Dozens gathered on Saturday at Toronto’s Queen’s Park to protest Bill C-51, Canada’s controversial anti-terrorism bill that was passed by the House of Commons in May.
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The legislation gives the Canadian Security Intelligence Service more power to thwart suspected terrorist plots — not just gather information about them. It also increases the exchange of federal security information, broadens no-fly list powers and creates a new criminal offence for encouraging someone to carry out a terrorist attack.
“People feel like they are under direct assault by the government, by police interference, by an overarching surveillance state,” said Matt Currie, the event’s organizer.
Young Voters Galvanized
Political analysts and protesters say Bill C-51 has become a key issue for Canada’s youth during this election.
“Young people are realizing that their online home, where they do their socializing, all of their lives, is now under direct threat from the government,” said Currie, 24.
And as a demographic that typically doesn’t turn out for elections in the same numbers as older voters, analysts say the controversy surrounding Bill C-51 could be a boon for Canada’s opposition parties.
“Younger voters, those in the group 18-34, are massively in opposition to the bill, and they are voters who tend to be supporting the NDP and the Liberal party,” said Fuyuki Kurasawa, an associate professor of sociology at York University.
Protesters say they are aware young people are a less reliable source of votes, but the changes introduced by Bill C-51 have caused many to become more active.
“Yes, there’s voter apathy among youth,” said protester Drew Garvie. “But there’s also a lot of political activity and opposition, and Bill C-51 has been one of these outlets.”
NDP Candidates Join Protest
Toronto-area NDP candidates Olivia Chow, Andrew Cash, Peggy Nash and Jennifer Hollett also attended the rally.
“In the age of social media, you want to know that everything is protected, is private,” said Chow.
The NDP has said it will scrap C-51 if it forms government after the election.
“In 37 days, the dangerous C-51 will be toast,” Chow added.
The party is also collecting signatures for an online petition to repeal the bill.