Have you Reddit? A Conservative MP's letter on C-51 'concerning'

Photo: flickr/Mike Gifford

Many Canadians took to the streets this weekend to protest Bill C-51. Others have taken to Reddit. Earlier this month, Cameron Smith emailed his MP regarding her support for the bill. He found her reply unnerving, and so he posted it online.

Lois Brown is a Conservative MP for Aurora-Newmarket. Smith is a recent Western graduate living in her riding. Brown's response to Smith's letter references the threat of "jihadi terrorists who endanger our security" and maintains "the threat of radical Islamic extremism is a very real threat."

Smith posted the letter to Reddit on May 11, and users were quick to dissect Brown's response line by line.

The email reads: 

Thank you for your email regarding our recent anti-terrorism legislation.

One only need to look back at the terrorist attacks in Ottawa and Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu as well as attacks abroad in Australia and Paris, to see that the threat of radical Islamic extremism is a very real threat. Canadians are being targeted by these terrorists simply because they hate our society and the values it represents. These threats require a strong response.

That is why, under the strong leadership of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, our Conservative Government took action and brought forward the Protection of Canada from Terrorists Act and Anti-terrorism Act 2015, that protects Canadians against jihadi terrorists who seek to destroy the very principles that make Canada the best country in the world to live.

As Prime Minister Harper clearly said, our Government rejects the argument that every time we talk about security, our freedoms are threatened. Canadians understand that their freedom and security go hand in hand. Canadians expect us to protect both, and there are protections in this legislation to do exactly that.

The fundamental fact is that our police and national security agencies are working to protect our rights and our freedoms, and it is jihadi terrorists who endanger our security and who would take away our freedoms.

Providing national security agencies with new tools will ensure that gaps in sharing information about suspected terrorists does not limit their ability to prevent attacks on Canada or against Canadians.

We as politicians do not enforce the law, but we have the duty to make sure that law enforcement has the necessary tools to keep Canadians safe.

Again, thank you for writing.

Ihsaan Gardee, executive director of the National Council of Canadian Muslims, says the letter is harmful on a number of fronts.

"Firstly, it perpetuates stereotypes about Muslims and Islam by conflating the acts of a fringe group of violent extremists with the broader Canadian Muslim community," he says.

Gardee says that the KKK, who also use religious scripture to justify their violence, are not deemed representative of the broader mainstream Christian community, and asks why the situation is different for Muslims.

He also believes this letter serves to alienate Canadian Muslim communities. 

Thirdly, Gardee says the letter is counterproductive because using the type of inflammatory language Brown employs may give violent extremists the legitimacy they crave.

"It may serve as a recruiting tool to use when targeting the young and most vulnerable," Gardee says. "They can then point to it and say 'hey, look, even our enemy says that what we are doing is jihad.'"

Gardee says that the threat of extremists luring Canadian youth is a real threat that the Canadian Muslim community is fighting -- but he doesn't think Bill C-51 is the answer.

"Bill C-51 fails to deal with the underlying factors that facilitate radicalization to criminal violence," he says. "Part of what is needed is a greater investment in society."

He says feelings of alienation and a sense of disconnectedness from the family, community and Canadian society at large are factors contributing to radicalization that need further study.

This letter isn't the only place where Brown defends Bill C-51. She also penned this column in The Era-Banner where she opens with "the international jihadist movement has declared war on Canada."

She goes on to argue the bill is important because it allows CSIS to intervene to disrupt threats abroad, but does endanger Canadian citizens. 

"Some have expressed concern… that the new legislation may threaten individual freedom," she writes. "This is not the case and the legislation is clear: our security agencies can only target those who pose a risk to Canada."

Nevertheless, Gardee is concerned about the broadening of powers for CSIS.

"There was a very specific reason why CSIS was created which was to separate the work of intelligence gathering from the work of policing," he says. "What [Bill C-51] does is it blurs the line and really it takes us back in time."

Several other users have taken to Reddit to display their MP's responses to Bill C-51 queries here and here.

Lois Brown was unavailable for comment.

Megan Devlin is rabble's news intern for 2015. She hails from Toronto, but she's starting her Masters in Journalism in Vancouver. She got her start in journalism working at the Western Gazette where she was a news editor for volume 107 and online associate editor for volume 108.

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