OTTAWA, May 29, 2012 – This week I’ll start the “final push” for Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Parliament’s response to my ongoing indefinite hunger strike against the new Safe Streets and Communities Act (crime Bill C10). 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 strike.
On March 27, I delivered a letter addressed to the prime minister, the Parliament of Canada and the leaders of all elected parties, asking the legislature to repeal of crime Bill C-10, and fulfill four other demands. Only Liberal senator Joan Fraser has responded. Today, the 77th day of my peaceful protest, I wrote to the prime minister asking for a response. I also communicated with the leaders of all elected parties, party house leaders and selected MPs, and asked them to help me to understand the meaning of the oppressive silent treatment.
I’m profoundly hurt and disappointed. I feel oppressed, abandoned and devalued.
If I was a distressed dog lying just outside the prime minister’s window, would he still ignore me? If I was a Canadian solider wounded while fighting another costly and ill-defined war overseas, a war that kills thousands of innocent local unarmed men, women and children, wouldn’t the prime minister pay attention? Is my peaceful sacrifice too radical a form of protest for Canada that the prime minister and parliament would rather let me starve to death than dignify it with a response? Are they both deliberately ignoring me to discourage Canadians from considering a hunger strike as a viable and peaceful form of democratic protest?
I fear that this “tyranny of silence” is replacing Canada’s fine art of democratic conversation. It’s becoming the new normal in Canada. The cruel silence wears down progressive opponents of ideology-based official policy and legislation. It discourages Canadians from engaging and questioning.
My hunger protest started as expression of democratic outrage against Bill C-10. But the tyrannical silence of the prime minister and parliament has turned it into a protest against the government’s continuing Orwellian assault on our democratic institutions, parliamentary process and legitimate dissent. Since assuming power in 2006, he has turned Canada into a “suicidal state” relentlessly sniping at its own democratic institutions. For example, he prorogued parliament twice, in 2008 and 2009. Now he’s 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.
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. The 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, the government continues to oppress vulnerable groups, disenfranchise Canadians and stifle civic dissent.
Recently, the Harper Conservatives 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. 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. The 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 legitimate activists who wear masks during protests to protect themselves from police profiling.
These laws are the epitome of state abuse of power, the law and resources. Consequently, my protest has become about 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.
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, fairness and respect for fundamental rights. In these values lie our collective security, not in backward-looking legislation such as the Safe Streets and Communities Act.
I chose to put my life on the line in the hope of re-introducing the conversation our politics ruthlessly excluded during the hearings on Bill C-10. The pillars of our democracy, among them, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, were erected through democratic conversation. I still hope to embolden Parliament to give Bill C-10, Bill C-30, Bill C31 and Bill C-38 the real sober second thought they all deserve. I hope to remind our legislators that a hunger strike in a democracy is a sign of imperfect democracy. It betrays an invisible police-state lite.
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