A demonstrator wears handcuffs while protesting on the National Day of Action against Bill C-51 in Toronto on Saturday, March 14, 2015. PHOTO: CP/Darren Calabrese
By Megan Drysdale
Since Bill C-51 was introduced, an abundance of analyses and commentaries have been published, examining the contents and broad reach of the proposed legislation. The general threats to your rights are widely reported on, but what do these threats actually mean for you?
Here are six ways that Bill C-51 could affect your day-to-day life:
- Your private information will no longer be private
Your confidential information and interactions with the government will now be fair game for sharing between departments for many broad reasons, of which terrorism is only one. The bill explicitly permits someone who received information under the bill to use and disclose it “to any person, for any purpose.” Looking at the list of recipient institutions, this could include information about your health, passport applications and personal taxes, among other things. And despite claiming to not target Canadians, Canada’s intelligence agency CSE is also given access to your information in this bill.
- Innocent words can be interpreted as terrorism
Bill C-51 broadens the scope of propagation crimes to include advocating or promoting “terrorism offences in general.” The wording of the bill is broad enough that a terrorist purpose is not required. Speaking privately about solutions to controversial conflicts or debating an academic opinion that “may” cause a listener to commit a terrorist offence could count as an indictable offence for you, regardless of your own intentions. “Being reckless,” as the bill describes it, can lead to up to five years in prison.
- Online posts will be censored
Under the bill, internet service providers and telecom providers would be required to remove any content that a judge considers terrorist propaganda, as well as anything that makes terrorist propaganda available. Linking to a video from a group like ISIS or Boko Haram could be blocked and taken down from your web and social media sites – even if you condemn the materials in your post. The bill would also allow for you to be identified and located for posting materials, despite your right to remain anonymous online.
- Protesting could put you under government surveillance
Any activities that undermine the security of Canada, broadly stated to include interfering with critical infrastructure or the economic stability of Canada, are offences under Bill C-51. Lawful protests are excluded, but any protests and strikes that lack the proper permits would be fair game. Standing up to protect Aboriginal lands, protesting oil sands or pipelines, and being involved in RCMP-targeted environmental groups could lead to you being placed under increased surveillance or arrest if any of your activities are deemed “unlawful” – a term that could include not securing the appropriate noise by-law exemption for loud megaphone use after 7pm.
- Your travel may be restricted without explanation
Bill C-51 expands the Passenger Protect Program so that the government can add anyone to the no-fly list that they suspect might engage in terrorism. People on the list could be denied boarding passes without being given a reason, and the threshold for inclusion on the list would be lowered from “immediate threat” to “reasonable grounds to suspect.” If you are placed on the list, attempts to be removed would involve a court procedure that lets the government request secret hearings that exclude you and your lawyer.
- Your material possessions may be seized
Canadian customs officers will have increased powers to search your belongings and seize anything they consider terrorist propaganda, including “writings, signs, visible representations or audio recordings.” These search powers could include computer and phone searches, and would give border officials free rein to decide which materials to confiscate without oversight. A book or DVD with interviews or information about terrorist groups could be seized.
Want to learn more about this dangerous legislation? Check out our list of resources.
- • Sign the petition: Join the over 200,000 Canadians who have spoken out against Bill C-51
- • Email your MP: Tell your elected representative why you oppose this dangerous bill
More from CJFE about Bill C-51
Megan Drysdale is CJFE’s Editorial and Events Coordinator.