Unfortunately, Bill C-24 ties into other problematic legislations. In particular, Bill C-51 redefines terrorism, stating that it will “protect Canada against activities that undermine the security of Canada.” Such acts include any “interference with the capability of the Government of Canada,” including “the economic or financial stability of Canada.” These particular notations are important because many previously lawful activities are now considered unlawful under these guidelines. Any form of protest against the government’s actions, such as those against the Keystone XL Pipeline or even Bill C-51 itself, could be construed as a threat to Canada’s national security. With the pairing of these new legislations, the potential exists for Canadians with dual citizenship to be stripped of their citizenship and exiled because of a protest.
“Lawful protesting means that you’ve asked for a permit from the city to protest in that area. That is not what a protest is. Protests are when people take to the streets and take up space to provide action against things they’re not okay with,” says activist Reakash Walters. She adds, “You’re creating laws to make things illegal, and then you’re saying it’s unlawful. If something was already lawful and someone is protesting because they don’t agree with what you’re doing, and then you make that illegal and say, ‘Hey look, they’re breaking the law,’ it’s not fair.”
Unfortunately, these discussions have racist implications, as terrorism, immigration and dual citizenship are often associated with people of colour. This relationship is why Bill S-7 becomes entangled in the discussion.
“People seem to be much more comfortable with their xenophobia now… When we use that kind of language – barbaric – we are not just saying that your culture is different than ours, but that it’s so beneath us, it’s primitive,” says Mouallem.
Language is powerful. Words carry weight. Although Bill S-7 seeks to protect and defend those on Canadian soil from violence and abuse, it comes from a narrow view. It creates clear divisions. It gives Canadians consent to spy on their neighbours and pass judgment on them.
“Muslims and Arabs are overwhelmingly those most affected by security measures. [They] face widespread and growing prejudice, discrimination and stereotyping in Canada,” states the Canadian Council for Refugees in their comments on Bill C-51.
Compassion and empathy are essential to a society, and the lack of it can alienate people and push them to the margins, potentially pushing them to seek extremism.
“Who becomes radicalized? Usually boys [and] young men, who feel alienated; they’re living in poverty, and they feel as if they are not getting something that they deserve. Essentially they are the same men or boys who would be joining gangs,” says Mouallem. “We stopped dealing with gangs that way a long time ago. We realized it was a lot more efficient, a lot more effective, to treat them like humans and combat the symptoms.”
Canada has always prided itself on its multiculturalism. It’s been its national identity for so long, despite all the severe blemishes in its history that many people choose to ignore. But it is a country built of Indigenous groups and various immigrants, who hold tightly to their ancestry. These differences should not be punished or legislated, or used as a means to reclassify or discourage current or future Canadians.
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