Opposition to Ottawa’s anti-terrorism legislation hit the streets of Vernon Saturday.
About 200 people protested against Bill C-51 at Okanagan-Shuswap MP Colin Mayes’ office.
“This was one of the biggest rallies Vernon has witnessed in recent years,” said Jacqui Gingras, NDP candidate and event organizer.
“To have this many people turn out on a Saturday afternoon shows how important this issue is to Canadians.”
While protesters claim the legislation will prevent legitimate demonstrations from occurring, Mayes insists that’s not the case.
“It specifically says in the act that protesting is a freedom we enjoy and there is no attempt by the government to marginalize that,” he said.
“I would never support anything that compromises our democracy and neither would our government.”
Gingras was among a number of speakers Saturday, including Green candidate Dave Smith.
“Never have we, in this country, faced a government so reckless with our rights and so cynical in their attempt to stoke fear and hysteria,” said Gingras.
“The Conservatives want us to believe that we have to choose between our freedoms and our safety. That is a false choice.”
Mayes accuses the opposition parties of using the issue of public safety for political purposes.
“The RCMP and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service need the ability to stop radicalization,” he said, referring to the attacks in Ontario and Quebec last fall that claimed the life of two soldiers.
“There have been plots that never came to be because of the work of the RCMP.”
Gingras anticipates concern about Bill C-51 will continue to grow.
“As more and more people are brought to an understanding of how regressive this legislation is, we’ll have more and more Canadians in the streets,” she said.
However, Mayes says the only local opposition he has received about the proposed legislation is form letters originating from a political party.
“I haven’t seen a non-form letter saying they (constituents) have a problem with the government protecting them,” he said.