Your chance to protect civil liberties and get rid of C-51

We've shared with you why we need to scrap Bill C-51 - and why the government needs to act to make sure that national security doesn't come at the expense of free expression, freedom of association, and political dissent in Canada.*

Next week, we'll have a great chance to call on parliament to act to protect the right to dissent. From Oct. 17 to 21, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security will be holding in person consultations in 5 cities across Canada. Below is the information on the sessions, and a few points to help to put together a sharp message to share with these MPs. (To skip straight to the details on the consultations, click here)

As a primer, you can read our case study on Bill C-51 (about a 15 minute read) and its negative, overreaching impact on our rights. Here are five of the most pressing matters that you can use when speaking to the committee members next week:

Why oppose C-51?

It places a chill on free expression.

Bill C-51 brought in new charges for anyone who knowingly advocates or promotes “terrorism offences in general” while aware that someone “may” carry out an offence. The problem? The broad definition of terrorism in the Act and the vagueness of the wording of this particular provision leaves reporters, academics and everyday people open to possible charges when they are commenting on politics or expressing dissent. Even if no one is ever charged, the fact such uncertainty exists is enough for people to self-censor in order to avoid legal trouble.

It criminalizes political protest.

Bill C-51 added "interference with critical infrastructure" to the definition of terrorism. Critical infrastructure could include controversial pipelines, highways, and other potential sites of protest. While the bill explicitly states that this does not apply to "advocacy, protest, dissent and artistic expression," it still opens the door to the criminalization of dissent. It is easy to envision a government saying a protest is not an act of dissent, but rather an attempt to "intimidate the public, or a segment of the public, with regard to its security, including its economic security" - the definition of a terrorist act in the Criminal Code.

It violates your personal privacy.

Bill C-51 brought in new, unprecedented powers for government agencies to share the information they gather on individuals, under the Security of Canada Information Sharing Act. It allows for an individual's information to be shared, without their knowledge or consent, between unrelated government agencies, if they are viewed as a "security threat." As legal experts Craig Forcese and Kent Roach also explain, the definition of a threat is breathtakingly broad, leading advocates to ask what would not be included under these information sharing rules.

It lacks oversight and transparency.

All of this was brought in without any new checks and balances on national security agencies like the RCMP, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIC) or the Communications Security Establishment (CSE). While Bill C-51's reforms are so complex that it is hard to imagine any level of oversight keeping these new powers in check, the fact no oversight was even attempted points shows that little effort was made to achieve balance in this law. The federal government is attempting to address these concerns by bringing in a new parliamentary national security oversight committee. But many are concerned that this bill doesn't go far enough in general - and is no remedy for the damage done by C-51.

You can also read all our case studies relating to concerns around national security and civil liberties here: http://voices-voix.ca/en/national-security.

Consultation sessions with the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security

The committee will be holding witness panels (arranged in advance, but open for viewing by the public) followed by open mic sessions across the country. Below are the dates, times and locations. Participation for the open mic sessions is first come first serve, and registration opens 30 minutes before the session starts. Please note that participants of the consultations will be screened by security and will be asked to present government-issue ID.

Monday October 17, 2016 — Vancouver, British Columbia

Coast Coal Harbour Hotel
1180 W Hastings Street
Vancouver, BC
Room: Coal Harbour A
Witness Panels: 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Open mic session: 5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.

Tuesday October 18, 2016 — Calgary, Alberta

Delta Hotels Calgary Downtown
209 Fourth Avenue Southeast
Calgary, AB
Room: Ballroom
Witness Panels: 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Open mic session: 5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.

Wednesday October 19, 2016 — Toronto, Ontario

Radisson Admiral Hotel Toronto-Harbourfront
249 Queen’s Quay West
Toronto, ON
Room: Admiral Ballroom
Witness Panels: 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Open mic session: 5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.

Thursday October 20, 2016 — Montreal, Quebec

Sofitel Montréal Golden Mile
1155 Sherbrooke Ouest Street
Montreal, QC
Room : Picasso
Witness Panels: 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Open mic session: 5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.

Friday October 21, 2016 — Halifax, Nova Scotia

World Trade and Convention Centre
1800 Argyle Street
Halifax, NS
Room: 200E
Witness Panels: 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Open mic session: 5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.

*C-51 and Canada’s national security apparatus impact much more than freedom of expression and dissent. For more, check out these resources from ICLMG, CCLA, CJFE, BCCLA, and Open Media.