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Canadians are mobilizing to shut down a surveillance bill they say would give the government too much power. (Photo: StopC51.ca)

#StopC51: Protests Grow Against Expansive Canadian Surveillance Bill

Day of action set for 'every province across Canada' against so-called anti-terrorism bill

Nadia Prupis

Canadian activists are taking part in a weekend of action against the controversial C-51 surveillance bill currently making its way through Parliament.

Supporters of the bill say it would protect the nation against terrorist attacks, but critics charge that it would give the government ever more expansive and invasive spying powers.

If passed, C-51 would give up to 17 government agencies access to Canadian citizens' private information, including their financial status, medical history, and religious and political beliefs. The Canadian Security Intelligence Service would also be given the power to spy on Canadians and foreign nationals living in the country, while the Royal Canadian Mounted Police would be granted increased powers of preventive arrest.

Protests against C-51 are slated to take place in "every province across Canada," organizers said on Friday. Many of those actions will take place outside the offices of 13 conservative Ministers of Parliament who support the bill.

"This bill disproportionately targets indigenous communities, environmental activists, dissidents, and Muslims, many of whom are already subjected to questionable and overreaching powers by security officials, [and] will make it easier and ostensibly lawful for government to continue infringing upon the rights of peaceful people," reads a statement from the organizers.

Among those raising their voices against the bill are human rights and free speech groups like Amnesty International, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, and OpenMedia.

Steve Anderson, executive director for OpenMedia, told Yahoo! News on Friday, "More and more Canadians from all walks of life are concerned about this bill.

"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," he added.

Canadian Journalists for Free Expression last week hosted a teleconference with NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, who warned that C-51 was "an emulation of the American Patriot Act" and that Canadian intelligence agencies have the weakest oversight in the Western world.

"No matter what we do, no matter what laws we pass, we cannot throw away all of our rights, all of our liberties, all of our traditional freedoms because we are afraid of rare instances of criminal activity," he said at the time.

On Saturday, the message to Canadian officials was clear. "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 continued.

Hearings on C-51 are scheduled to continue when the House reopens on March 23.

On Twitter, the actions are being updated under the hashtag #StopC51.


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