B.C. could become a flashpoint if the antiterror bill C-51 passes, according to an MP who has served as legal counsel for the independent body that reviews the operations of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.
“Given that there are pipeline issues that seem to be pronounced in British Columbia more so than perhaps other parts of the country, then it is possible that we will be seeing this bill applied to people who are fighting pipelines, no question,” Murray Rankin told the Straight by phone Tuesday (March 10).
“It’s a scenario we need to be concerned with,” added Rankin, former legal counsel with the Security Intelligence Review Committee and now the NDP MP for Victoria.
Rankin was interviewed on the same day that the public safety committee of the House of Commons began hearing testimony on the proposed legislation.
“It defines activity that undermines the security of Canada to include interference with critical infrastructure,” the New Democrat said. “We have no idea what that means. But you could argue that a pipeline delivering bitumen is such.
“It’s the ambiguity of this that’s so disturbing,” added Rankin about the legislation that broadens the powers of CSIS as well as redefines threats to national security to include those that affect the economic and financial stability of the country.
There are at least two First Nations blockades in B.C. that are intended to stop proposed pipelines that will transport gas for liquefaction on the north coast.
One of these was erected outside the town of Hazelton in northern B.C. in August last year by two clans belonging to the Gitxsan Nation opposed to the planned Prince Rupert Gas Transmission Pipeline. The pipeline will supply the proposed Pacific Northwest liquefied natural gas project.
The Conservative government has sought to assure that lawful and peaceful protests will not be targeted under the legislation.
Richard Wright, a spokesperson for the Luutkudziiwus clan of the Gitxsan, acknowledged that there is concern in his community that their protest may be deemed unlawful, and hence considered as an act of terror.
“They can take that bill, and they can misuse it in so many different ways,” Wright told the Straight in a phone interview.
However, it doesn’t seem that the Gitxsan blockaders are simply going to melt away. As Wright said: “We are in a non-negotiable position with the pipeline.”