Canadians rally nationwide against Bill C-51
Canadians rallied across Canada Saturday to oppose the Conservatives' proposed anti-terror bill, just days before the legislation is scheduled to undergo a final vote in the House of Commons.
Protests are scheduled in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, and more than two dozen other cities and towns.
About 300 protesters picketed the Prime Minister’s Office in Ottawa, their numbers bolstered as they marched to the U.S. embassy, chanting anti-Harper slogans and decrying the proposed bill, which proponents say will strengthen the reach of Canada's spy agencies in the war on terror, but critics say would infringe on civil liberties.
"There is no shortage of critics to this bill, so the goal of today is really to get out there and support the public outreach aspect, and to get to those folks who don't know enough about this bill, or who aren't fully aware of the gravity of the situation," organizer Amy Kishek, a University of Ottawa law student, said.
"It's about making noise, about circulating leaflets and petitions, and engaging people."
Demonstrators formed a colourful crew outside the PMO, ripping tape — or "muzzles” — off their mouths and shouting, "Kill the Bill!"
"Kill the bill" chants echoed through Edmonton's downtown as protestors spoke out against the anti-terror bill.
"It's not about terrorism. It's almost satirical that they call it that," rally organizer Doug Yearwood said. "It's about people being able to protect and maintain their democratic freedoms and this bill is really doing its best to dismantle those."
Danika Littlechild, an Edmonton lawyer and activist for the rights of Canada's indigenous people, said she’s worried the federal government has already labelled certain environmental and aboriginal groups as "adversaries" to oil extraction development.
"My biggest fear, and I think this will come to pass if it does go through, is that it will criminalize our rights to stand up for our rights," Littlechild said.
"It will prevent us from legitimately opposing disrespect or outright denial of our constitutional protected treaty rights and aboriginal rights."
Ottawa’s Mark Abraham found it "ironic" the demonstrators would congregate across from the National War Memorial, the site of the October murder of sentry Cpl. Nathan Cirillo in a shocking terrorist act.
"I don't want to lose my rights and my civil liberties, either, but I don't want to lose all this," Abraham said, gesturing to the Parliament Hill lawn where gunman Michael Zehaf-Bibeau stormed Centre Block during his rampage.
"We have these radical Islamists coming in, and we have to stand up and say enough is enough."
Both the NDP and Green party oppose the bill, which is expected to undergo a third reading in the House on Monday before it becomes law.
The Conservatives have put forth some amendments, including changing the wording to try to make sure lawful protests aren't targeted and clarifying that CSIS agents don't have the power to make arrests.
— With files from Aeden Helmer, Kristy Brownlee and Claire Theobald