I feel a little embarrassed for Canada
’s media elite.
For the past few years many of their number have been
carefully crafting a narrative which cast Prime Minister Stephen Harper as a
wannabe-dictator, or as a New World Mussolini, or as an Attila the Hun impersonator.
But then something happened to upset their apple cart.
The Appeal of Conscience Foundation
- a group that believes “freedom, democracy and human rights are the fundamental values that give
nations of the world their best hope for peace, security and shared prosperity” - announced it was presenting Harper
with its "World Statesman of the Year" award for
being a champion of democracy.
If Harper was such a despot, why is he getting this prestigious
Something clearly didn't make sense.
Thankfully, after this award was announced, the Harper
detractors came to their senses and apologized to the Prime Minister
and to Canadians for their exaggerated fear-mongering about Harper’s agenda.
Ha, I'm just joking.
Of course, what they really did was attack the Foundation.
A case in point is the Toronto Star
’s Bob Hepburn who
recently wrote a column explaining
why The Appeal of Conscience Foundation was wrong to honour Harper.
It begs for a rebuttal.
Unfortunately, as it’s so chock full of logical fallacies and
ridiculous arguments a simple letter to the editor could not do it
Accordingly, I have reproduced the column in its entirety with my commentary in bold.
Check it out:
Stephen Harper’s democracy award a sad joke on Canadians
by Bob Hepburn
The Appeal of Conscience Foundation will give Stephen Harper
its World Statesman of the Year award for being a champion of democracy.
With great fanfare, an international organization has
announced it is honouring Stephen Harper as its World Statesman of the Year for
his work as a “champion of democracy, freedom and human rights.”
Harper will accept the award from the Appeal of Conscience
Foundation, which was created by a New York
rabbi in 1965, at a reception on Sept. 27 in New York City
Harper won the award largely because of his support for Israel
and his criticism of Iran
Clearly, though, the foundation either blatantly ignored or
didn’t know that Harper is arguably the worst prime minister in history when it
comes to defending democracy and human rights in Canada
people who give out this award must be complete morons who probably don’t even
subscribe to the Toronto
Star or watch CBC TV.
Oh and calling Harper the "worst prime minister in history when it comes
to defending democracy and human rights" is so absurdly over the top, it's laughable.
What about Mackenzie King’s human rights record when it came to
Japanese-Canadians during World War II or what about Pierre Trudeau invoking the War Measures Act?
Indeed, Harper’s record of abuse of democracy here at home
over the past few years makes a mockery of his award as Statesman of the Year.
It’s a sad indictment for the foundation, which according to
its website “believes that freedom, democracy and human rights are the
fundamental values that give nations their best hope for peace, security and
In the past, the foundation has bestowed its award on some
of the world’s top leaders, including former prime minister Jean Chrétien. The
foundation also boasts a distinguished board of trustees and advisers, such as
former U.S. Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker.
I suspect Hepburn Googled the phrase, “Past winners of Appeal to Conscience Foundation Award,” hoping to find the award had
been given out in the past to people like Richard Nixon or August Pinochet or
George W. Bush, so he could then slam the group as a bunch of right wing zealots.
Imagine the massive disappointment he must have felt when he saw Chretien listed
as a past recipient!! Were the Foundation people ignorant when they gave him the award?
Since he became prime minister in 2006, however, Harper has
systematically assaulted democracy in Canada
, overlooking — and in some
cases condoning — clear cases where our democratic institutions and traditions
So outraged are Canadians by Harper’s actions that many of
them have started to fight back to save our democracy, launching letter-writing
campaigns, tweeting politicians, signing petitions and joining local and
national organizations promoting citizen engagement.
Yes indeed, “tweeting
politicians” and “signing petitions” are sure signs of massive national outrage!! The anti-Harper Revolution must be just around the corner. On the other hand, there are subtle
signs Canadians are actually less than outraged with the government’s agenda. One such sign,
which Hepburn may have missed, is that Canadians recently gave Harper a majority
Harper’s record of abuse and assault on democracy and rights
is long and well documented.
In April, his government killed the International Centre for
Human Rights and Democratic Development (Rights & Democracy), which for 24
years had promoted democracy and monitored human rights around the world.
In 2010, Harper slashed funding for the Canadian Human Rights
Commission so deeply that the agency had to close its offices in Toronto
In 2009, the prime minister approved cutting funds to
Kairos, an organization of church groups that advocated for human rights, after
it criticized Israel
bombing a Gaza
In 2006, Harper’s government severely chopped funding to
Status of Women Canada, resulting in the closure of 12 of the agency’s 16
regional offices. Also in 2006, the Conservatives shut down the Court
Challenges Program, which had worked on behalf of the rights and equality of
women, immigrants and gays and lesbians by helping to fund court challenges to
proof to bolster his preposterous claim that “Harper is arguably the worst
prime minister in history when it comes to defending democracy and human rights
is essentially that the Harper government cut a bunch of bureaucratic budgets. But in a democracy doesn't the duly elected
government have the right to set spending priorities. Maybe the money cut from
Kairos went to fund hospitals. Would that be wrong? My point is no government agency has a right to unlimited tax
dollars. Resources are scarce; choices must be made. Besides, since when does democracy depend on a bloated government bureaucracy?
At the same time, Harper orchestrated two controversial
prorogations of Parliament in less than a year, became the first prime minister
ever to be found guilty of contempt of Parliament, and approved the
distribution of a handbook on how Tories can disrupt committee hearings, such
as by barring witnesses with potentially damaging testimony.
Sorry, but prime
ministers have the constitutional right to ask the Governor General to prorogue
Parliament. So why is that undemocratic? Here's another question: Did Hepburn think it was undemocratic in 2009 when three Opposition Party leaders plotted to create a "Coalition"so it could replace the government without
benefit of an election?
In addition, Harper and his cabinet have flagrantly ignored
freedom of speech and information tenets by muzzling senior bureaucrats,
withholding and even altering documents, launching personal attacks on
whistleblowers and lying to voters.
Also, there’s the anti-democratic robocall affair in the
2011 federal election, with allegations of voter suppression by the
Conservatives. The Federal Court of Canada will start hearings into the
allegations on Dec. 10.
Boy, if launching personal attacks and lying to voters were signs of despotism, then every prime minister in history must also have been a dictator. And correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t a
Liberal MP engage in voter-suppressing robo-calling in the last election? Heck, didn't even Liberal media darling Justin Trudeau use the phones in this manner? Does
that make the Liberal Party an enemy of democracy too?
Note: Hepburn leaves out instances when Harper won victories for human rights, such as when he disbanded the Canadian Wheat Board monopoly, which infringed on the
economic rights of Western grain farmers.
This is far from an exhaustive list, but it’s a good
starting point for officials at the Appeal for Conscience Foundation if they
want a more complete picture of their 2012 award winner.
Canadians understand that they should never take their
democracy for granted. Given that, the foundation should have known that
anointing Harper, who has displayed such a casual disrespect for democracy at
home, as its World Statesman of the Year would be seen as a sad joke on all
Canadians struggling to protect their democracy.
I will resist the urge to call this column a "sad joke."
Obviously, it’s too late for the foundation to revoke the
award. But Harper could at least have the decency to be a bit contrite when he
officially accepts it.
Hepburn is right
about one thing. Citizens must never take democracy for granted. That means we absolutely must keep an eye on Harper and his government. Indeed, I have no confidence in
any party to truly protect my rights and freedoms. The nature of government,
after all, is to chip away at our rights. And the Harper government is no different, I have certainly taken it to task when it has threatened freedom. Yet, let’s please be realistic. When it comes to human
rights and democracy, Harper is certainly no more dangerous than any other prime
minister of the past 100 years or so. My point is, it’s OK to criticize Harper
for his failings, but just leave out the over-heated, partisan hyperbole. Or at least for the sake of consistency use similar language when talking about other political leaders.
Otherwise, you might just get embarrassed.