Kahnawake sends ‘open letter’ to Prime Minister saying anti-terror bill will oppress Aboriginal rights

APTN National News
KAHNAWAKE – The Mohawk Council of Kahnawake is the latest to voice its concern over the federal government’s anti-terror legislation bill C-51.

According to the letter sent to Prime Minister Stephen Harper Wednesday, the council, like many First Nations across the country, is concerned about the effect the bill could have on activists.

 “While it is clear that the Canadian people and their government are concerned with both real and potential incidents of terrorism in Canada, there is also a great fear that the law may be used to brand legitimate protests by First Nations as acts of terrorism,” said Chief Lloyd Phillips.

The proposed anti-terror bill will give the Canadian Security Intelligence Service police-like powers. It also gives police more leeway when it comes to arresting individuals suspected of committing acts of the terror. The bill also aims to crack-down on online speech that is perceived to promote terrorism.

A review of the bill by the Assembly of First Nations echoes the concerns of the Kahnawake council. The AFN analysis document says the proposed bill could lead to the “unjust” labelling of First Nations activists as terrorists.

“Many of the provisions drafted in the proposed Act could potentially apply to activities of Indigenous peoples living in Canada and there are very few provisions proposed that would prevent the legislation from being interpreted against First Nations people,” said the analysis.

The letter, signed by Phillips, goes on to describe the council’s concerns regarding the “fast tracking” of the bill, alluding to the fact that the government cut short debate in the House of Commons and put a limit on the number of witnesses who could appear to speak about the news legislation at committee.

“The fast tracking of Bill C-51 into legislation is, in itself another cause for concern. In its zeal to protect Canada’s citizens there is a real danger that Canada’s government may fail in its obligation to protect the right to protest and, quite possibly, other personal rights and freedoms,” the letter states.

Government and opposition parties are calling dozens of witnesses. The NDP is inviting Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs Grand Chief Stewart Philip and Pam Palmater, professor of Indigenous studies at Ryerson University. Both say they oppose C-51.

The AFN analysis also raises concerns about another section of the bill that covers activities that “undermines the security of Canada” including interfering with the government’s capabilities around defence, intelligence, border operations, public safety and the economic and financial stability of the country.

The council ends the letter with, “We feel that Bill C-51, in its current state, could potentially and perhaps even predictably be used to further oppress our defense of our Aboriginal rights and title.”

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