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Canada's Controversial Anti-Terrorism Bill Is More Unpopular Than Ever

Of the Canadians who are aware of C-51, 56 percent oppose the bill while just 33 percent endorse it, according to a new poll.
Justin Ling
Montreal, CA

Support has fallen again for the Conservative Party's broad surveillance legislation

This article originally appeared on VICE Canada.

As Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper's controversial anti-terrorism bill clips through Parliament en route to becoming law by the summer, public opposition is threatening to take wind out of the prime minister's sails.

Of the Canadians who are aware of C-51, 56 percent oppose the bill while just 33 percent endorse it, according to a Forum Research poll provided exclusively to VICE News.


That's an 11-point swing over Forum's last poll, which was conducted for VICE two weeks prior, when only a bare majority of those who were aware of the bill opposed it.

The news gets worse for Harper, as one of the biggest drops in support for the bill is amongst his own kind.

Of those who said they support the Conservative Party, 72 percent support Bill C-51—that's a nine point drop since Forum asked earlier in March. Meanwhile, 13 percent say they disapprove of the bill.

The poll was conducted after marathon committee hearings took place, in which the Conservative majority shot down hundreds of amendments to the bill.

More than three-quarters of Liberal, NDP, and Green voters say they disapprove of the legislation.

That's bad news for the grit leader, Justin Trudeau, who has weathered criticism for his decision to support the bill. He spoke to Daily VICE about his decision to vote in favor of the bill earlier this week.

NDP leader Thomas Mulcair says he's not surprised that support has fallen apart for the bill.

"At the beginning the government was coasting on the fact that since it said it was anti-terrorist, a vast majority of Canadians were on board," he told VICE. Mulcair says that's changed. "Everyone I meet from coast-to-coast-to-coast talks to me about the bill by its name. It's really struck a chord with a lot of Canadians."

And, Mulcair says, the NDP are going to keep fighting it. They've made that vow already, and haven't got much to show for it. Party sources, however, say they're looking into what procedural shenanigans are at their disposal to wreak havoc on the bill's progression, like they've done in the past.


The Conservatives maintained that the negative publicity about the bill is inaccurate "fear mongering," as more than one Conservative MP has called it. The Forum poll shows that, even if that's true, they're doing a bad job of convincing Canadians of it.

Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney, who sat with VICE to address some of the criticisms of the bill, says Canada's spies won't be allowed to ignore the constitution.

"Anytime they could conduct an activity that could infringe on the rights of Canadians they would have to seek a warrant, so this makes all operation legal," he said. "I will invite those groups to carefully read the law and get a good understanding because there has been a lot of misunderstanding."

Blaney was referring to the litany of critics who've come out to oppose the bill, including legal and security experts, a Canadian man who was tortured overseas, a conservative pro-gun group (which was convinced to shut up about it), and a host of others, including those who would normally endorse Conservative policy.

Thanks to that national attention, seven in ten Canadians are aware of the bill. That's a slight bump from the previous poll.

When Forum asked all the respondents whether they think the country needs new anti-terror legislation, not specifically C-51, only 51 percent said yes. That's nearly a 20-point drop over when the firm first asked the question in November.


Forum also asked those who were aware of C-51 if they believed the legislation could have an impact on their daily lives—42 percent worried it could have a negative impact. A quarter apiece said they thought it would have a positive impact, or that it would have no impact at all.

The legislation is now in the Senate for study, but opponents shouldn't hold their breath for changes. The upper chamber rarely amends government bills, and any changes to C-51 would require it to go back to the House of Commons for approval.

Considering that the Conservatives only have about nine weeks left to pass the legislation before summer break, they've got little time to waste.

The Forum Research poll was conducted from March 30 to 31 and surveyed a representative sample of 1,239 Canadians. The results are accurate +/- 3 percent, 19 times out of 20.

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