AGM Delegates Vote to Resolutely Condemn Bill C-51

As requested at the 2015 FPSE AGM the following letter was sent to the major federal party leaders.

I write on behalf of 10,000 post-secondary educators in BC to resolutely condemn Bill C-51.

The legislation has sparked serious concerns about the potential impact on the basic civil liberties of all Canadians. The legislation establishes criminal offences that infringe upon the right to free expression, and CSIS has been granted unprecedented and intrusive powers with no commensurate increase in oversight or accountability.

As educators and academics, we also have specific concerns about the impact of the legislation on academic freedom and free speech on university and college campuses. Academic freedom includes the right to teach, engage in scholarly activity, publish, and express one’s opinions free from political and institutional censorship. Academic freedom allows universities and colleges to serve the common good of society through searching for, and disseminating, knowledge and understanding, and through fostering independent thinking and expression in academic staff and students. Robust democracies require no less.

Yet this legislation instills grave concern that post-secondary educators who teach or research in controversial areas could feel the chill effect of this legislation. So too could those who encourage open debate either within their classroom or as part of individual or joint research undertakings. Given the broad scope of the proposed offences, academics may be unwittingly exposed to prosecutions, those studying controversial topics to surveillance without their knowledge.

And finally, the prospect of more open information sharing between government agencies or between national governments could have a wide range of unintended consequences. The case of Maher Arar and his wrongful extradition and imprisonment in Syria stands as a testament to how a government’s obsession with security can be so destructive to the rights of individual citizens.

Ten thousand members represented by Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC strongly urge you to commit to repealing this legislation if you are elected to form government on October 19. The safety and security of Canadians can only exist alongside our fundamental rights and freedoms, including freedom of expression and the right of democratic participation.

About FPSE

The Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC is the provincial voice for faculty and staff in BC teaching universities, colleges and institutes, and in private sector institutions. FPSE member locals, represented by Presidents' Council and the Executive, represent over 10,000 faculty and staff at 18 public and 12 private sector institutions.