FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Ottawa, March 19, 2012 – At 12:01am on Wednesday, March 14, Ottawa-based activist and progressive blogger, Obert Madondo, started an indefinite hunger strike whose key demand is that the Parliament of Canada should immediately repeal the new Safe Streets and Communities Act (formerly omnibus crime Bill C-10). Earlier, Madondo had appealed to the Governor General of Canada to use the Crown’s reserve powers to either withhold or reserve Royal Assent to Bill C-10.
In a letter sent to Canadian MPs this afternoon, Madondo said that the Act is the epitome of state abuse of power, the law and resources. He argued that the making of the Act was a tyrannical abuse of Canadian democratic institutions and parliamentary process.
“The Act was birthed in an environment of tyranny where all Canadians were either intimidated or treated as potential enemies of the state,” said Madondo, a permanent resident who came to Canada as a political refugee from Zimbabwe in 2003.
“We’re already living our own Nixonian moment. All kinds of dirty tricks, including Gobbels-style propaganda, McCarthyism and cold-war-style red–baiting, are party of the political game. Additionally, the Conservatives stand accused of tampering with the 2011 federal election. This is not democracy.”
Madondo believes that the Act will expand state power, weaken the judiciary, divide society, take away Canadians’ rights and freedoms, create resentment of the pejorative ‘other’, impose a right-wing worldview on Canada, and punish the weak and marginalized.
“The Safe Streets and Communities Act is the foremost of the Conservatives’ draconian agenda and propaganda. Our unduly elected prime minister seeks to radically engineer Canadian society – socially and politically – to impose an insidious, divisive, pro-punishment, poverty-ignoring and anti-minority right-wing worldview. His world will punish mostly racialized minorities and Aboriginal peoples.”
During the hearings in the House of Commons and Senate, First Nations leaders argued that the bill would punish Aboriginal people across Canada by sending more of them to jail. First Nations are 4 percent of Canada’s population, but constitute 17 percent of inmates in the countries’ jails, and this, before the Act is implemented.
“I arrived at the decision to protest after months of agonizing soul-searching,” Madondo said. “My conscience and lived experience has compelled me to resist our elected dictator, Stephen Harper. At the personal level, my hunger strike is an act of civil disobedience. It is also a last stand on behalf of the progressive voices the Conservatives showed nothing but disdain during the making of the Act.
Madondo is also calling for the resignation of Senator Vernon White.
“On November 23, 2011, I tasted the wrath of the police state the Act proposes. I was forcibly removed from Confederation Park as one of the eight unarmed Occupy Ottawa protesters peacefully resisting the politically-motivated eviction carried out by the Ottawa Police. The 100 to 150 officers sent in a few hours following midnight applied excessive 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 and still suffer physical pain because of their actions. 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 to the floor and leave me lying on my stomach, a position that further acerbated my injured back and arm? Why did they ignore my plea for immediate medical attention?
Senator 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 Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”
Madondo will carry out his peaceful action in his apartment here in Ottawa, and will undertake regular public actions, including visits to Parliament Hill. His five demands are:
1. The Parliament of Canada should repeal the Safe Streets and Communities Act in its entirety.
2. Former Ottawa Police chief and newly-appointed Senator, Vernon White, should immediately resign.
3. 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 aboriginal women and girls.
4. The House of Commons should immediately institute measures to improve accountability and transparency. The measures should include limitations on the governing party’s power to a) manipulate Standing Orders; b) evade opposition scrutiny; c) shut down debate d) silence critics; and e) run committees behind closed doors and prevent Canadians from participating.
5. The Conservative government must immediately stop its campaign against Canadians and Canadian democracy. This campaign currently manifests through a) the criminalization of dissent; b) promotion of a divisive agenda and attitude; c) whipping up of unnecessary moral panic; d) using incendiary labels to stifle debate and criticism on its actions.
Madondo believes that by repealing the Safe Streets and Communities Act, Parliament would return to and respect Canada’s democratic and legislative processes; it would listen to and value the concerns of all Canadians.
“Honorable MPs, this is the time to build a society that nurtures hope instead of extinguishing it. It’s a moment to remind ourselves that an injustice visited on a single Canadian or community is an injustice visited on all of us. We must insist on a united and caring Canada that encourages all to set aside differences and prescribed labels. We must come together to create a society based on these core values: compassion, understanding, inclusion, diversity, fairness, accommodation of difference, democratic governance, respect for fundamental rights and the rule of law. Therein lies our collective security, not in the Safe Streets and Communities Act.
I’ll fight for a Canada I believe in.”
Madondo has garnered a significant amount of community support for his arguments and protest. He has published an edited version of the letter to the MPs on his personal blog. To see the letter, please click on this link: http://www.