The controversy surrounding the proposed anti-terrorism legislation, Bill C-51, manifested itself on the streets of Kamloops as opponents of the bill gathered outside the local Member of Parliament’s office.
Approximately 150 Kamloops residents assembled in front of Cathy McLeod’s office and then marched down Victoria St. to the Kamloops Art Gallery. The protest was one of many that took place across the country on March 14 as part of what organizers called a “day of action.”
C-51 is a five-part legislation package that alters the laws surrounding information sharing, air travel and immigration. The bill also gives new powers to judges and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) to investigate and prosecute terrorist activity. The bill’s opponents say it is overly complex and broad, especially in its definition of what constitutes a terrorist or terrorist activity.
Kamloops federal NDP candidate Bill Sundhu, who was present at the protest, called bill C-51 “complex, convoluted, overly broad and far too intrusive.”
NDP Foreign Affairs critic Paul Dewar said, “We are concerned Conservatives have steadily given CSIS more powers while ignoring calls from experts and commissions of inquiry that our intelligence and security agencies also need better oversight.”
The green party has been the most vocal in their opposition to the bill. Party leader Elizabeth May spoke at the Toronto “day of action” protest.
The Liberal party has chosen to support Bill C-51, with party leader Justin Trudeau remarking: “This bill can be improved, but on the whole, it does include measures that will help keep Canadians safer. As such, we will support it.”
The protest was organized by Liam Bass and TRU student Nikki Ford.
“The bill doesn’t recognize the difference between political involvement and terrorism,” Bass said when asked why he was protesting.
Ford called the bill “unconstitutional” and an “infringement on freedom of expression and freedom of assembly [that] undermines the ability for people to have a free life.”
Another protestor, Louise Richards said that she was “not convinced that the bill is necessary considering all the other anti-terrorism laws we have.”
Ford and Sundhu addressed the assembled protestors and then opened up the microphone for others to voice their opinions.
TRU professor Wilson Bell, who attended the protest but did not address the crowd, said “any step towards a police state is a step in the wrong direction” and noted that threats of terrorism were a common justification for enacting stricter laws in the Soviet Union, his area of study.