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McCarthyism is back

Blog - Steven Guilbeault

Have you heard of American senator Joseph McCarthy? He was the one who chaired a senatorial inquiry to find, track down and expose communist activists and supporters in the U.S.A. in the early fifties.

The inquiry soon turned into a witch hunt, with sights set on progressives, homosexuals, socialists and anyone else considered to be “anti-American.”

And now the Harper government plans to create its own version of McCarthyism with the Security of Canada Information Sharing Act, better known as Bill C-51.

The bill is a response to terrorist attacks in Canada and abroad. Virtually everyone agrees that we need to act against terrorism, yet the Conservatives have succeeded in creating unanimity against themselves—with the notable exception of Justin Trudeau’s Liberals—by proposing a solution that may be worse than the problem they are trying to solve.

The Bill will allow intelligence agencies to spy on any group or individual who may lead an “activity that undermines the security of Canada.” This includes any activity that “undermines the sovereignty, security or territorial integrity of Canada [including] changing or unduly influencing a government in Canada by force or unlawful means . . . [and] interference with critical infrastructure.”

Bill C-51 is so vague and the risk of excesses so high that former Conservative and Liberal ministers Joe Clark, Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin and five former Supreme Court judges, Louise Arbour, Claire L’Heureux-Dubé and Michel Bastarache have signed a joint letter to denounce such injustice.

The Bar of the Province of Quebec believes that Bill C-51, as drafted, raises many questions about the compatibility of the amendments with regard to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. (1)

The conservatives want to be able to decide what undermines the security of Canada and who is responsible. It’s a very slippery slope.

(1) Source : https://www.barreau.qc.ca/pdf/medias/positions/2013/20130405-pl-c51.pdf