Calling it an assault on basic freedoms and our right to protest, dozens of people gathered outside the Sudbury courthouse Saturday to protest Bill C-51.
The governing Conservatives say the anti-terror legislation is aimed at making it easier to stop terror attacks such as the one in Ottawa last year that killed a Canadian soldier.
But critics say it casts too wide a net and has the potential to make it illegal to speak out against government policies.
On Saturday, members of the NDP and Green Party were joined by other groups to speak out against the bill. LU Prof. David Robinson, who ran for the Greens in the Feb. 5 byelection, said C51 played into terrorists hands.
"ISIS doesn't like the kind of society we have, the kind of freedom we have," Robinson said. "They need us to pass bills like this."
Robinson said a responding to a group like ISIS shouldn't mean we have to surrender our fundamental right to protest.
“Let's just trash this bill,” he said.
Penny Earley, a member of the Sudbury chapter of the Council of Canadians, said it was key for everyone opposed to C-51 to speak out now.
“The risks of Bill C-51, if it is passed, is we might never be able to protest the actions of the government again,” Earley said. “(C-51) paves the way to violations of our rights to freedom of speech, freedom of expression. It's a very dangerous bill for many, many people.
“The right to voice a dissenting opinion to the government could be lost.”
Richard Eberhardt, president of the Sudbury NDP riding association, said usually local MPs lead protests of this type
“Of course, Sudbury doesn't have one right now,” Eberhardt said, referring to the fact the seat has been vacant since the resignation of Glenn Thibeault, who won the seat for the provincial Liberals on Feb. 5.
Now is the time for “people of principle” to speak up, he said.
“This is our moment to show them we won't allow anyone to use terror as an excuse to make us change our way of life,” Eberhardt said. “We won't let them use fear as a way to get us to give up our rights… and this is a bill (that) gives security agencies the right to violate virtually every right guaranteed to us.”
He said even protests like the ones being held across Canada would be on the radar of CSIS, Canada's intelligence agency, if C-51 becomes law.
“And that's wrong.”
The event was one of several held in cities across Canada Saturday, from Victoria to Halifax, in an event organizers dubbed "Defend our Freedom." They were all held to protest the wide-ranging anti-terror bill that would give police much broader powers and allow them to detain terror suspects and give CSIS broader, new powers.
Steve May of the Green Party told the crowd that he could “feel the energy from coast to coast to coast today.”
He was particularly confused about the stance of Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, who has offered lukewarm support for the legislation.
“It's just truly bizarre,” May said, adding that Trudeau's stance brings “shame and discredit” on his party.
“We need to do more to bring the Liberals onside,” May said.