AS IT HAPPENS

Entrepreneur donates $1 million to fight anti-terror law C-51

Vancouver tech entrepreneur Frederick Ghahramani is pledging $1 million to the effort to repeal Bill C-51, the federal government's anti-terrorism bill. He argues that it is a gross violation of Canadians' privacy rights - and that it's bad for business.
Vancouver businessman Frederick Ghahramani is pledging $1 million to groups working to repeal Bill C-51. (airg.com and Jonathan Hayward/CP)
Listen6:13

Many Canadians have voiced their opposition to the federal government's anti-terrorism legislation, Bill C-51. Frederick Ghahramani isn't only speaking out. He's also donating one million dollars to the cause.

Today the Vancouver-based technology entrepreneur announced he is giving the money to several groups that are fighting to repeal the law.

My wife basically said, 'Stop complaining and do something about it.'- Canadian entrepreneur Frederick Ghahramani

He says he was motivated, in part, by the federal election on October 19th.

"Two weeks ago I woke up and I realized, 'Oh no, no one's talking about this.' It's a very abstract concept. And if everybody knew that their cell phone, their laptop, their iPad was being bugged, there'd be a lot more outrage," he tells As It Happens host Carol Off.

"My wife basically said, 'Stop complaining and do something about it."

A protester sits on the steps of Parliament Hill during a day of action against Bill C-51, on April 18, 2015. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

He argues that the federal government's sweeping power under the law to collect metadata, store it and share it among departments is not only a privacy violation - it's bad for business.

"How can you build intellectual property, as a technology business, when there's a leak in your back door," says Ghahramani, who has founded and invested in a number of telecom and software start-ups, including BC-based airG.

"If you're trying to build the next Facebook or the next Google or the next Instagram, you need global consumers to trust that the data that they give you will not end up in a government server."

The Conservatives, who created and passed the law after two deadly attacks in Canada last October, argue that C-51 is needed to protect Canadians. They say that its measures are reasonable and similar to those used by Canada's allies.

Parliament Hill gunman Michael Zehaf-Bibeau is shown carrying a gun while running towards Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2014 in a still taken from video surveillance. (RCMP handout/The Canadian Press)

Ghahramani argues that more surveillance does not create more security.

"I think it's been proven repeatedly, whether after the 9/11 Commission or after the Air India bombing tribunal, that these en masse, dragnet collections of data programs, like the Patriot Act in the south, don't do anything to fight terrorism," he says.

With the election just days away, Ghahramani is urging people to "hold their nose" and vote for the NDP, since the party has vowed to repeal the law.

"Obviously, as a business owner, who has generated billions of dollars in sales in my career and invest in companies, traditionally, I come from a Conservative constituency, but I've never been a card-carrying member of any party," he says.

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