In the shadow of Bill C-51

Brittany_Bill Opinion

The discussion concerning Bill C-51 (mine included), is getting a little ridiculous at this point. The proposed bill has been denounced by numerous parties, including the Canadian Bar Association, and openly criticized by experts and journalists virtually non-stop since its text was made public. As mentioned in a past editorial, thousands of Canadians protested on the “Day of Action” across the country. While an Angus Reid poll taken in February stated that 82 per cent of Canadians supported the bill (albeit with arguments over its validity), more recently a Forum Research poll reported that number had dropped to 45 per cent. Just a few days ago, a poll by Think Pol found that support had decreased to 38 per cent, showing a clear drop in support for C-51 as more Canadians become aware of it.

It seems that within popular discourse the bill is almost universally criticized. It’s big news and the Harper government does not appear to be backing down, steadfast in arguments that “the world is becoming increasingly unsafe”, which was found to be untrue by factscan.ca.

At a certain point, given the thoroughly poor national response this Bill is garnering, the question becomes: why bother?

Realistically, it’s hard to lose (in a political sense) when it comes to fighting terrorism; it’s a relevant topic that’s easy to sensationalize. A more reasonable version of Bill C-51 would most likely be easy to convince Canadians of given the attacks in October, and the Conservative majority in the government. Why take it this far?

Some are beginning to argue that such aggressive legislation is, in reality, a smoke screen meant to distract from issues that are more difficult to deal with. There’s the economy, for one, which Harper has said is his top priority, yet the oil price shock earlier this year caused considerable damage. As of publication, our dollar is worth just 80 cents south of the boarder.

The same argument could be made for the undeniably ridiculous debate that has arisen concerning a woman’s right to wear a niqab during her citizenship ceremony. It is in no way illegal and affects no one other than the individual wearing it. Despite the simplicity of the issue, Harper called it “offensive,” and Conservative MP Larry Miller was compelled to tell those who wear a niqab during such ceremonies to “stay the hell where they came from”. Given the iconic, multicultural nature of our country, quotes like this amount to political suicide.

In other news, Liberal MP Scott Andrews (now expelled) responded to allegations of sexual misconduct by brushing it off, claiming the issue a misperception of his “jovial Newfoundland friendliness”, which may be among the more insulting things said of Newfoundland – and that’s in a society that makes “noofie” jokes.

The fact is that “stranger than fiction” stories like these seem to dominate social media and more traditional news, and it’s possible the bill is just that. Considering the attention I’ve given to C-51 for the past weeks, it would be undeniably hypocritical to suggest that we’re paying too close attention to it and not enough to other issues, but it’s a better lesson to learn now and not after the fact. Participation in the national discourse is an ongoing role; despite how easy it is to hit the increasingly easy target that is C-51, it’s not the only thing going on.

(Also, on that note, be sure to vote in the last round of elections for the year, see page 3 and busu.net/elections for more details)

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