. This paves the way for First Nations people protesting against the tar sands or pollution to be arrested for terrorism. Or, for people who express solidarity for the protests through social media and the like. In fact, if we (Occupy World Writes) were in Canada, we could be placed under surveillance or arrested and our computers, etc. confiscated just for what we’ve been known to post.

Unfortunately, what just happened in Canada could happen fairly soon here as well as in other countries. We can see the TPP and TTIP being used to spread this style of repression far and wide through corporations using ISDS (Investor-State Dispute Settlement) to sue our government for not being as tough on “environmental extremist” activities as Canada is, for example.

So, what happens if by some miracle Congress kills the TPP and TTIP? Will we still have to worry about our government following Canada’s lead? Absolutely! We have to keep up with our neighbors, after all…

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