Harper government dismantling democracy, rights coalition says

Abuse of parliamentary rules, the intimidation of public servants, the defunding and intimidation of organizations that hold views at odds with the government, and muzzling independent watchdogs are just some of Harper government’s alleged attempts at eroding democratic values in Canada documented in a new report by a non-partisan coalition of Canadian citizens and organizations engaged defending Canadians’ collective and individual rights.

In the report Dismantling Democracy: Stifling debate and dissent in Canada, the organization Voices-Vox describes how, in their decade in power, the Conservative government has been compromising public access to information, curtailing advocacy and dissent on environmental and scientific issues, devaluing and dismissing Indigenous voices, vilifying Canada’s veterans, using national security to hide and justify human rights abuses, and removing equality for newcomers.

The report documents where the federal government has gutted the capacity of its own departments and independent agencies to offer information and analysis needed to make sound policy choices.

From scuttling the long-form census, to gagging scientists, to cutting funding for evidence-based advocacy, Voices-vox argues that the government has pursued a deliberate strategy to repress alternative views.

“At our core, we feel a profound sense of betrayal from the federal government, which is supposed to work with us, as partners, toward constructive solutions,” the group of eminent human rights lawyers and representatives from Greenpeace and Amnesty International stated in the report’s foreword. “That is a long, proud tradition in Canada. We should never have been made Public Enemy #1, but the government has actually used the language of friends and enemies in its approach to civil society.”

“As our ability to provide vital services and share information is constrained, so too are the ways in which we can express our moral outrage,” they added. “More and more forms of perfectly peaceful protest are being criminalized. The fear and worry of facing sanctions for expressing opposition to—or even just concern about—important public policy issues is silencing many voices.”

“But, we refuse to be the collateral damage of a crude campaign to stifle dissent,” the group vowed. “We will not be made silent, expendable bystanders to an inequitable vision for Canada that strives to shut down the diversity of views and debates that make us thrive as a nation. Our democracy will not be dismantled.”