One of the most prominent groups fighting shale gas development in New Brunswick is voicing concerns about the Harper government's new anti-terrorism bill, saying would criminalize civil disobedience and bring Canada closer to becoming a police state.
Jim Emberger, spokesperson for the New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance, contends Bill C-51 is written vaguely and would allow any government to redefine terms to suit its needs.
"It has a chilling effect on the public," he said. "For instance … if I stand in front of a truck, or parade in front of a business, if I don't know if that's going to put me in jail with a criminal record for terrorism, I'm much less likely to voice my opinion or take part in public discourse."
The bill was tabled at the end of January, following a deadly attack on Parliament Hill in October, when Cpl. Nathan Cirillo was shot and killed by Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, who was also gunned down.
It would give law enforcement the power to disrupt potential terrorist plots and detain suspects who "may" carry out rather than "will carry" out terrorist activity.
Emberger says it represents a sweeping change to constitutional rights. In some cases, Charter rights will be trumped so that, for example, people can be held for up to a week with no charge.
He wants to see an in-depth national debate and a Supreme Court review before Bill C-51 is passed, noting the legislation is modelled after laws that have failed to protect citizens' rights in the United States.
"They said, ‘We're not listening to conversations, we're just tracking phone conversations.’ Well, as more information comes out, it turns they were actually listening to conversations and the intrusions on privacy go very deep and encompass millions of people — not just a few they picked out to be terrorists," he said.