Ryan Leef, Member of Parliament for Yukon
The Conservative Party has redacted official documents, been charged with contempt of Parliament for failure to disclose information on the cost of their crime bill and the fate of the Afghan detainees, destroyed scientific reports under Fisheries and Oceans, threatened public servants, blacklisted artist Franke James and muzzled scientists.
Censoring non-government organizations (NGOs) is another way to suppress dissent.
In 2010, Conservative Senator Nancy Ruth told women's equality rights groups concerned about cuts to funding to NGOs that provided access to safe abortions in developing countries to, "Shut the fuck up" and "If you push it, there'll be more backlash."
At the time, the Harper government was interested in re-directing funding to a global initiative on maternal and child health for developing countries, which excluded access to safe abortions. This was its rational for cutting funding to fourteen aid groups, many of them dealing with women’s equality issues.
Did the cuts to foreign aid have to do with the Conservative government’s ideological bent? KAIROS, which had been funded by Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) for 35 years, was cut off without explanation. KAIROS studied the ravages of climate change in developing countries, an affront to the Conservative Party's corporate supporters. KAIROS worked for peace in Israel and Palestine, five of KAIROS partners were women's organizations and its mandate promoted women’s human rights and gender equality. These activities offend social conservatives, who remain the dark underbelly of the Conservative Party.
Funds cut from aid have been moved into economic development programs that benefit Canadian companies working in the developing world. The Devonshire Initiative (DI) is funded by CIDA. To counteract reports of environmental and social harm resulting from resource extraction, Canadian mining companies created DI to partner with aid organizations in order to whitewash their image. This partnership between NGOs such as World Vision and mining companies with terrible reputations such as Barrick Gold will also ensure that the aid organizations will not blow the whistle on bad corporate behaviour for fear of losing their federal funding. The benefit for the mining companies is corporate welfare in the form of free PR.
In Ominous Budget Bill C-60, CIDA was put under the auspices of the newly created Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD) in 2013. Minister of International Cooperation Julian Fantino said that foreign aid should "promote Canadian values, Canadian businesses, and the Canadian economy" abroad and produce "benefits" for Canada at home.
Corporate charity begins at home, Harper style!
Recently, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has been auditing certain charities with an eye to withdrawing their charitable status if they are seen to spend more than ten per cent of their budget on political activities. Without charitable status, NGO’s will be unable to give out tax receipts and will receive fewer donations. Is this an orchestrated witch-hunt against charities that don’t toe the ideological line?
Unless an organization voluntarily reports, Canadians have no way of knowing who is being audited.
The David Suzuki Foundation and five other environmental groups have reported being audited for political activity. Environmentalism wasn’t always considered partisan. Stephen Harper has re-drawn the boundaries around what is and what is not considered ‘political’. Now, environmentalists are branded as terrorists and rich foreign celebrities.
The Fraser Institute is often described as a lobbyist group posing as a think tank. According to the Vancouver Observer, American billionaires and purported architects of the Tea Party Movement, the Koch Brothers have been donating to the Fraser Institute since 2007. The institute refuses to disclose its Canadian donors but its board is liberally sprinkled with corporate executives. The Fraser Institute also refuses to say if they are being audited. But if they were being audited, surely they would say so in order to dispel the rumours that the audits are politically motivated.
PEN Canada's mission statement is, "We are a community of writers and readers working to defend freedom of expression, advance literature and foster international exchange and understanding." Are they being audited because they criticised the Harper government for muzzling Canadian scientists?
The Christian and Missionary Alliance is a registered charity linked with the Ugandan government's failed attempt to legislate death penalties for homosexuality. Is preaching hate a political activity? Is Stephen Harper’s church being audited? Perhaps it should be.
Here is what opposition leader Stephen Harper said about censorship, "When a government starts trying to cancel dissent or avoid dissent is frankly when it is rapidly losing its moral authority to govern."
Linda Leon is not now, nor has she ever been a member of any political party. Letters to Ryan Leef are published monthly in Yukon News and in rabble.ca.
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