Demonstrators in dozens of cities across Canada Saturday protested proposed anti-terrorism legislation, Bill C-51, that they argue will violate their civil liberties and rights to privacy. The demonstrations are taking place from Victoria to Halifax, the Montreal Star reported, with the actions collectively dubbed "Defend Our Freedom." Although numbers aren't readily available, in Toronto alone, more than 2,000 protestors gathered downtown, CP24 News reported.




Bill C-51 was introduced to Parliament in January by the country's Conservative Party government, which argues it would make Canadians safer. The bill, the Star said, gives police broader powers and allows them to detain terror suspects, giving new powers to Canada's spy agency.

One of the most vocal critics of Bill C-51 is the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit group that describes itself as defending civil liberties, particularly online, as technology grows.

In a post to the organization's website Friday, the foundation encouraged Canadians to march against the bill that proposes changes to how the Canadian government would handle national security and anti-terrorism efforts, changes the group characterized as "dangerous" and a threat to Canadians' rights to privacy and freedom of expression.

"The bill just passed its second reading in the conservative-led House of Commons in late February," the post said,  "and the government is now hastily rushing to pass it with less than two weeks of debate."

Among Bill C-51's changes with which the foundation takes issue:

  • "Vague wording" that could allow the police to overreach in detaining citizens in "less serious contexts than terrorism," resulting in the criminalization and censorship of innocent speech;
  • A return to an era in which surveillance and policing is done by one agency rather than two, which removes a "safeguard against improper policing activities"; and
  • The authorization of "open-ended information sharing among Canadian agencies," which the foundation argues undermines the country's Privacy Act that ensures that information Canadians provide to the state won't be used against them.

Protester Stuart Basden told the Montreal Star he was worried about democracy under Prime Minister Stephen Harper. “Freedom to speak out against the government is probably at jeopardy," he said, "Even if you're just posting stuff online you could be targeted, so it's a really terrifying bill.”