Students, profs and activists talk about Bill C-51 at Thursday’s BARTalk

The year's final BARTalk looked at the controversial Bill C-51.

The talk was held at the Gallery and organized by students from Cited, The Talon and AMS Events, who discussed the potential impact that the legislation could bring to the Canadian public.

With journalism student Gordon Katic as facilitator, the panel consisted of Jessie Housty, Margot Young, Micheal Vonn and David Christopher.

Stephen Harper proposed Bill C-51 in January and it is currently under debate in the House of Commons. This legislation entails various provisions aimed at deterring potential terrorist threats, such as expanding no-fly lists and enabling easier sharing of information between government agencies.

All of the presenters on the panel are opposed to Bill C-51 and felt that Canadians must take action to prevent the bill from passing into official legislation. They shared similar views on how Bill C-51 could severely infringe on individual liberties and hinder state response to potential terrorist threats.

“[The provision on sharing of information] would mean up to 17 different government departments, as well as CSIS, would all have access to your personal information,” said Christopher, the communications manager of Christopher said that such a provision would be entirely contradictory to Canada's Privacy Act.

In addition to expressing concerns about violations of civil liberties, the presenters also said that some of the terms in Bill C-51 could reduce the effectiveness of state response to national security concerns.

According to Young, a UBC Law professor, the enactment of this bill would permit the exercise of more coercive action on the part of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS). Given that it has been the responsibility of CSIS to gather intelligence, this may distort the roles of CSIS and the RCMP, which would be counter-productive.

“It’s not clear that this legislation actually deals with [threats to national security] and does in fact somewhat hobble the RCMP, for example, in effectively dealing with these concerns,” said Young.

Housty, elected councillor of the Heiltsuk Tribal Council, also voiced concerns that Bill C-51 could have a particularly detrimental impact on members of her community and other Aboriginal peoples in Canada.

“Anything that I do as a community organizer that is about asserting sovereignty or protecting land in my unceded territory could be construed, as I imagine, as a threat to the national interest,” said Housty.

While the Liberal Party is intending to make amendments to Bill C-51, Vonn, policy director of the BC Civil Liberties Association, said that even this would not be sufficient in making the bill into more effective legislation.

At the end of the talk, Christopher announced that he would be sending a petition to the Federal Parliament next Monday to oppose Bill C-51. Young also said that with the federal election taking place in October, the audience should keep Bill C-51 in mind.