Chatham protests Bill C-51

Protesters in Chatham on Saturday express their disagreement with proposed legislation they say will curb civil rights for Canadians. Photo Eoin Do Forno

By Greg Holden and Eoin Do Forno

Today Chatham protested at Dave Van Kesteren’s office on Center Street in Chatham. The target of the protest was the Harper governments proposed Bill C-51. As part of nationwide protests that began at 11 a.m., the vocal group of about 20 people let their opposition be known.

Much of the concern about the proposed legislation is the ambiguity of the Bill’s language and the wide sweeping powers it gives the government to dictate who are terrorists and what constitutes terrorist activities.

In explaining his opposition to C-51, Jim Burges said, “Lawful dissent only works if the government will allow it.” Protester Lorn Le Drew said, “Enough is enough, if we don’t stand up for our country we’re going to lose it.”

Citing over-reach by the government and without oversight, protesters expressed their concerns the government may persecute any form of protest from unions to environmentalism. Ben Lennon said, “There is a million things hidden in here. There is a lot to this bill that people don’t even know about. He (Harper) is on his way to changing life as we know it.”

Joanne Martin organized the protest and said, “This bill is not about terror at all, it is really about silencing dissent. It’s vaguely worded so it can affect all of us. If you stand up and protest anything that the government might do or industry might be doing in terms of environmentalism or even (labour) strikes, or if the aboriginal people who might be demonstrating about their treaty lands then they can be locked up and detained as terrorists. That’s how vaguely worded this bill is.”

Martin spoke of the international attention the Bill has received, citing Ralph Nadar and Edward Snowden as warning Canada on the erosion of civil rights.

“It’s also affecting our privacy. There will be information collected on each and every one of us and shared among all the government departments which is unprecedented.”, Martin said, “This is a big omnibus bill that is complicated and needs study and is being jammed through. Harper is using the terrorist fear and exploiting it and exaggerating it. It’s not about protecting our rights it is about violating our rights. The potential here is quite frightening.”

No-one from Van Kesteren’s office addressed the rally.

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