Thursday June 4, 7pm. On October 20th in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Québec, Martin Couture-Rouleau rammed his car into two Canadian Forces personnel, killing Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent. Two days later, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau shot and killed Canadian Forces Corporal Nathan Cirillo as he was serving as a ceremonial guard at an Ottawa war monument; Zehaf-Bibeau then stormed Parliament and engaged security forces in a firefight that had Stephen Harper hiding in a closet, fearing for his life. Before the shock and panic over the day’s events had settled, politicians were on message, repeatedly referring to the killings as “jihadi terrorism.” People took the bait, and filled streets in cities across Canada, including Hamilton, to clamor for a stricter police state. An now, seven months later, it’s just around the corner. Bill C-51 – the so-called “Anti-Terrorism Act” that transforms CSIS into a bona fide political police, and strengthens the State’s ability to criminalize political dissent – will become law in a matter of days.
Much of the dialogue about C-51 has focused around spectacular acts of international terrorism carried out by members and supporters of Al Qaeda and ISIS/ISIL, the need to balance “free speech” and “security,” calls for increased government oversight, and the shameless electoral jockeying of federal politicians. This framing serves as a smokescreen to the real-world implications of this law – particularly for Indigenous land defenders, immigrants from Muslim-majority countries, anti-pipeline organizers, anarchists, radicals and revolutionaries of all stripes. In order to dispel some of this confusion, this workshop and discussion will go over Bill C-51 from the perspective of those of us who will be dealing with the material consequences of these laws and enhancements to the Canadian state’s apparatus of political repression, once its new provisions take effect.