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 27, Obert delivered his protest letter to Parliament. The letter was addressed to: Harper, the Parliament of Canada, leaders of all elected parties, all MPs and senators. But as of today, June 4, 2012, the 83rd day of Obert’s hunger protest, Harper is yet to respond. Obert is profoundly hurt and disappointed. He feels oppressed, abandoned and devalued.
On May 29, Obert informed Harper that he’s no choice but to engage in a “final push” for his response. Every day, from 12pm to 5pm, he’ll carry out peaceful protest by the steps to Parliament. He also informed Harper that, if necessary, on Monday, June 4th, he'll also escalate his protest by switching to a water-only hunger protest.
Please sign the petition and help pressure Harper and the Parliament of Canada to repeal the Safe Streets and Communities Act. This dangerous legislation seeks to radically engineer Canadian society – socially and politically – and impose an insidious, divisive, pro-punishment, poverty-ignoring, and anti-minority, right-wing worldview on Canada. It violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and erodes core Canadian values. It will radically stir Canadian justice system away from prevention and rehabilitation towards punishment and exclusion.
· 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.
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.
Prime Minister Stephen 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 question 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.
Furthermore, the process of 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.
In both the House of Commons and Senate, the process was a 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!
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.
Recently, the government introduced budget Bill C-38, the most sweeping omnibus bill in Canada’s history. The legislation seeks to amend or eliminate over 60 existing federal statutes, most of which are progressive. Immigration minister Jason Kenney recently introduced Bill C-31, the “Refugee Exclusion Act”, which will politicize our immigration system, and discriminate against and jail vulnerable asylum seekers. The government has reiterated its determination to revive the disgraced Internet surveillance Bill C-30. The government supports Conservative backbencher Blake Richards’s private member’s Bill C-309, which proposes tough jail sentences for activists who wear masks to protect themselves from police surveillance and profiling during legitimate protests.
Like Bill C-10, these legislations are the epitome of state abuse of power, the law and resources. Consequently, my protest has now morphed into an interrogation of the larger question of democracy and accountability. Obert has vowed to continue his peaceful protest until all his six demands are met. The demands are:
Please repeal the Safe Streets and Communities Act now!