On Wednesday, March 14, Ottawa-based activist and progressive political blogger, Obert Madondo, embarked on an indefinite hunger strike to protest Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s cruel new crime law, deceptively christened “Safe Streets and Communities Act” (omnibus crime Bill C-10). During the debate on the bill in Parliament, experts warned Harper about the legislation’s inevitable retrogressive impact on Canadian society, democratic institutions and core values. Hundreds of thousands of Canadians signed petitions against the bill.
But Harper ignored these progressive voices. He used his acquiescing Conservative majorities in the House of Commons and senate to pass the bill without any substantial debate. This “rush job” deliberately sought to stifle the inconvenient truths about the backward-looking law, which include:
- The law will radically engineer Canadian society – socially and politically – and impose an insidious, divisive, pro-punishment, poverty-ignoring, and anti-minority, right-wing worldview.
- The law violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, particularly: the right to equal protection before the law; the right to be protected from cruel and unusual punishment; the right to liberty; and the rights of Canadians convicted overseas.
- The law will radically stir Canadian justice system away from prevention and rehabilitation towards punishment and exclusion.
- The law will erode core Canadian values, including: compassion, respect for fundamental rights, inclusion, diversity and fairness.
- The law weakens and undermines the Canadian judiciary.
- The law’s sweeping changes to Canada’s youth justice system victimizes and punishes young and first time offenders with stiffer and mandatory minimum sentences, which will transform them into hardened criminals, instead of rehabilitating and reintegrating them into society. Even the victims of crime whom the Conservatives’ tough-on-crime agenda purports to protect will not be safe.
- The law will break up families and divide Canadian society. Already, the Conservatives routinely stalk the societal tensions and public’s irrational fear of terrorists, radicals, people who look different, criminals, pedophiles and foreigners.
- There is an implicit yet undeniable racism embedded into the law. America’s New Jim Crow is coming to Canada. The majority of those who will face tougher sentences and violation of civil liberties are from historically disadvantaged racialized groups that are already over-represented in our prison system: blacks and aboriginals. Aboriginals constitute 4 per cent of the Canadian population, but up to 22 per cent of the country’s prison population. Canada experienced a 50 per cent increase of black inmates in the last 10 years. Most of the inmates are incarcerated for crimes rooted in poverty, economic inequality and historical prejudice.
- The law will not just cost Canadian provinces and taxpayers at least $19 billion to implement; It will also impose a huge financial burden on future generations.
- The law will introduce the so-called “war on drugs”, which has devastated the US, Brazil and Mexico.
- The law will create a prison industrial complex in Canada. The GEO Group Inc., a major player in the global private correctional services, lobbied for the new law. The company has profited from 9/11, the economic meltdown and recent anti-immigrant crackdowns in the US. It has profited from privatized corrections and detention operations in Australia, UK and South Africa, where it is also connected with the African country’s unveiling massive prison privatization efforts. In the late 1990s, GEO was involved with Australia’s notorious Woomera Immigration Detention Center, once described by UN officials as a “great human tragedy” and likened to a “Nazi concentration camp”.
- The law seeks to create a society that is cowed, uncritical, fearful, divided and susceptible to propaganda. The Conservatives are trying to force us into a state of permanent fear; a place from where we’ll clamor for protection from the state. Fear and terror create an intellectual and moral void. It disarms society of its power to question. The moment the state takes away civil liberties in the name of fighting terrorism or crime, the terrorists and criminals have won without shedding a single drop of sweat.
Obert says: “Now is the hour to build a society that nurtures hope instead of extinguishing it. An injustice visited upon a single Canadian or community, is an injustice visited upon all of us. We must insist on a united and caring Canada that without apology encourages all to set aside differences and prescribed labels, and come together to create a strong national identity based on these Canadian values: compassion, respect for fundamental rights and the rule of law, multiculturalism, inclusion, diversity, fairness, democratic governance and accommodation of difference. Therein, not the Safe Streets and Communities Act, lies our collective security.”
Obert has vowed to continue his peaceful protest until all of the following five demands are met:
- The Parliament of Canada should repeal the Safe Streets and Communities Act in its entirety.
- Former Ottawa Police chief and newly-appointed 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 aboriginal women and girls.
- The House of Commons should immediately institute measures to improve accountability and transparency.
- Harper and Conservatives must immediately stop their war on Canadians and Canadian democracy.
Please support Obert’s call on the Parliament of Canada to do the right thing and immediately repeal the Safe Streets and Communities Act.
Sign the petition now!
Obert’s YouTube video can be viewed at: http://youtu.be/V-mcaeD16ro. Please share it as widely as possible. You can also connect with Obert on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Skype or email: email@example.com. Obert also regularly updates personal blog: http://www.canadianprogressiveworld.com
1. Obert’s Letter to the Prime Minister and Parliament of Canada: http://www.scribd.com/doc/87053452/Obert-Madondos-Bill-C-10-Hunger-Strike-Open-Letter-to-Members-of-the-Parliament-of-Canada
2. Obert’s Letter to the Governor General of Canada:http://www.canadianprogressiveworld.com/2012/03/14/obert-madondos-indefinite-hunger-strike-against-crime-bill-c-10-letter-to-the-governor-genera-of-canada/
3. Canada crime Bill C10 hunger strike concerned about Parliament's silent treatment: http://www.canadianprogressiveworld.com/2012/04/13/canada-crime-bill-c10-hunger-striker-concerned-about-parliaments-silent-treatment/
4. Occupy Ottawa Activist Begins Indefinite Crime Bill C10 Hunger Strike: http://www.canadianprogressiveworld.com/2012/03/14/occupy-ottawa-activist-begins-indefinite-crime-bill-c-10-hunger-strike/
5. Obert’s YouTube Video: http://youtu.be/V-mcaeD16ro.
6. Activist protests omnibus crime bill with hunger strike: http://rabble.ca/news/2012/03/activist-protests-omnibus-crime-bill-hunger-strike
7. Hunger Strike Activist Spurned At Doors of Canada's Parliament: "Go Put It In The Mail": http://www.allvoices.com/contributed-news/11805780-hunger-strike-activist-spurned-at-doors-of-canadas-parliament-go-put-it-in-the-mail
8. Taking a stand against 'draconian' crime bill: http://www.emcorleans.ca/20120405/news/Taking+a+stand+against+%27draconian%27+crime+bill
9. 10 reasons to oppose Bill C-10, Trinda L. Ernst, President, Canadian Bar Association: http://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorialopinion/article/1086785--10-reasons-to-oppose-bill-c-10
10. Tough on crime bill will hurt First Nations, Atleo says: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/story/2011/11/16/north-atleo-crime-bill.html
11. Stop Harper’s cruel crime bill: Leadnow Avaaz petition: http://www.avaaz.org/en/stop_harpers_cruel_crime_bill/
12. Critics of omnibus bill ‘advocate for criminals,’ Conservatives charge (Globe and Mail): http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/critics-of-omnibus-bill-advocate-for-criminals-conservatives-charge/article2205213/
13: Crime rates fall to lowest level since 1973: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2011/07/21/crime-rates.html
14. Texas conservatives reject Harper's crime plan - 'Been there; done that; didn't work,' say Texas crime-fighters (CBC): http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/story/2011/10/17/pol-vp-milewski-texas-crime.html
15. What’s Wrong With Harper’s Omnibus Crime Bill (Behind the Numbers): http://www.behindthenumbers.ca/2011/09/20/whats-wrong-with-harpers-omnibus-crime-bill/
16. Open letter to the Government opposing mandatory sentences from over 550 Canadian experts and public health professionals (Urban Health Research Initiative): http://uhri.cfenet.ubc.ca/content/view/90
17. A Meaner Canada : Junk Politics and the Omnibus Crime Bill (Alex Himelfarb): http://afhimelfarb.wordpress.com/2011/05/29/a-meaner-canada-junk-politics-and-the-omnibus-crime-bill/
18. Study: Prevention Fights Crime Better Than Jail (Seattle Times): http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=19960620&slug=2335526
19. Tough on crime will likely lead to more crime, bigger deficit (Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives): http://www.policyalternatives.ca/newsroom/news-releases/tough-crime-will-likely-lead-more-crime-bigger-deficit-report
20. Rough Justice in America: Too many laws, too many prisoners - Never in the civilised world have so many been locked up for so little (The Economist): http://www.economist.com/node/16636027
21. Salvaging a faulty crime bill (Irvin Waller): http://www.themarknews.com/articles/6942-salvaging-a-faulty-crime-bill
22. Incarceration and Crime: A Complex Relationship, (The Sentencing Project): http://www.sentencingproject.org/doc/publications/inc_iandc_complex.pdf
23. Full text of the bill, see the Parliament of Canada website: http://www.parl.gc.ca/LegisInfo/BillDetails.aspx?Language=E&Mode=1&billId=5120829