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Harper's hit list: Voices-Voix says Conservatives are dismantling democracy

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Former Justice Department lawyer and whistleblower Edgar Schmidt is suing his ol

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In March 2011 I posted an article to my Pulpit and Politics blog called "Harper's hit list." The piece contained a list of 83 organizations whose staff had either been fired, forced out, publicly maligned, or who had resigned in protest.  I did not do the original research but rather published what others had already assembled. That piece received thousands of hits and is by far the most popular item that I have ever posted. Clearly a raw public nerve had been touched, and that was while Stephen Harper was still leading a minority government.

Harassed and bullied

The coalition Voices-Voix has done a systematic job of documenting how organizations and individuals have been harassed and bullied by the Conservative regime, and has published an updated hit list.  It contains more than 110 case studies which the organization says, "'connect the dots,' showing a pattern of actions by the federal government to silence critics, stifle debate, diminish knowledge, and dodge accountability."

I will deal briefly here with just two of those cases but Voices has provided many others. Edgar Schmidt and Cindy Blackstock have both blown whistles on the Canadian government and received harsh treatment for daring to do so.

The case of Edgar Schmidt

Schmidt was a senior Justice Department lawyer, but he is now in Federal Court taking legal action against his former employer. He says that Canadian law requires the department to screen proposed legislation for compatibility with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and to inform the minister of justice regarding that analysis. But that hasn't been happening, Schmidt says, and the consequences are serious. That's because when laws are passed that offend the Charter, it's often left to citizens to challenge them in an expensive court process.

Schmidt raised the matter internally for years without success, so in December 2012, he took his department to court. The next day, he was barred from his office, suspended without pay and had contributions to his pension plan halted. In response, Schmidt hired a lawyer and six months later agreed to take early retirement in return for having his back pay and pension contributions reinstated. The Federal Court is just now hearing his case about how the Justice Department performs its duties regarding the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The case of Cindy Blackstock

Back in 2006, Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, went to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal (CHRT). She alleged that federal funding of welfare and other social services for Aboriginal children on reserves is less than that provided by provinces for other, off-reserve children. That made Blackstock an unpopular person with the government: federal departments collected personal information and spied on her, even sending employees to listen in on as many as 100 meetings at which she was a participant. Bureaucrats also monitored her Facebook page, both during and after their work hours. What's more, her Status Indian file was accessed along with its personal information, including data on her family.

So in 2012, Blackstock submitted a complaint to the Privacy Commission of Canada. The commission concluded that her allegations were well founded and constituted a violation of the Privacy Act. Blackstock then launched a second complaint with the CHRT -- this one regarding her treatment by government officials. In June 2015, the tribunal ordered the Aboriginal Affairs department to pay her $20,000 for the pain and suffering that they caused her. Still, it has yet to rule on Blackstock's earlier allegation that the government underfunds services to Aboriginal children.

These events have solidified Voices-Voix's claim that democratic rights are indeed precious and that Canadians, in particular, should demand that they be protected.

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