Hundreds of Canadian artists call for repeal of surveillance law

Bill C-51 is a sweeping, radical mass-surveillance bill proposed by the current Canadian Tory government, which will be fighting an election next month.

240 artists — and counting — have signed an open letter promising to vote for parties who vow to repeal the law if they take office. Some of us who signed the letter (like me) are expatriates and not eligible to vote in Canada anymore, but nearly all the signatories are allowed to vote, and I certainly endorse the repeal of C-51 as a worst-of-its-kind spying bill that leads the world in civil rights erosion.

We are Canadian artists. We have been blessed to be part of a country that does not send poets to gulags, that does not behead people for saying things a government considers critical of it, and that does not murder dissidents and journalists wholesale.

But we know that totalitarian and repressive regimes always try to shut down artists, along with any other independent voices. We are alert to the possibilities: we, and all who wish a free and open society, must strongly oppose such tendencies when they arise.

Bill C-51 directly attacks the creative arts and free expression in this country.

This bill was rammed through Parliament by the Harper Conservative government, despite a huge public outcry and without due consultation. As many experts have pointed out, this bill allows the government to silence dissenting voices without oversight or accountability. It criminalizes "advocating or promoting the commission of terrorism offences in general," which, because of this vague wording, could be interpreted in some very stupid ways. In effect, it gives the government carte blanche to suppress any voice they don't like.

Open Letter from Canadian Artists Against Bill C-51 [Kill C-51]

Canadian artists fear C-51's chill on expression [Laura Payton/Macleans]