“Thought Chill”: how Parliament’s proposed Bill C-51 (the Anti-Terrorism Act) un-democratizes Canada / Poems of Protest

Canada's Federal Government's proposed Bill C-51_Opening paragraphs

Canada’s Federal Government’s proposed Bill C-51_Opening paragraphs

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Elizabeth May
Why I Am Fighting Bill C-51
(originally published in Saanich News, March 20th, 2015):
The reaction to Bill C-51 has been widespread and the opposition is growing. While its short title is the “Anti-Terrorism Act,” it is both more and less than that.
It is less than “anti-terrorism” because it is likely to make us less safe. The act gives new powers to CSIS to act in Canada and overseas to “reduce threats,” with virtually no limits. CSIS is specifically not allowed to cause death or bodily harm or “violate the sexual integrity” of anyone. The range of potential activities — from break and enter, search and seizure, infiltration, monkey-wrenching, include powers to offer witnesses immunity from prosecution or from ever having to testify.
There is no requirement that CSIS tell the RCMP what it is up to, and it is the RCMP that has been successfully countering plots and arresting suspects. Just imagine when the RCMP finds key witnesses have a “get out of jail free” card from CSIS. That and other sections run a high degree of probability of gumming up the works. Security experts, especially those with experience in the Air India inquiry, remind us that it is critical that security agencies not develop silos. C-51 takes a system that is currently working quite well and threatens to turn it into a three ring circus, without benefit of a ring-master.
It is also less than Canadians would expect, as there is nothing in C-51 to work against radicalization. No outreach efforts, nothing for the prison system or the schools as the U.K. government established in its new law passed in December 2014.
It is more than anti-terrorism, as the range of activities covered by a new and sweeping definition of “threats to the security of Canada” in the information sharing section of the bill covers far more than terrorism. It could plausibly cover just about anything, and certainly would cover those opposing pipelines and tankers.
It is actually five bills rolled into one. Each part contains provisions I can only describe as dangerous. For example, part 5, amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Act, appear to allow the use of evidence obtained by torture. Part 3, ostensibly about getting terrorist propaganda off the Internet, uses a set of new concepts that would criminalize private conversations — and not just about terrorism. The propaganda section does not require knowing you are spreading propaganda, and “terrorist propaganda” itself has a definition so broad as to include a visual representation (a Che Guevera poster?) promoting a new concept called “terrorism in general.” Experts are now referring to this as “thought chill.”
As the first MP to oppose C-51, I now have a lot of company: four former prime ministers, six former Supreme Court justices, over 100 legal experts, Conrad Black, Rex Murphy, Tom Mulcair and the NDP, the editorial positions of the Globe and Mail, National Post and Toronto Star. The Assembly of First Nations has called for it to be withdrawn. I hope you agree as well.

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The Secret Trial 5: a documentary by Amar Wala

The Secret Trial 5: a documentary by Amar Wala

Classic Poems of Protest…


A.E. Housman (1859-1936)
The Laws of God, The Laws of Man
The laws of God, the laws of man,
He may keep that will and can;
Not I: let God and man decree
Laws for themselves and not for me;
And if my ways are not as theirs
Let them mind their own affairs.
Their deeds I judge and much condemn,
Yet when did I make laws for them?
Please yourselves, say I, and they
Need only look the other way.
But no, they will not; they must still
Wrest their neighbour to their will,
And make me dance as they desire,
With jail and gallows and hell-fire.
And how am I to face the odds
Of man’s bedevilment and God’s?
I, a stranger and afraid,
In a world I never made.
They will be master, right or wrong;
Though both are foolish, both are strong.
And since, my soul, we cannot fly
To Saturn nor to Mercury,
Keep we must, if keep we can,
These foreign laws of God and man.

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Robert Frost (1874-1963)
Back out of all this now too much for us,
Back in a time made simple by the loss
Of detail, burned, dissolved, and broken off
Like graveyard marble sculpture in the weather,
There is a house that is no more a house
Upon a farm that is no more a farm
And in a town that is no more a town.
The road there, if you’ll let a guide direct you
– Who only has at heart your getting lost.
And if you’re lost enough to find yourself
By now, pull in your ladder road behind you
And put a sign up Closed to all but me.
I have kept hidden in the instep arch
Of an old cedar at the waterside
A broken drinking goblet like the Grail
Under a spell so the wrong ones can’t find it,
So can’t get saved, as Saint Mark says they mustn’t.
(I stole the goblet from the children’s playhouse.)
Here are your waters and your watering place.
Drink and be whole again beyond confusion.
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Comments by poet Michael R. Burch, from The Hyper Texts:

A.E. Housman (The Laws of God, The Laws of Man) strongly protested the idea that Christians should be allowed to use the Bible to create arbitrary, unnecessary laws for nonbelievers like himself. Why should Housman have believed in the the highly dubious morality of a religion that damned him to jail and gallows and hell-fire just because he preferred men to women, sexually? This may be the first great protest poem written by a gay poet against his Christian oppressors.
Robert Frost (Directive) was writing about the dark load orthodox Christianity places on the slender shoulders of innocent children, when it tells them that the Bible is the infallible word of God, and that human beings live in danger of eternal torment. Frost understood all too well the emotional, psychological and spiritual damage children can suffer when they read verses in the Bible that say most human beings are “predestined” for eternal damnation before they are born, and that Jesus Christ deliberately misled most of his followers so that they could not be saved – keeping his true teachings only for his inner circle [Mark 4:10-12]. This magnificent poem is a protest against Frost’s own Christian upbringing and its “guide” who “only has at heart your getting lost”.
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Walid Khazindar (born 1950)
Distant Light
Harsh and cold
autumn holds to it our naked trees:
If only you would free, at least, the sparrows
from the tips of your fingers
and release a smile, a small smile
from the imprisoned cry I see.
Sing! Can we sing
as if we were light, hand in hand,
sheltered in shade, under a strong sun?
Will you remain, this way
stoking the fire, more beautiful than necessary – and quiet?
Darkness intensifies,
and the distant light is our only consolation—
that one, which from the beginning
has, little by little, been flickering
and is now about to go out.
Come to me. Closer and closer.
I don’t want to know my hand from yours.
And let’s beware of sleep, lest the snow smother us.
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Translation from Arabic into English: Khaled Mattawa, from the author’s collections Ghuruf Ta’isha (Dar al-Fikr, Beirut, 1992) and Satwat al-Masa (Dar Bissan, Beirut, 1996). Walid Khazindar was born in 1950 in Gaza City. Gaza City is located in the Gaza Strip, a small U.N.-sanctioned Palestinian territory surrounded by Israel.

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