This week the Harper government passed Bill C-31. I realize this may not mean much to most of you, which, I suppose, is the motivation for this blog. But I will get to that soon.
Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has been waiting a long time to see Bill C-31 pass. You see, the bill had its roots in events that unfolded way back in the fall of 2010. In August of that year, a boat of Tamil asylum seekers arrived in British Columbia. Statistically, it wasn’t much to blink at, although you may recall the nation-wide freak-out. The government’s reaction disgusted me. After two months of fear-mongering and demonizing the asylum seekers, the Conservatives introduced a bill designed explicitly to deter refugees from seeking asylum in Canada. This was Bill C-49, the boisterously, optimistically, yet erroneously titled “Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada’s Immigration System Act.”
Bill C-49 was riddled with violations of international and domestic law, including our very own Charter. Opposition was intense and sustained, and, as this was a minority government, the bill didn’t last the Parliamentary session. Then it was reintroduced in the next session as Bill C-4, and again it didn’t last.
Then the Conservatives received their majority government. Bill C-4 was beefed up with new, awful measures and repackaged as C-31, the form in which it would eventually pass, on June 11, 2012.
Demonizing marginalized populations, protecting their own selfish interests, thumbing their noses at law and duty and moral obligation and social responsibility. This is what the Conservatives got away with.
Watching the government stubbornly support such an obviously horrible and mean-spirited bill was a lesson in arrogance and shameful governance. When the Conservative so-called majority was elected in May 2011, I feared the worst, and began keeping a list of everything the Conservatives got up to that bothered, frustrated, saddened, or angered me. There has been plenty of note, and this spring it seems I’m adding to that list almost daily.
And now C-31 has passed, and now I’ve decided to express my frustration publicly. And not just my frustration, but my research as well. Here you will find my continuing archive of poor governance.
For there is so much more. As I write, Elizabeth May and her happily obliging colleagues are in the middle of a tireless, round-the-clock opposition to the government’s omnibus budget bill, the controversial Bill C-38. The destructive measures in this bill aside, the way it has been put together is simply offensive. This government has such disdain and disregard for democracy that it has taken to pillaging the mechanisms of democracy for loopholes. Padding a budget bill with a plethora of non-budgetary measures means that those non-budgetary measures will not receive the expert scrutiny that our democratic system normally requires.
Soon the omnibus budget will pass, clearing the way for big oil to further destroy our environment and wreak havoc on endangered populations of fish, and confirming the benefits of bullying our democratic institutions.
Until then, however, the opposition is giving the Conservatives a taste of their own medicine, using another parliamentary loophole to draw out the voting on Bill C-38, thereby drawing attention to the bill’s fundamental affront to democracy. The opposition is engaged in nothing less than a 24-hour protest within the seat of government itself.
Earlier this week, and eager to get this annoying protest over with, the Conservatives showed their disdain for democratic debate once again by invoking time allocation and closure to shut down debate on Bill C-38. This is the 26th time they have done so, surpassing the record of previous governments in less than one year (I have kept track of the other 25 time allocations if you want to read about them).
Meanwhile, in my adopted province of Quebec, I’ve spent the spring watching as a government’s inability treat its own citizens with respect (let alone listen to their grievances) has energized and galvanized a wide-spread social movement.
I’ve watched how a lazy mainstream media insists on portraying the most democratically active, politically creative, eloquently passionate, and socially dedicated generation I’ve ever encountered as an irresponsible, whiny, violent mob. And I’ve watched that same media’s refusal to place any blame on an antagonistic police force, or the government that handed them their batons, pepper spray, and legal immunity.
The Charest government’s behaviour is recognizable; it’s the same self-righteous stubbornness displayed by the federal Conservatives.
These are the things I am witnessing. This is the Canada that Stephen Harper wants.
I’m quite fond of this country. I am grateful for the opportunities that its civil institutions have given me, and I’m proud of the constructive way it has championed human rights and human dignity on the world stage. I am frequently moved by the tendency of its citizens to create community, their desire to celebrate diversity, their sympathy for the less advantaged, their propensity for optimism.
Day by day I witness my government destroying the heart of this nation. They are whittling away at everything that makes this country wonderful. Worse: they are hacking away, and convincing us that it is mere whittling. Day by day I watch as they alter my country in a fundamental and deeply disturbing way.
The Conservatives are moving us toward the political right, yes, but that is not really what concerns me. They are also moving us toward intolerance, stubbornness, selfishness, fear, xenophobia, and greed—moving us further and further away from compassion, cooperation, and stewardship, away from a collective sense of social responsibility. They are stifling our imaginative engagement with each other, and we must hold them to account.