Thousands expected at cross-country C-51 protests

LauraBeaulne
ca-news-canada-politics
OpenMedia is one of the organizations supporting the national day of action in protest of Bill C-51 (OpenMedia.ca)

Critics of the Conservative government’s anti-terror legislation will be gathering in over 50 cities across the country Saturday in an effort to raise awareness about the controversial bill and encourage the government to go back to the C-51 drawing board.

LeadNow, OpenMedia and Amnesty International are among the organizations involved in or throwing support behind what’s been dubbed the national day of action against Bill C-51 on March 14.

OpenMedia executive director Steve Anderson told Yahoo Canada News that over 15,000 individuals have RSVP’d for the cross-country events online.

“More and more Canadians from all walks of life are concerned about this bill,” he said. “We’re just hoping to make that more clear to the government and educate more Canadians, because … the real kind of challenge for those of us who understand the dangers of the bill is to educate [other] Canadians.

The government’s anti-terror bill, which was introduced in Parliament at the end of January, has received widespread criticism from academics, legal experts and rights and free speech advocates. Conservatives in the House of Commons say the legislation is necessary to keep Canadians safe from terrorist threats.

“We think that the government should go back to the drawing board…work in consultation with the privacy commissioner [and] seek the opinions of experts,” Anderson added.   

Bill C-51 would, among other things, expand powers of Canada’s spy agency CSIS, ban the promotion of terrorism, facilitate information sharing among federal institutions and give police powers to preventatively detain terror suspects.

Concerns about Bill C-51 have spread beyond political and activist circles. Anderson said OpenMedia doesn’t want to take the credit for how these rallies have come together in just a couple of weeks.

“It’s just regular people kind of stepping up…Canadians are taking it upon themselves,” he said. 

Regular people, as Anderson put it, are involved but also, possibly, some Canadian celebrities. Hamilton’s rally could see a few musicians in attendance, who are in town for the Juno Awards taking place in the southern Ontario city this year.

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LeadNow and OpenMedia have invited members of all political parties to attend the cross-country events.

Green Party leader Elizabeth May is confirmed for the protest at Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto, and NDP MP Nycole Turmel will attend the Ottawa rally. Randall Garrison, the NDP’s public safety critic, spoke about the rallies during question period on Friday.

Anderson said that although Liberal MPs have been invited, they’d be more inclined to keep their heads down. New Democrats and Greens in the House of Commons oppose Bill C-51 and Liberals, even though leader Justin Trudeau has admitted problems with the bill, plan on supporting it when it comes to a vote.

“At OpenMedia we’ve been quite public in stating that we’re disappointed in the position the Liberals have taken,” Anderson said.

He added that it wouldn’t be too difficult for the Liberals — or Conservatives for that matter — to change their tunes on C-51 as it makes its way through Parliament.

They could say, “we’ve seen with this bill since it was officially announced [and] Canadians don’t like what they see. There are grave concerns and experts have been pretty unanimous,” Anderson said.

“I think there’s a lot of room for that.”