Below is a copy of my letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, send today and copied to leaders of elected parties and selected MPs.
May 29, 2012
The Right Hon. Stephen Joseph Harper, P.C., M.P.
Prime Minister of Canada
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa ON K1A 0A6
Dear Prime Minister,
Re: My Final Push For Your Response To My Indefinite Crime Bill C-10 Hunger Strike
My name is Obert Madondo, an Ottawa-based activist and progressive political blogger. I’m writing to follow up on my earlier letter regarding my indefinite hunger strike against Canada’s new draconian crime law, the deceptively christened “Safe Streets and Communities Act”, formerly omnibus crime Bill C10. The letter, addressed to your office, the Parliament of Canada, the leaders of all elected parties, all MPs and senators, was delivered through Ottawa Centre NDP MP, Paul Dewar, on March 27. It explained my hunger protest and asked Parliament to repeal of Bill C-10, and fulfill four other demands. As of today May 29, 2012, the 77th day of my hunger protest, only Liberal senator Joan Fraser has responded.
I’ve no choice but to engage in a “final push” for your response. Starting today, from 12pm to 5pm, I will carry out my peaceful protest by the steps to Parliament. If necessary, on Monday, June 4th, I’ll escalate the protest by switching to a water-only hunger protest.
My health has deteriorated significantly since I started the protest on March 14. Tests done just over two weeks ago revealed that my Vitamin D level has deteriorated to a critical level. My doctor recently recommended that I take 5000 units of Vitamin D a day for the next three months. I’ve lost more than 35lb. Every time I look into the mirror, I do not recognize the person I see there. For the past two weeks, I’ve been experiencing severe chest pains. But this emotional and physical pain is nothing compared to the pain resulting from you cruel silence.
Mr. Harper, I’m profoundly hurt and disappointed. I feel oppressed, abandoned and devalued. I’m searching for the meaning your silent treatment.
In my protest narrative, I’m not re-inventing the wheel. I’m merely echoing the progressive voice of ordinary Canadians, elected representatives and expert witnesses, which was suppressed during the Bill C10 hearings. I’m merely continuing the conversation.
Please help me understand the meaning of your oppressive silence. If I was a distressed dog lying by the side of the highway and you were driving to the cottage, would you still ignore me? If I was a Canadian solider wounded while fighting another costly and ill-defined war overseas, a war that kills hundreds of innocent local unarmed men, women and children, wouldn’t you pay attention? Is my peaceful sacrifice too radical a form of protest for Canada that you would rather let me starve to death? Are you deliberately ignoring me to discourage Canadians from considering a hunger strike as a viable and peaceful form of protest?
I fear that this “tyranny of silence”, even as your government prepares to repeal the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act and other progressive legislation, is replacing Canada’s fine art of democratic conversation. It’s becoming the new normal in Canada. The repressive silence wears down progressive opponents of ideology-based official policy. It discourages Canadians from engaging and questioning.
RELATED: Letter to Governor General of Canada
I fear that your silence betrays a culture of denial; it seeks to propagate the popular fiction that hunger protests are alien to Canada. Twenty-six years ago, social activist, author and former senator Jacques Hébert completed a 21-day hunger strike to protest the Brian Mulroney government’s decision to nuke the Katimavik project. He saved Katimavik, one of Canada’s oldest and largest youth volunteer programs. Unfortunately, the project did not survive the 2012 federal budget cuts.
I fear that your silence betrays a culture of denial of the realities of politics in the age of growing social, political and economic inequalities. In the past, hunger protests occurred mostly in repressive countries, such as Cuba. But now they are happening in repressive regimes, democratizing countries and fully-fledged liberal democracies. In the last few weeks, more than 2000 people have recently starved themselves for change in more than a dozen countries around the world, including India, Turkey, Russia, Bolivia, US and Ukraine. Hundreds of Palestinians recently engaged in hunger strike in Israeli prisons. Anna Hazare, completed a 12-day hunger strike to protest political corruption in India.
The bottom line is: a hunger strike in a democracy is a sign of imperfect democracy. It betrays an invisible police-state lite.
My hunger protest started as expression of democratic outrage against Bill C-10. But your tyrannical silence has transformed it into a protest against your government’s continuing Orwellian assault on our democratic institutions, parliamentary process and legitimate dissent. Since assuming power in 2006, you have turned Canada into a “suicidal state” relentlessly sniping at its own democratic institutions. For example, you prorogued parliament twice, in 2008 and 2009. Now you’re unashamedly dismantling the progressive state Canadians built since World War II, mostly through Liberal Party leadership, and the contributions of individual Canadian leaders such as Tommy Douglas and John Diefenbaker.
The Conservative majorities in the House of Commons and Senate continue to pass bills, some of them complex omnibus pieces of legislation, without the comprehensive debate and oversight our parliamentary democracy demands. Your government continues to shut out the voices of ordinary Canadians, elected representatives and expert witnesses who offer progressive options to the harsh provisions of these backward-looking bills. Outside parliament, your government continues to oppress vulnerable groups, disenfranchise Canadians and stifle civic dissent.
Recently, your government introduced budget Bill C-38, the most sweeping omnibus bill in Canada’s history. The legislation seeks to amend or eliminate over 60 existing federal statutes, most of which are progressive. Immigration minister Jason Kenney recently introduced Bill C-31, the “Refugee Exclusion Act”, which will politicize our immigration system, and discriminate against and jail vulnerable asylum seekers. Your government has reiterated its determination to revive the disgraced Internet surveillance Bill C-30. The government supports Conservative backbencher Blake Richards’s private member’s Bill C-309, which proposes tough jail sentences for activists who wear masks to protect themselves from police surveillance and profiling during legitimate protests.
These laws are the epitome of state abuse of power, the law and resources. Consequently, my protest has now morphed into an interrogation of the larger question of democracy and accountability. My revised demands are:
- Repeal the Safe Streets and Communities Act.
- Split up Budget Bill C-38
- Scrap “Immigration Exclusion” Bill C-31
- Scrap Internet surveillance Bill C-30
- Former Ottawa Police chief, Senator Vernon White, must resign.
- National inquiry for the 600+ missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls.
Please help me to understand the meaning of your silence. Maybe you’re disconcerted by my demand for the resignation of newly appointed Conservative senator, Vernon White? I’m demanding his resignation because, under his leadership as chief of the Ottawa police service, I tasted the wrath of the Bill C10 and other draconian pieces of legislation propose.
On the morning of November 23, 2011, Canada became a police state far too eager to criminalize dissent and abuse power, resources and the law. I was part of eight unarmed Occupied Ottawa protesters peacefully resisting eviction from Ottawa’s Confederation Park. Between 150 and 200 Ottawa Police officers were dispatched just after 2am to evict us and issue eight $65 tickets.
The police applied disproportionate and unnecessary force. I was subjected to cruel and unusual treatment. I was treated differently than my two white colleagues who made the final stand with me. The police hurt my back, legs and left arm. I ended up in hospital. I was recently certified temporarily medically unemployable.
The Ottawa police had no qualms about spending $16 000 on the four-hour operation. Meanwhile, 600 aboriginal women and girls are either murdered or mission, and the feds remain unwilling to act. Is this how a fair and compassionate society treats the vulnerable?
Vernon White was in charge of the Ottawa Police that morning. I’ve nothing personal against the senator as a fellow human being, but that morning, a monumental 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.
I’m demanding senator White’s resignation to protest his role in the passage of Bill C-10. Experts, MPs and senators have argued that the omnibus Bill C10, a composite of nine pieces of legislation amounting to 208 clauses and hundreds of amendments was complicated and required considerable time to study. I don’t doubt Senator White’s intelligence. But isn’t it a crude political joke then that the senator played a crucial role in the passage of the bill within a week of his appointment?
I’m demanding senator White’s resignation to spotlight the fact that, at one time during his tenure as police chief, the Ottawa police’s clearance rate (the percentage of crimes “solved”) stood at 31 per cent, putting it last among 17 Ontario forces with populations of 100,000 or more. The Ottawa’s police force ranked dead last in urban Ontario. The provincial average was 39. Though you currently have the power to appoint senators, Canadians should never relinquish their power to shine a light on, question and provide a sober second opinion on these appointments.
Mr. Harper, a hunger strike is obviously a weapon of last resort for the powerless. But my protest is a journey of hope. In Canada, our collective spirit of hope is enshrined in the values etched in the Charter, particularly: compassion, respect for fundamental rights and the rule of law, multiculturalism, inclusion, diversity, fairness, democratic governance and accommodation of difference. In these values lie our collective security, not in vindictive laws such as the Safe Streets and Communities Act.
I hope to embolden you and Parliament to give the government’s disagreeable laws the real sober second thought they deserve. I hope to remind my fellow Canadians that now is the hour to build a society that nurtures hope instead of extinguishing it. It’s a moment to remind ourselves that an injustice visited upon a single Canadian or community, is an injustice visited upon all of us. It’s the moment to insist on a more open, more compassionate, Canada.
I look forward to receiving your response soon.
Tel: (613) 265 4295
Email: firstname.lastname@example.orgWebsite: www.canadianprogressiveworld.comSocial Media: Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/obie.mad), Twitter (@Obiemad) and LinkedIn(http://www.linkedin.com/in/obiemad)
YouTube campaign video: http://youtu.be/V-mcaeD16ro
- Letter to Parliament of Canada
- Canada Crime Bill C10 Hunger Strike Update: May 22, 2012
- Canada Crime Bill C10 hunger striker concerned about Parliament’s “silent treatment”