Bill C-51 and the challenge to civil society

not democratic

If Bill C-51 passes in the Senate this week, our civil society in this country will once again have an opportunity—and more importantly, a responsibility—to publicly signal that our political climate in Canada has undergone a sea change, and that it therefore can’t be business as usual.

This is a crucial test for LeadNow that will determine its future legitimacy with other activists and supporters across the country. If they don’t publicly signal that there has been a sea change, LeadNow’s supporters and allies could be forgiven for thinking either that there hasn’t been one—or, if they already understand it, for thinking that LeadNow is actually willing to become complicit in a police state by supporting Liberals in their strategic voting campaign.

Make no mistake: we need to rethink things. And make no mistake: it is a police state. As our country’s pre-eminent constitutional lawyer, Rocco Galati said yesterday at the Stop C-51 rally in Toronto (in a speech posted by LeadNow to their Facebook page):

What this legislation creates, and make no mistake about it, is a modern day Gestapo. No exaggeration, that’s what it creates—and if it’s passed, it’s created it… I’m not politically partisan, but I’ll say two things: that any MP who voted for this bill should not get any Canadian citizen’s vote; [and] any candidate who’s running for a party who voted for this bill should not get a Canadian citizen’s vote. This is quite clearly a fascist and dictatorial piece of legislation, and appeasement of it is unacceptable.

If LeadNow doesn’t publicly signal that they are rethinking their strategic voting campaign in light of Bill C-51’s passage, then that group will have utterly failed in its role as an independent, non-governmental, non-partisan agent of democracy. They will have gained a prominent opponent in the person of Rocco Galati (the David Suzuki of constitutional law in this country) and many others who have fought on this campaign. Most importantly, they will continue to lose credibility with all Canadians who have been paying attention to Bill C-51, who are waking up to it more and more each day, and who will be following what is about to become the most important Canadian court case in at least a generation (to be led by Galati), which will challenge its constitutionality.

In short, they will be both on the wrong side of history, and actively strengthening the forces that brought us to this point in our history. They will not be agents of meaningful change, but rather, agents of repression and totalitarianism.

This kind of utter failure by LeadNow—a failure both to correctly and justly recognize the dangers posed by this bill, and a failure to courageously respond to it—wouldn’t just be a disappointment for their progressive allies in civil society. It would be shattering for all of those in Canada who want and need and expect their institutions of civil society to help protect our democracy.

Chris Wiseman
Editor, Stop Bill C-51 Facebook community page