April 11, 2015
Congress of Progressive Filipino Canadians (CPFC)
Toronto – Insulted and angry – these are the feelings that many Canadians have following expeditious attempts of the Conservative majority to pass Bill C-51 through parliament without any opposition or serious criticism. Dubbed the “Anti-Terrorism” Bill, Harper and his cabinet have made the case that the threat of the Islamic State and other Terrorist organizations is so great that it requires the passing of Bill C-51 to allow 17 government organizations to monitor and share information gathered from Canadians and to turn the Canadian Secret Intelligence Service (CSIS) into an armed police force who are only accountable to themselves in order to maintain national security. We, the Congress of Progressive Filipino Canadians, reject Bill C-51 and condemn this push for state terrorism. We denounce these proposals as outright attacks on the rights and freedoms of the Canadian people that seek to further disintegrate the principles of fundamental justice, the rule of law, and democracy. We reject the ongoing Islamophobia and racism against the Muslim community in Canada used to move this Bill forward following the lone wolf attacks by individuals. And, we oppose the ongoing militarization and imperialist wars of aggression in the Middle-East and abroad that continue to take the lives of innocent people and foster the development of terrorist organizations like the Islamic State.
In total, Bill C-51 includes five main provisions that undermine individual rights of privacy, justice and the right to democratic political dissent. Part One would enact the Security of Canada Information Sharing Act, which would infringe on current privacy laws by authorizing governmental bodies, institutions and companies to share personal and private information of individuals deemed to “undermine” Canadian security. Part Two enacts the Secure Air Travel Act which would detain and prohibit persons identified as dangerous passengers and who may be travelling abroad to commit or aid in acts of “terrorism.” Part Three amends the Criminal Code to criminalize the expression of ideas that would relate to or promote “extremist propaganda”. Part Four would grant more powers to CSIS as both an intelligence and enforcement agency, as well as broadening their jurisdictions to operate within and outside of Canada. Finally, Part Five amends the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act in ways that would get rid of the government’s duty to fully disclose information to advocates defending detainees and would allow closed and confidential national security hearings. These changes in effect would put a chill on freedom of expression and dissent, give CSIS the powers for direct and active intervention beyond the role of intelligence gathering, and powers to arrest and detain.
While providing no evidence for the efficacy of these provisions in deterring or eliminating “Terrorism,” the government of Canada has erected a series of acts that allow them to quell and monitor any type of political dissent – social media included under the concept of “terrorism” and or anything that is perceived to undermine the national security of Canada. These propositions presuppose a defensive and preventative position that do not clearly and concretely define what terrorism is. The recent revisions that demonstrators and activists will not be targeted as long as they are peaceful and lawful remains problematic. The criteria for “civil disobedience” and “unlawful” protests still rest on definitions set forth by a government gripped by corporate and private sector interests that are inherently at odds with what most demonstrations are aimed at challenging. The lack of parliamentary oversight and complete absence of civilian oversight persist to be a major concern.
Arguably, the Bill further obscures what may constitute acts of terrorism by allowing for broader and more general definitions that are left all too malleable for manipulation. Under the Bill, there is neither a fair fit nor a justifiable correlation between the aggressive deprivation of people’s liberties and the casting of a larger net that would criminalize and treat the public as terror suspects. Even prior to 9/11, the state was already using immigration laws to justify heavy policing, detention, and the deportation of people from immigrant and racialized communities. Bill C-51’s loose usage of the term “terrorist” would open the floodgates of wrongful arrests and imprisonment without due process, unwarranted searches and seizures, harassment, boundless surveillance, baseless detentions, arbitrary deportations, unbridled police brutality, and acts that may constitute torture. The Bill would also seek to lower evidentiary thresholds that would make it easier and “lawful” to infringe on the rights of people with very little to no evidence based on mere suspicion. As Canada has proven to be fertile grounds for protests, community organizing, and progressive discourse through socio-political dissent, the Bill is more about seizing control and keeping an eye on the public than preventing “terrorism”.
Denied Citizenship because of the Niqab, kicked out of the courtroom because of the hijab, detained without evidence and placed on security certificate: for the Muslim community, these are just a few examples of the ongoing struggle with systemic racism in Canada. Bill C-51, now coupled with the government’s mission to “liberate” Muslim women and launch it’s “War on Isis/War on Terror,” has placed the greatest scrutiny on the Muslim community especially people of colour. Mainstream media and the state consistently portray white criminals as victims of mental illness or depression while Muslim individuals arrested for crimes are immediately labeled as “extremists”, “radicals”, “terrorists” and ambiguously connected to the Islamic State or other groups. One of the greatest pitfalls of Bill C-51, is that a narrative of fear alienating an entire community who contribute to Canada’s diversity and multiculturalism has pushed C-51 forward.
With the Military Budget expected to spill over $18 Billion or 2% of the Gross Domestic Product, Canada is not a peacekeeping nation, but an Imperialist nation at war and encouraged to enter into more conflicts by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) for the pursuit of new markets and capital. Returning from Afghanistan, over 150 Canadian soldiers were killed, 2,000 injured in combat with the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. Caught in the crossfire between the Taliban and U.S. coalition forces, it estimated that 17,000 innocent Afghan civilians were killed since 2009 with fighting still ongoing. Meanwhile, Harper continues to pressure all parties to enter a longer-term conflict in Syria to fight IS – an entity which President Obama confirmed was created after the U.S. invasion of Iraq following Sept 11, 2001. Enemy after Enemy abroad, it is clear that the “War on Terror” is never ending and that Canada’s missions abroad also helps to create the enemies the Canadian state argue to be fighting. If Canada’s “democracy” comes in the form of bullets, bombs and torture, Canada then fits Peter McKay’s description of “terrorism.”
The Conservative government’s fear mongering is anti-people, blatantly racist, oppressive and draconian. The clout of colonialism, fascism, totalitarianism and corporatism seep to the very core of these proposed laws and would contravene our most basic human rights and fundamental freedoms as individuals and as a people. It is a crucial time to keep the government in check of their primary purpose and responsibility as servants of the people and not their enemies. The passing of these laws would enflame a culture of domination, hate, distrust, violence, fear and most detrimental, the justification to attack racialized communities. We will continue to educate, organize and mobilize towards helping to advance a strong culture of resistance against imperialism.
Junk Bill C-51!
Stop the militarization of police!
No to War!
Genuine settlement and integration not deportation!
Protect the public’s rights, freedoms & liberties!