February 2002
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Bill C-36 – Unjust, Unfair…Complete Oblivion
By: Shoilee Khan, SNN Editor, Grade 12, John Fraser Secondary, Mississauga, ON

It's probably the most significant Bill to be passed in Canada's history – a testimony unto itself displaying the weakening strongholds of democracy and the disappearance of the rights and freedoms of Canadian citizens.

It poses such a great threat, and somehow, we are oblivious to the intense, massive impact it will have and certainly is having on the lives of those who are targeted.

It's Bill C-36 – a magic potion, a fantastic formula that will clear all the infidels, all those horrible threats to society, those terrorists from our Canadian soil. It's like anti-venom, except now it's anti-terror – stop it before it causes damage. Sacrificing the rights of individuals in order to serve and protect the rights of the whole of society. Sounds good doesn't it? The perfect plan to ensure that September 11th never happens again.

The warning bells are screaming. In fact, legal experts and human rights advocacy groups have made a mad rush to the microphones demanding a change in the Bill. Legal experts from the Urban Alliance on Race Relations as well as representatives from the Coalition of Muslim Organizations and various other legal experts testified to a Senate committee in early December of 2001 saying that Bill C-36, otherwise known as the Anti-Terrorism Act, goes too far and simply leads to the unjust targeting of people based solely on their faith, beliefs or ethnic backgrounds.

Muslim communities all over Canada are feeling threatened and have made numerous pleas asking the government to further amend or change the Bill. What has got so many people in angst is the definition of 'terrorism' outlined in the Bill. 'Terrorist activity', according to Bill C-36, is any act committed on oversight "in whole or in part for a political, religious or ideological purpose, objective, or cause" that aims to threaten the public in regards to its security (economic or otherwise), intentionally cause death, any serious bodily harm, threat to life or anything that can cause a risk to the public in terms of health, safety, or property. For most the definition would seem adequate – except for the added political, religious, or ideological grounds which allow officials to investigate people according to what religion or political beliefs they may have.

Lawyers from the Urban Alliance on Race Relations believe that the Bill actually provides consent to officials to prosecute individuals based on their religious, ideological or political beliefs. The Bill essentially allows officials to suspect, arrest, imprison and question an individual based on not proof, but simply on suspicion – which itself is formed in view of the person's religion or ethnicity.

Bill C-36 screams injustice, discrimination and the downfall of democracy. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms seems to have sunk into the shadows while C-36 flaunts its "protection" of society. All this tension, all this worry, so many lives at stake, yet when asking the average teenager "what's your opinion on Bill C-36?" unless they've taken a senior Law course, the general response seems to be, "I don't know much about this Bill thing, so I don't really have an opinion."

One student in Ontario responded by saying, "Americans don't care about the rights of privacy…". I guess it would have been a shocker for her to realize that Bill C-36 takes effect in Canada. Those who did know about the Bill, tended to have a negative view on it, "…I didn't know that in a country where the citizens have freedom of thought, speech and beliefs, the government is allowed to go around arresting people without any proof…" says Salman Chaudhry, a student at the University of Western Ontario in London.

Some students in Mississauga, Ontario, disagreed, "…it doesn't really [target specific people], it's protecting the whole of society and I'm sure we're willing to give up our individual rights for that" says one OAC Law student. Sayema Chowdhury, a student of Western University, disagrees, "…it is a total violation of human rights that is obviously targeting and signaling out a specific group or a specific look of people. I feel as though we've turned back our calendars a few decades."

Well, despite the pleas, the obvious glitches and loopholes in the Act, Bill C-36 was enacted as law on December 18th, 2001. We can remain oblivious, and pretend it's okay, but the fact of the matter is – it's not.

Federal Dept of Justice - Bill C-36
Council of Canadians: Letter of Concern to Government
Canadian Jewish Congress
Letter from Muslim organizations
Amnesty International: Response to Sept 11 and Bill C-36