Fredericton – About 100 people rallied today against Bill C-51 in Fredericton as part of a national day of action against Harper’s controversial security bill. Rallies were also held in Moncton, Saint John and at least 55 locations across the country.
“Today, hundreds of university-educated legal scholars, former Supreme Court Justices, former Prime Ministers, every Privacy Commissioner in Canada, and even former members of the review body the government insists will prevent abuse, are all opposing C-51 with the environmental activists, First Nations, and us here… If the government still thinks they have enough support to ram this bill through, it’s time we show them they’re wrong,” read Asaf Rashid on behalf of an anonymous government employee in the Department of Justice who wished to remain anonymous.
Ron Tremblay from the Maliseet Grand Council and the Peace and Friendship Alliance, newly formed to oppose the Energy East pipeline, opened the rally. Gail Paul from Woodstock spoke about the need to direct resources towards justice for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.
Alex Bailey from the Fredericton District Labour Council led a human mic of voices against Bill C-51.
The New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance (NBASGA) is one of many organizations condemning the Canadian government’s new anti-terrorism legislation, Bill C-51, as well as a recent RCMP intelligence report on the anti-petroleum movement.
The RCMP report states that “there is a growing, highly organized and well- financed anti-Canada petroleum movement that consists of peaceful activists, militants and violent extremists who are opposed to society’s reliance on fossil fuels.”
According to the NBAGSA, this report and the Canadian Government’s legislation “come dangerously close to equating dissent with terrorism and opposition to economic policies as extremism.”
These measures, they argue, use “deliberately vague, yet accusatory, language,” which “is an attempt to inhibit or make suspect any kind of legitimate dissent. It is the kind of language that governments use when a movement for change conflicts with their vested interests.” NBASGA believes that “civil disobedience, which is accepted as a citizen’s right in democratic countries around the world, could be criminalized.”
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May agrees: “Bill C-51 will take us down a rabbit hole that will stifle dissent, protest and peaceful civil disobedience–all of which are essential features of a democratic society.”
May expresses similar concerns to the NBASGA regarding the application of the bill. On her blog she writes, “I have now twice asked the Public Safety and Justice Ministers in Question Period to clarify if the act will apply to non-lawful, non-violent civil disobedience, such as blockading along a pipeline route. Neither Stephen Blaney nor Peter MacKay would provide that assurance.”
However, even if this problem was clarified, May suggests that this bill would still be unnecessary. She says, “we already have anti-terror laws. Terrorism, treason, sedition, espionage, proliferating of nuclear and biological weapons and other offences repeated in C-51 are already illegal. The police already have expanded powers in relation to terrorism. RCMP have powers to disrupt terrorist plots. That’s how they broke the Toronto 18, the VIA rail plot and ISIS sympathizers in Ottawa before they could move their plots into action.”
Greg Cook, a citizen who protested against fracking in Rexton in 2013, also believes that more legislation is not the answer because activists and New Brunswick citizens will stand up for their rights regardless of what law stands in their way.
“This government wants nothing more than to strike fear into us. They’ve created scapegoats out of ordinary Canadian citizens. In particular first nations peoples and environmentalists, which together make a majority of Canadians (polls tell us). So it’s clear that these groups are the actual target of the legislation,” says Cook.
“This means that the terrorist, here, is the government, and it knows this but doesn’t care, because absolute power corrupts absolutely. That’s where we are. We either exercise our rights under the Canadian Constitution or we lose them.”
Nikita Hartt is an UNB Arts 3000 intern with the NB Media Co-op.