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Canadians Protest Proposed Anti-Terror Law

Thousands of Canadians protested a proposed anti-terror bill Saturday, claiming the legislation would rob citizens of their privacy and freedom.

by Meredith Hoffman
Mar 15 2015, 6:15pm

via Brent Morton/Youtube

Thousands of Canadians protested a proposed sweeping anti-terror bill this Saturday, claiming the legislation would rob citizens of their privacy and freedom.

The legislation, called Bill C-51, would allow police to detain terrorism suspects more easily and expand the Canadian Security Intelligence Service's ability to obtain and release data.

If Parliament passes C-51, the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS) would have broad powers to "disrupt" acts of terrorism, according to the bill. The agency could "enter any place or obtain access to any thing," to copy any document, and "to do any other thing that is reasonably necessary to take those measures." 

The law would also outlaw the "promotion of terrorism" and let the government add people to a "no-fly" list — all measures protesters say overstep appropriate federal powers. 

"I think it threatens our rights to demonstrate and to protest anything the government does," demonstrator Frances Holten told the Ottawa Citizen at a march.

Protests were held around the country, in cities including Vancouver, Montreal, and Toronto, against the legislation proposed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Civil rights organizers, aboriginal leaders and politicians gathered for the marches and carried signs including "Stop Harper" and "Activism is not a Crime."

"C-51 is a bill that could seriously endanger our right to protest peacefully, to stand up against a government or an infrastructure or an economic policy," New Democratic Party leader Thomas Mulclair told the crowd in Montreal, according to the Toronto Star.

But Harper has justified the legislation, introduced in January, by alluding to recent attacks on Canadians inside the country. In October a Canadian Special Forces officer was killed in a hit-and-run and a corporal was shot standing guard at Ottawa's National War Memorial.

The bill is meant "to protect Canadians from the evolving threat of terrorism and to keep our communities safe," Harper has said, according to the Ottawa Express. 

"Canadians understand that their freedom and security go hand-in-hand and expect us to protect both, and there are safeguards in this legislation to do exactly that," a statement by Harper's press office claimed Saturday.

Follow Meredith Hoffman on Twitter: @merhoffman