Bill C-51

A lot of controversy has surrounded the issue of the proposed Canadian bill that has been deemed the ‘Anti-Terrorism Act’. Bill C-51 proposes to make several changes to Canadian law, and some of these changes have sparked worry in the minds of several Canadians who will be effected by this bill in, what they believe is, a negative way.

A website titled “Stop Bill C-51” has sprung up with several thousand supporters. This website outlines some of the alleged “dangerous” changes that will be made to Canadian law. Among the complaints, the most common is that under Bill C-51, you will be subject to unwarranted searches and seizures upon any authoritative suspicion. Police officers no longer will be required by law to first obtain a judge-granted warrant in order to enter your home and confiscate any contraband, or anything they deem suspicious. If you are stopped in the street by an officer, they will be allowed to search your person without warrant or evidence.

Another large complaint is that a fine will be given to anyone who is caught growing, preserving, or sharing an unwarranted health product. Put simply, if you are growing garlic because you believe it helps your back pain, you can be fined up to $5,000,000 CAD.

So, why is this bill in the running to be passed at all? Because of all the alleged terrorist threats that have been placed on Canada within the past year or so, the Canadian government feels like it is in our best interests as Canadian citizens to be subject to randomized searches without evidence or warrant. This is supposed to prevent and discourage any acts of terrorism against our nation.

But the problem with this is that the term “terrorism” is becoming increasingly difficult to define. As you may recall, back in October of 2014, Corporal Nathan Cirillo was fatally shot while on duty guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the National War Memorial in Ottawa. The fact that Cirillo’s shooter had converted to Islam before his shooting rampage had many people questioning whether or not he was in cohorts with the known terrorist group ISIS, who are infamous Islamic radicalists. The word “terrorist” was flung around by the media, sparking fear in the public that quickly spread.

It is this same fear that the government is currently building Bill C-51 upon. They are trying to pass the bill to keep Canadian citizens safe from terrorist growth and spread. Another portion of this bill is the elimination of terrorist propaganda and recruitment pages online in Canada. This bill will allow the government to monitor and filter through what we are able to view online, and if they believe you are a supporter of terrorist groups, ideologies or actions, they can arrest you without a shred of evidence.

In an ideal world, this would mean all the terrorists would get caught pretty quickly, but the reality of the situation is that innocent people will have some of their constitutional rights as Canadians stripped away from them. They will be searched without reason, seized without warrant and possibly even fined for fear of harbouring illegal drugs.

Is Bill C-51 a good thing for Canada? The area is still very grey, and the bill has not been finalized yet. There are evident benefits to the bill, certainly, but the real question is: do they outweigh the negatives?

How many of our rights are we willing to give up in order to maintain a sense of security?

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