WATCH ABOVE: Hundreds of people stood shoulder to shoulder in front of Canada Place Saturday afternoon, protesting proposed anti-terror legislation.
EDMONTON — Demonstrators gathered outside Canada Place in downtown Edmonton Saturday to protest the federal government’s proposed anti-terrorism legislation.
Chanting “kill the bill,” hundreds of people took part in the rally against Bill C-51 over the course of the afternoon. The Conservative government introduced the legislation in January and says it will make Canadians safer.
The wide-ranging bill would give police much broader powers and allow them to detain terror suspects and give new powers to Canada’s spy agency.
NDP MP Linda Duncan was among those in Edmonton voicing her opposition to the bill, which critics say will infringe upon Canadians’ civil liberties and right to privacy, especially online.
“My concern is that it’s so vague,” said Naiha Wasi, a volunteer with the Muslim Association of Canada. “It says people who may commit terrorist or terrorist-like acts are going to be punished. But what does ‘may commit’ stand for? Does it mean that if I don’t like a bill that’s passing, if I protest against it, am I considered a terrorist?
“My other main concern is the surveillance, the amount of information that the government will have their hands on.”
The rally in Edmonton was held as part of a national day of action that saw similar gatherings held in communities across Canada Saturday. The event was dubbed “Defend our Freedom.”
“The most hot-button issue is sort of the so-called criminalization of expression,” said organizer Doug Yearwood. “By sort of disagreeing with what’s called the ‘critical infrastructure of the government’ they could be deemed an extremist or terrorist by a very broad and loosely defined law.”
A House of Commons committee began hearings into Bill C-51 on Tuesday. Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney told the committee the legislation will not allow the Canadian Security Intelligence Service to trample civil liberties.
Blaney said CSIS needs expanded powers to protect Canadians from extremists who “hate Canadian values.” He added the international jihadi movement has declared war on Canada.
With files from The Canadian Press.