Despite widespread opposition, Bill c-51 passed in the Senate on June 9, with a vote of 44-28. Justifying the draconian secret police bill, Minister of public safety and emergency Stephen Blaney claimed, “The international jihadist movement has declared war on Canada…Because they hate our society and the value it represents.”
There has been some shock at the level of Liberal support for the Bill, against a backdrop of campaigns for “strategic voting” against the Tories. But it shouldn’t be surprising that the Liberals joined the Tories in attacking our civil liberties.
Justin Trudeau has tried to justify his support for the bill—and alliance with the Tories—at the same time as paying lip service to the growing opposition. He first claimed “matters of national security should be beyond partisanship.” When opposition swelled, Trudeau then tried to say he had to support it tactically: “Tactically the government would be perfectly happy if the opposition completely voted against this bill” and their “desire to bash people on security.” “I don’t want this government making political hay on issues as important as national security,” he claimed.
But the Liberals didn’t even try to hide their support: every Liberal who showed up in Parliament voted in support of Bill C51. So even though the Tory majority guaranteed the bill could pass, the Liberals in Parliament unanimously supported it. The vote was more important for Trudeau than Harper, who didn’t bother to show up. Justin Trudeau promises to “reform” Bill C-51 should he be elected. But to paraphrase a Black Panther, Bill C-51 is a piece of shit—you can shape it in to a ball or into a square, but no matter how you reform it, it is still a piece of shit.
With mounting backlash in the streets, the Senate vote was much narrower, with opposition from 25 Liberals and 3 Tories. But it still passed with the help of some Liberals—and no one should be surprised, given the Liberal history.
It was the Liberal government who interned Japanese-Canadians during WWII. It was the Liberals, under Pierre Trudeau, who sent tanks into Quebec as part of the War Measures Act. It was the Liberals who initially let Omar Khadr (then a child) be tortured in Guantanamo, and who were complicit in the torture of Maher Arar. It was the Liberals who passed the first “anti-terror” legislation, Bill C-35 and C-36. As the Liberal’s own website admits, “there has been some form of anti-terror legislation in place since 2001.” It was the Liberals who created CSIS (in 1984, of all years), and it’s no surprise the Liberals would be in favour of giving it more powers. It was the Liberals who created “security certificates” that have been used to justify secret trials against Muslims.
It was the Liberal/Tory declarations of war—from Afghanistan to Libya and Iraq—that provoked the fringe terror backlash. Now both corporate parties are using the backlash to their bombs to justify restricting civil liberties.
Despite support for the Bill from the twin parties of corporate capitalism, support for Bill C-51 has fallen—from 82 per cent to 33 per cent. This is entirely because of opposition outside Parliament, including rallies from coast to coast to coast. Now 42 per cent believe it would have a negative impact on their daily life—which puts a lie to Harper and Trudeau’s claim that C-51 is necessary to protect our society.
Because the opposition pushed the NDP to oppose the Bill (which they didn’t initially), the NDP have risen to the top of the polls—gaining 16 per cent in just four months. Meanwhile support for the Liberals has fallen. Some Liberal MPs, like Adam Vaughan, have had their facebook pages inundated with opposition to Bill C-51, while some ordinary Liberal members have publicly shredded their membership cards.
Combined with the NDP victory in Alberta, this has exposed the politics of “strategic voting,” The Liberals and the Tories strategically voted to erode our rights and freedoms—especially targeting Indigenous and Muslim populations—and it will require real strategic voting against the twin parties of Canadian capital.
Bill C-51 has revealed once again the real agenda of the Liberals and the weakness of so-called “strategic voting.” We need to ensure Bill C-51 is an election issue to push for it to be ripped up—and at the same time support Indigenous and Muslim communities who are most at risk of being targeted by it.
Real “strategic voting” is not only using the ballot box against the Liberals and Tories on October 19, but encouraging people to keep voting with their feet every day before and after. It was mobilizations outside Parliament that undermined support for the bill before it passed, and mobilizations outside Parliament that will determine how confidently people resist.