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: firstname.lastname@example.org. 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
• Prime Minister Stephan Harper, Leader of the Conservative Party of Canada
• Thomas Mulcair, Leader of the Official Opposition New Democratic Party
• Bob Rae, Leader of Liberal Party of Canada
• Louis Plamondon Leader of the bloc Québécois
• Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party
• All Members of the House of Commons
• All Members of the Senate of Canada,
Please repeal the Harper Conservatives’ undemocratic and cruel new crime law, the deceptively christened “Safe Streets and Communities Act”, formerly omnibus crime Bill C10. The law is the epitome of state abuse of power, the law, resources and Canada’s democratic institutions. It seeks to radically engineer Canadian society – socially and politically – to impose an insidious, divisive, pro-punishment, poverty-ignoring and anti-minority, right-wing worldview.
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).
On March 13, the day the law was passed, Obert appealed to the Governor General of Canada, David Johnston, to use the Crown’s reserve powers to either withhold or reserve Royal Assent to Bill C-10. But Harper’s tyrannical will prevailed, just as it did in Parliament.
On Wednesday, March 14, Obert embarked on an indefinite hunger strike to protest the “Safe Streets and Communities Act”. And on March 27, Obert marched to the Parliament of Canada to deliver his demands. He later communicated the demands to all of Canada’s elected MPs and appointed senators. He is yet to receive a response.
First, Obert and Canadians share these serious concerns about the inevitable impact of the law:
The law violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Its mandatory minimum sentences weaken and undermine the Canadian judiciary. They victimize and punish young and first time offenders, transform them into hardened criminals.
The law will divide Canadian society and erode Canada’s core values, including compassion and fairness. The law will punish mostly those from historically disadvantaged racialized groups that are already over-represented in our prison system: blacks and aboriginals.
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 law will just cost Canadian provinces and taxpayers at least $19 billion to implement. It will also impose a huge financial burden on future generations.
On November 23, 2011, Occupy Ottawa activist and blogger, Obert Madondo, tasted the wrath of the police state the law proposes. He 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. He was subjected to cruel and unusual treatment. The police hurt his back, legs and left arm, and he ended up in hospital.
Why did the four police officers who carried him to the makeshift detention centre drop him three times during the trip? Obert wonders why he was treated differently than his 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 Obert to the floor and leave him lying on his stomach, a position that further exacerbated his injured back and arm? Why did they ignore his plea for immediate medical attention?
As a result of the back injury, Obert was recently certified temporarily medically unemployable.
Harper recently appointed to the Canadian senate the man who was in charge of the Ottawa Police that morning, Vernon White. That’s why Obert is demanding the senator’s resignation. He has nothing personal against the senator as a fellow human being, but that morning, a failure of judgment and Canadian leadership occurred. Obert strongly questions 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.
Second, Obert and Canadians content that environment that that prevailed during the making the draconian law violated the sanctity of Canada’s democratic and parliamentary institutions, traditions and values.
The law was created in a climate of tyranny where all Canadians were treated as potential enemies of the state. Dissenters, aboriginal groups, activists and civil society organizations opposed to official policy or dedicated to issues were targeted, demonized, marginalized, dehumanized and labeled “enemies of the state”.
In the House of Commons, the Official Opposition was accused of being “anti-Canada”. Gun-control advocates were compared to Nazis. Opponents of the long gun registry were likened to Adolf Hitler. MPs opposed to Bill C 30, the Conservatives’ new online surveillance bill, were accused of being “with the child pornographers.”
Under Harper, 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.
Third, Obert and Canadians argue that the process that birthed the law was undemocratic.
In both the House of Commons and Senate, the process was a dictatorship-style one-party-state tyrannical affair. It was a dictatorship-style abuse of Canadian parliamentary process and democratic practice, and a triumph of spin over substance and deliberative democracy. At every turn, opposition MPs, elected by 60% of Canadians, and expert witnesses who attempted to input into the bills’ 208 clauses and hundreds of amendments, were shown the political middle finger. The Conservatives’ rushed the bill through Parliament. They manipulated Standing Orders. They shut down debate. They ran committees behind closed doors.
This is not democracy!
Obert has vowed to continue his peaceful protest until all his five demands are met. The demands are:
• 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 repeal the Safe Streets and Communities Act now!