Starting at 12:01am today, I embarked on an indefinite hunger strike to demand that Canada’s new Safe Streets and Communities Act (omnibus crime Bill C-10) be immediately repealed. Earlier, I appealed to the Governor General of Canada, David Johnson, to use the Crown’s reserve powers to either withhold or reserve Royal Assent to Bill C-10. But Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s tyrannical will prevailed, just as it did when the House of Commons and Senate shamefully passed Bill C-10. The bill reportedly received royal assent Tuesday afternoon.
As a result I will now continue the hunger strike until the Act is repealed in its entirety. I’ll carry out the action in my apartment here in Ottawa.
The Safe Streets and Communities Act is the lord of the Conservatives’ draconian legislation, policies, measures, official rhetoric and attitudes through which Harper seeks to impose an insidious right-wing worldview on Canada. It’s a lethal weapon with which the PM seeks to expand state power, weaken the judiciary, divide society, take away Canadians’ rights and freedoms, create resentment of the “other”, and punish the weak and marginalized.
My conscience and lived experience dictate that I resist our over-compensated elected dictator. We must insist on a Canada that without apology encourages all to set aside differences and prescribed labels and come together to create strong a national identity based on these Canadian values: compassion, multiculturalism, inclusion, diversity, fairness, democratic governance, respect for fundamental rights and the rule of law, and accommodation of difference.
Therein, not the Safe Streets and Communities Act, lies our collective security.
Related: 10 reasons to oppose Bill C-10
I call on all Canadians who believe in a more democratic, safer and humane Canada to engage in any peaceful act of civil disobedience possible against this draconian Act. It’s time. We’re being called upon to defend Canadian democracy at its greatest hour of need.
Please help me spread the word. You can follow my progress via:
And now, the letter I sent to the Governor General:
March 14, 2012
His Excellency, the Right Honourable David Johnston
Governor General of Canada
1 Sussex Drive
Ottawa ON K1A 0A1
I’m writing to demand that you use the reserve powers invested in your esteemed office by the Crown to either withhold or reserve Royal Assent to the omnibus crime Bill C-10. Indeed, in the democratic age, the Crown’s reserve powers should rarely, if ever, be used. But Canada today faces a situation that constitutionally calls on the Governor General to reign in an authoritarian petro-prime minister who has become a serious threat to both our parliamentary democracy and to Canadians.
Since Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Conservatives came to power in 2006, Canadian parliamentary democracy has been hurtling toward the Intensive Care Unit. The omnibus crime Bill C-10 is the lord of the Conservatives’ draconian bills, policies, measures, official rhetoric and attitudes through which Mr. Harper seeks to impose an insidious right-wing worldview that will cannibalize Canada’s future, institutions and values. The Safe Streets and Communities Act will expand state power, weaken the judiciary, divide society, take away Canadians’ rights and freedoms, create resentment of the “other”, and punish the weak and marginalized. It will transform Canada into a Zimbabwe in democratic disguise.
Your Excellency, both crime Bill C-10 and the Safe Streets and Communities Act are the epitome of state abuse of power, the law and resources. My conscience and lived experience dictate that I resist our over-compensated elected dictator. Democracy should never yield to tyranny. Indeed, it never has, never will.
At 12:01am on Wednesday, March 14, 2012, I’ll embark on an indefinite hunger strike to demand that the Monarchy side with and defend Canadians against Stephen Harper. I humbly submit the following demands, and assure you that, should Your Excellency abandon Canadians and yield to Harper’s tyranny as the House of Commons and Senate shamefully did and sign the bill into law, I’ll continue the hunger strike until the Act is repealed in its entirety.
My demands are:
- The Governor General of Canada should use the reserve powers invested in his esteemed office by the Crown to either withhold or reserve Royal Assent to the omnibus crime Bill C-10
- Former Ottawa Police chief and newly-appointed Conservative Senator, Vernon White, should immediately resign
- The federal government should make a commitment to invest 100 times the cost of monitoring and dismantling Occupy encampments across Canada last fall to institute a national inquiry into the case of 600 missing and murdered indigenous women and girls
- The House of Commons must immediately institute measures to improve accountability and transparency. The measures should include limitations on the governing party’s power to a) manipulate parliamentary Standing Orders b) evade opposition scrutiny c) shut down debate d) impose gag orders to silence critics and e) lock up committees behind steel doors to muzzle committee members and prevent the media from informing us on the proceedings.
- The Conservative government must immediately stop its covert war on Canadians and Canadian democracy, which currently manifests through a) the criminalization of dissent b) promotion of divisive legislation, measures, rhetoric and attitudes c) whipping up of unnecessary moral panic and d) blackmailing of citizens by pasting “Canadians” or “victims” or “children” or “mandate” labels to its draconian laws, measures and official rhetoric
Your Excellency, the Safe Streets and Communities Act will carry the preamble: NOW, THEREFORE, Her Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate and House of Commons of Canada, enacts as follows. In essence Her Majesty’s esteemed name and the Great Seal of Canada will be appended to a law that will inflict a great injustice on Canadians. I sincerely believe that Her Majesty would agree with the following minimum arguments against the Act.
- The making of the Act, from the first reading of Bill C-10 in the House of Commons, through to the final vote in both houses, was a one-party-state tyrannical abuse of Canadian parliamentary process and democratic practice. It was a triumph of spin over substance and deliberative democracy. At every turn, opposition MPs, elected by 60% of Canadians, and opposing expert witnesses who attempted to input into the bills’ 208 clauses and hundreds of amendments, were shown the political middle finger.
- Through the Act, Harper seeks to radically engineer Canadian society – socially and politically – and impose an insidious right-wing worldview which is war-loving, pro-punishment, anti-science, poverty-ignoring and anti-minority. The Act will expand state power, yoke the judiciary, divide Canadians, take away rights and freedoms, and punish the weak and marginalized
- One key test of any society is how it treats the marginalized and most vulnerable. The Act will hurt the marginalized, weak and racialized minorities the most. On First Nations Communities, it will perpetuate conditions of colonialism and the legacy of residential schools
- The Act will cost Canadian taxpayers an estimated $19 billion. Surely, how can we agree to partake in the daylight robbery our seniors, education, healthcare and other social services to finance a law that will oppress us and turn our jails into training schools for hardcore criminals?
- The Act was birthed in an environment of tyranny were all Canadians were treated as potential enemies of the state. Dissenters, activists and civil society organizations opposed to official policy or dedicated to issues are targeted, demonized, dehumanized and labeled “enemies of the state”. In the House of Commons, Her Majesty’s Official Opposition is accused of being “anti-Canada”. Gun-control advocates are compared to Nazis; opponents of the long gun registry to Adolf Hitler. MPs opposed to the Conservatives’ new online surveillance bill are “with the child pornographers”. To cap the Conservatives’ attitude against Canadians, now Her Majesty’s Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) detachment officers on Parliament Hill will start carrying the rapid, accurate-fire Heckler & Koch MP5 submachine guns as “secondary weapons” to their standard-issue semi-automatic 9mm pistols.
Your Excellency, I’m demanding only the minimum of what Canadians should rightly be demanding of their leaders right now. I’m demanding that your esteemed office use the Crown’s discretionary and constitutional powers to counsel and warn. Now is the hour to force Parliament return to sanity and respect our democratic and legislative processes. It’s the hour to encourage our elected representatives to listen to and value the concerns of all Canadians.
Now is the moment for the Governor General to bring Canadian citizens, permanent residents and others together, and encourage us to create strong and generous communities. It’s the moment to encourage us to set aside differences, dialogue and continue to build a national identity based on the Canadian values of multiculturalism, inclusion, diversity and compassion. Our collective security lies in a united and caring Canada whose justice and legislative processes are predicated on compassion, fairness and inclusion.
This is the Canada I experienced the day I washed up on Canada’s shores as a political refugee from Zimbabwe in the summer of 2003. The violence I’d experienced and witnessed had mutilated me. But Canada embraced, nursed and healed me. Canada restored that which Zimbabwe – and the US denied me – dignity. Canada believed in me as an equal member of the human race, and encouraged me to unleash my passions in the service of my adopted country. In 2004, I briefly volunteered for the late NDP leader Jack Layton’s successful run for Parliamentary office. Over the years, I’ve carved a unique Canadian identity as a globally-conscious activism-oriented progressive political blogger, with a passion for Canadian federal politics, diversity, social issues and movements, progressive politics and Canadian foreign policy.
But I’ve tasted the wrath of a Canada hostile to both accountability and the “other”. In December, 2003, I signed up to volunteer for CAP AIDS Network Inc., a registered Canadian charity that supports HIV/AIDS work in Africa. By April 2008, I’d become the charity’s executive director. In May, 2010, I attempted to pursue accountability for part of the more than $130 000 in Canadians’ donations the charity misused. The board of the charity harassed me and tossed me under the bus. It blocked my access to employment insurance and torpedoed my support systems as a new immigrant. I lost most of what I’d worked for all these years and ended up on the streets of Toronto.
From June 15 to June 23, I walked almost 400 km from Toronto to Ottawa in protest. But I learned that when those of us on the margins of society challenge the wrongdoings of the privileged, it takes more than a 400km solitary walk to be heard. In Ottawa, I ended up on the streets. From June 23 to October 14, 2011, I slept in a crevice at Laurier and Bank Street. I ate from soup kitchens. I bathed and did my laundry on Ottawa River. On October 15, 2011, Occupy Ottawa showed up in town and rescued me from the streets. The movement gave me a tent, a family and a platform to discuss, in the spirit of equality and deliberative democracy, the issues of our time.
On November 23, 2011, I tasted the wrath of the Canada the Safe Streets and Communities Act proposes. I was part of the eight unarmed and peaceful Occupy Ottawa protesters resisting the movement’s politically-motivated eviction from Confederation Park. Just after 2am, between 150 and 200 Ottawa Police officers descended on us. During the eviction, the police applied disproportionate and unnecessary force. I was subjected to cruel and unusual treatment. The police hurt my back, legs and left arm. I ended up in hospital. Today, I live with excruciating pain every second of my waking hour. I experience recurring headaches that usually wake me up in the middle of the night. Since mid-January, I’ve been experiencing memory loss or forgetfulness.
No other Canadian citizen or resident should have to go through what I went through on the morning of November 23, and the pain I live with now.
Why did the four police officers who carried me to the makeshift detention centre drop me three times during the trip? Why was I treated differently than my two white colleagues? One was also carried by police officers but was not hurt. The other was driven to the centre in a police cruiser. At the centre why did the officers drop me onto the floor and leave me lying my stomach, a position that further acerbated my injured back and arm? Why did they ignore my plea for immediate medical attention?
Your Excellency, Senate Vernon White was in charge of the Ottawa Police that morning and that’s why I’m demanding his resignation. I’ve nothing personal against the senator as a fellow human being. But that morning, a failure of judgment and Canadian leadership occurred. I strongly question the senator’s judgment in a situation that demanded the utmost in sobriety and a quick glance at the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Furthermore, I object to his contributions to Bill C-10 in the Senate on or before March 2, after assuming his duties as senator only on February 23. I don’t doubt his intelligence, but I doubt that he had the time to adequately examine Bill C-10’s 208 clauses and hundreds of amendments and vote with a sober second thought.
Your Excellency, I arrived at the decision to protest after months of agonizing soul-searching. I do not underestimate the odds I face. I’m a self-identified anti-capitalism activist in a moment the distinction between terrorist and legitimate protester is more than more than ever before blurred in Canada.
Nevertheless, I’ll fight for a Canada I believe in.
Your Excellency, I leave you with the words of Grand Chief Derek Nepinak of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, whose voice, like many others, was ignored: “Are we going to be a compassionate Canada and look out for one another, or are we going to criminalize one another and send each other to jail? That’s the fundamental question that has to be answered.”
We must love and look after each other.
Activist and Progressive Political Blogger
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