The Current

Critics warn Bill C-51 not receiving the scrutiny it needs

George Orwell's characters in a dystopian 1984 argued that the public needed to be protected from threats it could not see, regardless of what people did or did not understand. Critics of Canada's new anti-terror legislation don't like the parallels.

Critics warn Bill C51 not receiving the scrutiny it needs

In his classic, dystopic novel "1984," George Orwell famously wrote that "Big Brother is Watching You". But what would George Orwell think of the new terror laws being introduced to democracies like Canada? (Toby Melville/Reuters)

In the immediate aftermath of last October's attacks in Ottawa and Quebec, the Conservative government set to work, drafting new anti-terror legislation. By January, Bill C-51 was introduced. It would greatly expand the powers of intelligence agencies and the police.

And it's prompted some loud concerns, from civil civil libertarians, privacy advocates, even former Prime Ministers.... calling for more oversight at the least. But with a Conservative majority in parliament, and the Liberals' backing, Bill C-51 will almost certainly become law.

So far, it seems like a political winner for the Conservatives. An Angus-Reid poll from last week found that 82 per cent of Canadians are in favour of the proposed anti-terror legislation. This against the backdrop — even this weekend — of possible threats against Canada after the al-Qaeda-linked group al-Shabaab appeared to call on followers to attack Western shopping centres, and included the West Edmonton Mall in its list of potential targets.

Kent Roach is a Professor of Law and the Prichard-Wilson Chair of Law and Public Policy at the University of Toronto's Faculty of Law.

In his classic, dystopic novel "1984," George Orwell famously wrote that "Big Brother is Watching You." Citizens of his imagined future live their lives under constant surveillance, their speech is monitored, their ideas policed. It's tempting to wonder what George Orwell would think of the new anti-terror laws being introduced to democracies like Canada.

Allan Weiss is a professor of English and Humanities at York University where he teaches dystopian literature and he is in our Toronto studio. 

Alise Mills is a in a proponent of Bill C-51. She is a political analyst and communications specialist in Vancouver.

We requested an interview with the Prime Minister's Office, but received no reply. Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney's office told us he was unavailable this morning. 

Are you supportive of Bill C-51? Are there aspects of it that concern you? Let us know.

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This segment was produced by The Current's Kristin Nelson and Lara O'Brien. 

Related Links

Bill C-51: Judicial warrants are designed to prevent — not authorize — Charter violations

Bill C-51 moves us one step closer to the end of privacy

Five key questions remain as Ottawa presses ahead with anti-terrorism bill