Saturday, March 14, 2015

Bill C-51 and Women's (and Everyone's) Rights

On March 8, International Women's Day, I spoke on behalf of the Edmonton Coalition Against War and Racism (ECAWAR) during the IWD Forum here in Edmonton. Much of my short speech focused on Bill C-51, the "Anti-Terrorism Bill," which, if passed, would potentially limit our freedoms as activists to assemble, to criticize the government, or even comment on global issues. The text of my speech is below, as well as a video (the introduction at which I blush).
International Women’s Day came into being after the Second International Conference of Socialist Women in 1910 in Copenhagen, Denmark, passed a resolution to establish International Women’s Day as a day to agitate for the rights of women to take part in the political affairs of their countries and their rights as workers. It was inspired by the growing struggles of women for their political and economic rights, including the establishment in the U.S. of Women’s National Day in 1909 in honour of the women garment workers’ strikes in 1908. In 1977, the United Nations General Assembly invited member states to proclaim March 8 as the UN Day for women's rights and world peace.

At that first conference and since, the demand for peace has been a prominent theme of IWD, along with anti-discrimination, equality, anti-sexism, and anti-violence against women. In the year 2000, the official UN theme was Women United for Peace. The following year, it was Women and Peace: Women Managing Conflicts.

As Canadian women in the peace movement, we still have many things to be concerned about.

We have a federal government which is engaged in war and aggression, trying to impose puppet regimes and so-called “Canadian values” on non-Western countries, often under the guise of supporting the rights of women and girls in those countries, instead of respecting those countries’ rights to self-determination. We say: Not in our Name!

U.S.-NATO wars and intervention have led to literally millions of deaths in the Middle East and elsewhere, including hundreds and thousands of children. They have destabilized countries, led to failed states such as Libya, and contributed to the arming and proliferation of ISIS. The standard definition of insanity is to believe that doing the same thing will have different results. We call for troops out of Iraq and no attack on Syria, for the peaceful resolution of disputes, not war. Canada Needs an Anti-War Government!

Now, we face a serious threat within our own country as activists. Workers’ strike struggles, the fight of First Nations for their rights, minorities, and in particular Muslims are targeted by the impending legislation of Bill C-51 (also known as the “Anti-Terrorism Bill”), which is the Harper government’s response to Canadians’ desire for change.

Bill C-51 makes promotion of terrorism a criminal offence. What does that mean? Consider that the Harper government claims that the Palestinian resistance in the Middle East is terrorism and wants to criminalize any “promotion” of their resistance. Yet thousands upon thousands of Canadians feel duty bound to defend the Palestinians’ right to be and to express their own right to conscience.

Bill C-51 gives sweeping powers to CSIS, which many people say will permit it to operate as a police state without oversight. By claiming not to include strike struggles and political dissent while adding the word “lawful,” C-51 allows all manner of activities to be called “terrorist” - including illegal strikes, marches without a police permit, and acts of civil disobedience. Our march today without a police permit could be included.

Bill C-51 is also a direct assault on the rights of First Nations to defend their lands and it must not be allowed to pass!

We cannot permit such an assault. Let every one of us take an action - participate in a picket or rally; talk to your co-workers, families, other women; call and write your member of Parliament. Join the work to defeat Harper in 2015!

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