Hot! Stephen Harper’s democracy award a sad joke on Canadians

TheStar.com – opinion/editorialopinion
September 12, 2012.   By Bob Hepburn, Editorial Page

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.

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 shared prosperity.”

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.

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 were undermined.

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.

Harper’s record of abuse and assault on democracy and rights in Canada 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, Vancouver and Halifax.

In 2009, the prime minister approved cutting funds to Kairos, an organization of church groups that advocated for human rights, after it criticized Israel for bombing a Gaza health unit.

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 discriminatory laws.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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5 Comments

  1. This article shows all of the failings of the present conservative government. What is also true that canadians are disappointed in are the budget that the prime minister and his caucus passed last session. I wonder how a man who supports a country that violates nearly every human right of their opponents can be given this award. I am saddened as a Canadian watching Canada’s decline in human rights in a time where there should be much more knowledge and understanding, especially by our nation’s leader, on this subject matter.

  2. As a Canadian University student it upset me reading this article. I could not believe that Harper was receiving this award. We are supposed to be a nation of understanding, acceptance, and love but how can we do this as a nation when our own Prime Minister is slowly destroying and belittling democracy and human rights as outlined in the article. I myself have written letters to him in High school and most recently marched in the Toronto student march earlier this year to have tuition fee’s lowered. Overall it is just a huge disappointment to see the choices the conservative government makes letting down many Canadians which resulted in Harper receiving y this award.

  3. World Statesman of the Year…. such a powerful title for a man who has done a great job to deserve it. While it is true that Harper has perpetrated many crimes against democracy to his own people, but that isn’t what the award is about; it’s about involvement in the fight for freedom and democracy in OTHER places. Sure, Canada isn’t what it used to be since Harper’s inception into office, but our relations with other countries has certainly improved with our austerity measures and our need to help others. Just too bad that our PM is too busy fixing other countries with OUR money that he couldn’t fix US with OUR money.

    Just remember, this is what Canada had apparently voted for right?

  4. To start, this article raises my blood pressure. As if Steven Harper should ever get this award with the extensive list of issues he’s caused. He obviously a conservative, lying to every voter, saying he’s a Democrat. In my opinion, the New York rabbi, who made this reward in 1965, is probably rolling in his grave (no disrespect). By this I mean Harper has closed down 37 agencies all together according to this article. All of which were doing great things, like advocating for laws that discriminatory to, Human rights, churches, and so on. All of which were great democratic agencies and causes fighting for humans, our rights, and freedom.
    Harper receiving an award that the great Jean Chretien received with great honor is a joke and makes me feel ashamed in a sense. Harper has raised taxes and put a lot of people out of a job, by cutting the funding to all these agencies. I as well as others, call it the Harper Sales Tax. He’s the first prime minister to ever be “guilty of contempt of Parliament.” That alone, speaks for itself and says a lot about the person he is. Steven Harper, worthy of the 2012 “Statesman of the Year” award? I think not. Harper believes in everything Conservative, so why is he pretending to be Democratic? That’s something I’d like to no. Human rights are everything in this country and so I democracy for the people. Therefore, I agree with the artical and feel that Harper needs to decline that award in front of everyone, and maybe leave parliament with a smidge of respect.

    I didnt vote for this…

  5. After reading the first line of this article I became very confused as to why this foundation is presenting this aware to someone who is driving our democracy in the ground? It actually really aggravates me to learn that someone could be rewarded for doing a horrible job at running at running our country. It makes me think; what does this say about Canada? Or to a future politician? To me is says: “Oh we can run things into the ground, get away with it and then be rewarded for doing something good”. The article states that he is getting this aware mainly for his support of Israel and his criticism towards that country… well what about Canada? Shouldn’t this foundation take into consideration all aspects of bring prime minister? Shouldn’t they also look at what he has done for his own country which is this case is nothing? I don’t see how it is right to give someone an aware who has abuse Canada in so many ways. While reading on I read this statement: The foundation presenting the award believes in human rights and believes that freedom are fundamental values. This makes me really questions why they are giving this aware to someone who has run those fundamentals into the ground in his country? Stephen Harper is not the person you would want to present that award to, he goes against all the beliefs of this award. Reading about Harper’s history in office has given me the boost I need to take part more in caring about who enters our office as prime minister, because I would have definitely would have not voted for this. I want to vote to avoid this from ever happening to Canada again.
    In conclusion do I think that Harper would decline this award? Of course, I think it would be morally wrong for him to accept an award for crushing his country, but then again after reading this article and the history points, shows me that Harper has no morals and will likely accept this award even though he is not deserving.

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