Bill C-51, the Harper Government’s so-called anti-terror legislation, is now the law of the land in Canada. It passed the House of Commons last month and yesterday it passed the Senate. While supporters of the bill argued that it will make Canadians safer, this Canadian felt a whole lot safer before this thing was law.

Now Anyone Can Be Labelled A Terrorist

One of the most jarring elements of this legislation is that it makes what it calls the “promotion of terrorism” punishable by five years in prison and websites being taken down. The problem is that it doesn’t define what is and what isn’t terrorism.

This is really frightening to anyone who expresses an opinion or advocates actions that are contrary to the interests of the current or future governments. Supporters of Idle No More and environmental activists whom the Harper regime has already tried to affix the terrorist label to have a reason to be scared, but they’re not the only ones.

While it does say that “lawful protest” is not terrorism, anyone ticketed under Montreal’s Municipal Bylaw P-6 knows that what’s lawful can be redefined in defiance of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in a moment’s notice by pretty much any level of government.

Civil disobedience is our right as Canadians. It’s also a good way to keep the pressure on until unconstitutional laws get overturned in court. That could be considerably more difficult with the prospect of being labelled a terrorist or promoting terrorism hanging over your head.

Another chilling part of C-51 is how it labels threats to the economic interests of Canada, or another country, acts of terrorism. This might make you think of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement aimed at Israel. Given that the Harper regime is already letting it leak that they may use hate speech laws against BDS activists, the prospect of going after them with C-51 isn’t that much of a stretch.

But, as one surprisingly honest RCMP officer admitted, the law could be used to target anyone who uses economic pressure tactics like boycotts:

Economic protest is not only one of the most effective tools out there, it is also a non-violent tactic which is everyone’s right to use. When you equate boycotting a company or a country with doing physical harm to actual humans, you are taking the personification of corporations to a whole new level which it should never be at.

No Need Except Political

The saddest thing about this Bill is that there is no need for it to begin with. The Ottawa shooting was not an act of terrorism.

So when you hear Justin Trudeau argue that the bill is flawed but needed, you can deduce that he only means it is needed for political purposes, to help him secure votes on the right. When he promises to make changes to C-51 if elected, it’s simply a ploy to keep some votes on the left.

It was a clever plan that seems to have backfired on him and the Liberals. There are even protesters at his rallies now saying that he’s the same as Harper because of his stance on C-51.

This is working out very well for the NDP. The anti-Harper vote is starting to galvanize behind them. Admittedly, at one point, leader Tom Mulcair was quoted saying that the party opposes the bill but he would only make changes to it if elected. That has changed, rather dramatically, with the NDP and its leader emphatically saying they will repeal it completely if they form government:

Mulcair is now listening to his party’s base and the Canadian left in general. He knows he needs to do so to become Prime Minister. But this is going beyond the left-right axis. Even Conservative supporters have realized that this law is bad news and needs to be done away with.

Unfortunately, that feeling didn’t carry over to any Conservative senators. It also escaped some of the now former Liberal senators, though most of the ex-Liberal Senate Caucus did vote against the bill to their credit. The Canadian Senate had one chance to prove itself useful and it failed miserably.

Honestly, if they had stopped C-51 from becoming law, all the Mike Duffys in the world wouldn’t be able to stop my appreciation. Unfortunately, they didn’t.

228 People On My Shit List

Between the House of Commons and the Senate, 227 people voted in favour of C-51. Prime Minister Stephen Harper, interestingly enough, was out of the country at the time of the vote in the HOC, so he wasn’t counted, but I’m going to count him anyway, because I’m sure how he would have voted.

So 228 people, 228 elected officials, for whatever reason, decided to vote to enact a needless law that stripped away some of our basic rights and freedoms. 228 people voted to put their own political interests ahead of the rights of the people they were elected to represent.

c51 protester

It’s never a good idea to take things personally. But, in this case, I can’t avoid it. As someone who enjoys expressing my opinion which at times conflicts with the aspirations of the current government and may promote causes which are potentially damaging to the economic interests of the friends of the powers that be, I am horrified that 228 people think it’s okay to label me as a terrorist or terrorist promoter.

This is beyond politics. This is beyond what is acceptable in a democratic society. This is one of the most un-Canadian things I have ever encountered.

C-51 doesn’t need to be amended. It needs to be repealed immediately. Thrown away, spat on, stomped on and otherwise abused until it is no longer part of our present or history.

For those not frothing at the mouth like I am, or those who want to do something positive to get rid of this monstrosity (I’ll join you soon enough, promise), OpenMedia.ca has a helpful guide of potential next steps for those opposed to C-51.

For those 228 fellow Canadians who supported a law which scares me to the core, I have two words: FUCK YOU!

* Images by Obert Madondo, Creative Commons via Flickr

The world was supposed to end in 2012. It didn’t. In fact, if 2013 in the news is any indication, it didn’t even change all that much.

There were a few pleasant surprises, a few unpleasant ones, some things didn’t change at all, for better or worse, and there was distraction and that’s where I’ll begin…

Distraction

Biggest distraction of the year? Without a doubt, this guy:

rob ford tired

Not only did Rob Ford dominate the headlines in Canada, distracting from the Senate scandal among other things, he managed to take top billing in the US for a while, overpowering problems with the Obamacare rollout, and even made headline news in Africa. His biggest accomplishment, though, seems to be that his crack use and personal problems have distracted everyone from the fact that he really has terrible policies and kinda sucks as mayor.

The biggest distraction this side of the 401 has got to be the Charter of Quebec Values, or the Charter of Secularism or whatever Marois and company are calling it now. It’s garnered the ire of everyone from the Jewish General Hospital, QPIRG Concordia and even Anonymous and it’s the proof that, despite how they may try to promote it, the PQ has lost any progressive cred they may have had.

With even Harley Davidson coming out against it, it’s clear that some people are seeing through what it essentially a cynical ploy designed to galvanize the right-wing separatist portion of the PQ’s base. Marois’ endgame is clear: re-establishing politics as usual in Quebec, which brings us to…

More of the same

You’d think in a year that saw a record-breaking three different mayors of Montreal, there would be some change. Well, unfortunately, Montrealers, or a small portion of them, voted in Denis Coderre, a candidate that ran with a good chunk of Gerald Tremblay and Michael Applebaum’s former Union Montreal teammates. So far, he’s stuffed the executive committee with his own people despite not having a majority and has declared war on erotic massage parlours, something he didn’t mention at all during the campaign.

Denis Coderre

2013 also saw more police repression with the SPVM enforcing bylaw P6 in a very unapologetic and hardcore way. It’s also been the year of police political profiling, fortunately some activists like Katie Nelson are now fighting it in the courts and the court of public opinion. ortunately, protesting Stephen Harper still seems to be kosher in Montreal.

It’s also nice to see that the Idle No More movement continues to grow, despite it not being as big in Quebec. Local activists here did have a facepalm-inducing run-in with the cops when they tried to put up a tipi in Montreal. F

There’s also supposed to be another multi-million dollar building going up on the lower Main, an area that doesn’t need it. But, believe it or not, it’s not all more of the same locally, there were…

A few pleasant surprises

We’re getting new metro cars! And we’re not talking about a few tweaks, this is actually a new design! Who would have thought such a thing was possible?

new-metro-exterior

Also, Projet Montreal did end up doing quite well in the municipal election. They held on to two boroughs, nearly added a third, became the official opposition and held Coderre to a minority on council. Melanie Joly also had an impact on our municipal scene and will be someone to watch in the years to come.

Most of the pleasant surprises this year happened in Ottawa (David DesBaillets goes through some of them) and internationally (Niall Clapham Ricardo takes a look at socialism on the rise). For me, the biggest standouts are how Canada just decriminalized prostitution, the courage of Edward Snowden and the fact that the US somehow managed to bungle its way out of a war that nobody wanted or needed in Syria, but most (including me) thought was inevitable.

So that’s just a brief look at how I saw 2013. I do hope that in 2014, we can do away with the distractions and the status quo. That would be a pleasant surprise, but not an impossible one.

* Top image by Jay Manafest

Earlier this evening, Montreal police took down and destroyed a tipi that activists had set up as part of the Idle No More Global Day of Action. According to witnesses, police did not attempt any negotiations and moved into the camp, pushing aside a group of Aboriginal women who had surrounded the tipi.

“It was one of the most random and arbitrary attacks on an extremely peaceful event that I have seen,” said protester Katie Nelson, “nevermind disrespectful and extremely insensitive to First Nations.”

In the following audio clip recorded by Nelson, SPVM officer Arruda claims that they are afraid the event would turn into another Occupy Montreal and asks “do you think the City of Montreal cares…” without finishing his question.

While the irony of equating native protesters to occupiers when non-Aboriginals are in fact the ones that have been doing the occupying for centuries seems lost on Arruda, the question he never finished is one we should be asking. Does the city or moreover the people in it care about the First Nations and how the police behave at demonstrations? We can only hope so.

Give it a listen:

* Photo by Katie Nelson via Twitter

Last week, people in several cities around the country held peaceful demonstrations  demanding that the government disclose everything that it knows about the crimes of Canada’s disgraceful residential schools. Predictably, the old media ignored it, much as they have done with other Idle No More type actions recently.

The latest outrage was prompted by a shocking discovery made by a researcher at the University of Guelph that in the 40s, the Canadian government conducted secret experiments on aboriginal school children, at least one of which involve deliberately depriving hungry children of milk to see what effects it might have on their already extreme malnutrition (an idea that would no doubt make infamous Nazi doctor Joseph Mengele proud). This news comes at a particularly tense period in relations between the government and First Nations over the lack of progress being made by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), tasked with exposing the atrocities committed in the name of “civilizing” aboriginal kids by members of the churches running these schools.

The courts, in particular the Ontario Superior Court, have also ruled in favour of the TRC with regards to the obligations of the government to hand over all relevant documents (read about the Ontario Superior Court decision here ) despite the government’s attempts to bog it down in legal bickering over the definition of what “relevant documents” is ( is it any wonder people hate lawyers???). Basically, the Aboriginal affairs department made the intellectually dishonest and lazy argument that, under the definition contained in mandate of the TRC, it was not required to go beyond its own archives and provide historical documents only available through the National Archives of Canada.

Might this have something to do with the cost of searching and producing such materials? Auditor General Michael Ferguson’s 2013 report on the Fed’s expenses seemed to hint that it was. The cost of gathering all the documents is estimated by Library and Archives to be somewhere in the neighbourhood of 40 million and would take 10 years to digitize.

Aboriginal Affairs already complained to the AG that they were given less than 20 million to do the job, so far. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking on the TRC’s mandate which expires in 2014.

As Shawn Atleo of the Assembly of First Nations recently said in an op-ed published in the Globe, it’s Harper’s responsibility to make good on his 2008 apology to First Nation Canadians and our responsibility as a Country to see that the government reveals our shameful past: “Canada, this is your history. We must confront the ugly truths and move forward together.”

* For more on residential schools in Canada, please watch the documentary Unrepentant http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gqUvhDG7x2E