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Rallies from coast to coast to coast say ‘Kill Bill C-51’


March 18, 2015

On Saturday March 14 there were rallies from coast to coast to coast against Bill C-51. The surge in opposition—in 70 communities from Yellowknife, to Victoria, to St Johns—has led to a sharp fall in support for the bill, from 82 per cent in February to 45 per cent now.
The rallies have also exposed the Liberals for supporting the Tory secret police bill—just like when the Liberals imposed their own “anti-terror” law in 2001—and made it clear people do not want to amend the bill, but to stop it.
West coast
More than 1,000 rallied and marched in Victoria. As an elder from the Cowichan tribes said to loud applause from the crowd, “Our people have been fighting terrorism since the 1400s, ever since the Europeans came over to our land…Harper is the worst terrorist in this country.”
Hundreds rallied in Nanaimo, and as NDP candidate explained, “We recognize that public safety is a high top priority for a responsible government…If the Harper government really believed that then they would be acting very differently in all the other legislation that they are bringing into Parliament. They would be standing up to protect Indigenous women and women at risk from violence and murder.” As the Green Party candidate warned about “preventive detention” by reminding the crowd that “at the G20 protest in Toronto 1,200 people were arrested, thrown in prison without charges and detained in horrible conditions for simply doing what you’re doing right now.”
A thousand rallied and marched in Vancouver, where anti-poverty activist Tamara Herman explained, “What’s ‘national security’ in this country built on? It’s built on 500 years of colonialism, it’s built on a legacy that includes Japanese internment camps, the Chinese head tax, bans on homosexuality, and laws that would be considered ridiculously sexist today. Even though these laws were part of ‘national security’ back then, what did people do? They stood up and fought like hell.”
Another 1,000 rallied and marched in Winnipeg, where Crystal Green from Grassroots Indigenous Water Defense explained, “the truth about Bill C-51 is they want the land and the resources, and it’s us Indigenous peoples and our title to the land is what stands in the way to extractive industry—industry like tar sands expansion, fracking, logging, mining…They will try to stifle dissent but they will not succeed.”
As NDP MP Pat Martin said, “The RCMP and CISIS already have broad, sweeping powers…Bill C-51 will do nothing to make us safer, all Bill C-51 will do is make it easier for Stephen Harper to snoop on his enemies. And believe me Stephen Harper has a long, long enemies list…Anybody here ever taken part in an Idle No More round dance? You’re on the list. Has anybody taken part in a strike, or a protest or a picket line? You’re on the list. Is there anybody here who’s marched down Portage Avenue demanding a national inquiry for murdered and missing Indigenous women? You’re on that list…It falls to you as civil society if we’re going to stop Bill C-51. Harper has undermined the ability of your elected representatives to act on your behalf in the House of Commons. You have to take it to the streets. Sometimes civil disobedience is civil defense, and there’s never been more justification to show civil disobedience.”
Saskatoon (report by Catherine Gendron)
The National Day of Action against Bill C-51 was a huge success, and Saskatoon was no different. Hundreds attended the march, which began at the City Hall Civic Square in the core of downtown. Prior to marching our way to Kelly Block’s office, an MP who voted in favour of the bill, a number of speakers were invited to share their perspectives.
There were representatives from law, who argued the fundamental attack on our protected Charter of Rights and Freedoms and our constitutional right to protest. There was also an NDP candidate who spoke to the issue of politics and fear. Nina Wilson, one of the founding members of the Idle No More movement also spoke and one quote particularly stood out. She said to the crowd that “now you know how it feels to be Indigenous” as the range of Canadians who can be viewed as a threat to “economic security” will expand under Bill C-51. Other speakers included representatives from the student community, the labour community as well as a representative from the Islamic Association of Saskatchewan. The atmosphere of the event was highly supportive and inclusive to all those who spoke, with a shared understanding that “Bill C-51 is a pathology and people are the antidote” and the “the power of the people is stronger than the people in power.”
We then marched the 20 minutes to Conservative Kelly Block’s office, filling two to three car lanes due to the sheer size of the march. We then took a shortcut and entered the biggest and most popular mall in the city, chanting “kill the bill” and “Harper has gone too far.” After exiting the mall, we took up another two to three lanes on a popular street. Many more drivers showed their support of the march by honking and ensuring a safe distance. There were of course the odd opponents who would creep too close to marchers, but our group maintained peace the entire time. It was great to see such a good turnout with excellent speakers. Our event was picked up by all major new sources in the area including CBC, Global and CTV.
Toronto (report by Paul Stevenson)
Around 4,000 people joined the Toronto protest against bill C-51at Nathan Phillips Square. The energy was angry and defiant and brought together dozens of groups that have or will be attacked by the new legislation.
Activists from the Idle No More movement led the rally and march by pointing out that C-51 will simply mean that everyone else will be criminalized just as Indigenous land defenders have been. There were strong messages of support and solidarity from Sid Ryan of the Ontario Federation of Labour and Marie-Clark Walker from the Canadian Labour Congress. Sid Ryan appealed to challenge Islamophobia: “Do not allow Stephen Harper to divide us. Do not allow him to divide us on the basis of religion. Do not allow him to demonize the Muslim community, and do not allow him to demonize Muslim women. We have to stand in solidarity with the Muslim community, stand up to Stephen Harper and say we will not allow an act of racism to divide our nation.” Environmental groups, NGO’s, anti-war campaigners and many more joined and brought their own signs to the event. It had the sense of a movement on the rise.
The march then moved onto the streets and stopped for a drum circle that took over University and Queen streets before heading to the CSSIS office on Front street. The groundswell of opposition on a mere two weeks notice has put the Harper government of notice that people are ready to fight this draconian legislation.
Ottawa (report by Chantal Sundaram)
The Ottawa-Gatineau rally against C-51 was attended by people from all walks of life and political stripes, who heard connections made between this "anti-terrorist" bill and all the legitimate reasons you might have reason to dissent against current government policy on a range of issues. Speakers included: Paul Champ, human rights lawyer; Yavar Hameed, human rights lawyer; Hilary Homes, Amnesty International; Monia Mazigh, human rights advocate for Mahar Arar and others, author; Benoit Renaud, Québec Solidaire; Larry Rousseau, Public Service Alliance of Canada; Jessica Squires, Justice for Mohamed Harkat Committee; Christine Jones, Canadian Peace Alliance; Nycole Turmel, New Democratic Party of Canada.
After the rally in front of the PM's Office, the crowd of close to 1,000 converged on Parliament Hill and lined the steps to the Peace Tower changing "Kill the Bill" and "Reject fear."
Halifax (report by Robert King)
A demonstration was held in Victoria Park, downtown Halifax in solidarity with the Canada wide Day of Action against Bill C-51, Harper's "Secret Police" Bill. The weather was sunny though slightly cold and the mood was energetic as about a hundred people, some carrying placards and banners, gathered in the square. There were some musicians among the crowd, some with drums, others with guitars, etc. At the front, nearer the sidewalk, there was a place for those invited to speak. Those gathered chanted slogans, clapped and cheered as the various speakers came to the microphone.
The speakers represented various groups and political parties. Megan Leslie NDP MP for Halifax spoke to the crowd and reiterated the dire implications for activists, such as in the environmental movement, First Nations, etc. if Bill C-51 becomes legislation. Other speakers included a representative from Labour Council, a First Nations activist, an Acadia University professor who’s been doing humanitarian work in Columbia, a spokeswoman from the Green Party, and a representative of the hactivist group Anonymous.
All the speakers added to the clear message that the passing of this Bill will be a catastrophe for democracy and rights and freedoms in Canada and that it must be opposed vigorously.
If you like this article, register for Rage Against the System, a weekend conference of ideas to change the world. Sessions include "Stopping Harper's Agenda," "imperialism and resistance," and "Secularism, Islamophobia and the new racism."

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