Castlegar squares off against Bill C-51

Kyra Hoggan
By Kyra Hoggan
March 18th, 2015

Castlegar residents took to the street last weekend to protest the Harper government’s proposed Bill C-51, a controversial piece of potential legislation garnering negative reactions across the country, even from life-long Neo-Conservatives such as Conrad Black.

In Castlegar, upwards of 125 people gathered in Spirit Square beside City Hall to show their opposition and to listen to impassioned speeches decrying the Bill.

Speakers ranged from Castlegar United Church minister Greg Powell, area defense attorney Ken Wyllie, postal worker/union activist Cindy McCallum Miller, Gail Hunniset representing NDP Alex Atamanenko, event organizer Antoinette Halberstadt, and several more.

“The proposed legislation Bill C-51 should be of concern to all Canadians. It would clearly allow for the violation of Charter Rights, facilitate spying on innocent Canadians, and create a secret police force with little oversight or accountability. C-51 is reckless, irresponsible and ineffective,” said Antoinette Halberstadt, who organized the event along with local union activist Michelle Davis. Halberstadt compared what she characterizes ‘the secret police bill’ to apartheid-era South Africa (her country of origin), describing a cautionary tale of gross power abuse and corruption that she said could easily be mirrored in Canada if Bill-C-51 is allowed to pass.

A letter read by Hunniset on behalf of Atamanenko urged residents to action, “We need to tell Harper and his Conservatives that we will not be intimidated by his fear tactics. Please keep up the struggle, the future of our democracy depends on it.” (An editorial written by Atamanenko on the subject can be found here https://castlegarsource.com/news/oped-mp-speaks-bill-c-51-37071#.VQnvWY4pmGk )

The Castlegar protest was held in concert with hundreds across the country, including one in Nelson (https://castlegarsource.com/news/nelsonties-join-protestors-across-canada-opposed-bill-c-51-37249#.VQnu3I4pmGk ), and social media is exploding with ‘Stop Bill C-51’ pages, sites and commentary.

The BC Civil Liberties Association used the Castlegar protest’s Facebook page to share what it called, “an influential primer distilling the legal complexities of Bill C-51 into just eight points that every Canadian should know—particular those of us who are concerned about the future of our basic rights.” (To read it, click here https://bccla.org/2015/03/8-things-you-need-to-know-about-bill-c-51/ )

The gathering garnered 68 signatures on the Green Party petition opposing Bill C-51 and 109 for its NDP counterpart.


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