Monday, June 23, 2014

Second Session of 41st Parliament Closes: More Unprecedented Attacks on the Rights of First Nations and All Canadians

June 23, 2014 

The Second Session of the 41st Parliament ended June 20. In this session, the Harper government continued its anti-social, anti-human assault on the First Nations and all Canadians. It continued to use its parliamentary majority to pass 25 self-serving and unjust laws with impunity (see list of bills below).

Among the laws passed was Bill C-9, the First Nations Elections Act, an odious colonial and paternalistic law that usurps the treaty and hereditary rights of First Nations to govern their affairs as sovereign First Nations. It is coupled with the call issued by Dan Shapiro, chief adjudicator of the Independent Assessment Process regarding abuse at Indian Residential Schools, for the testimony and evidence of the 38,000 Indian Residential School survivors to be destroyed in the name of upholding the right to privacy. This amounts to some 800,000 documents and 19,500 rulings. Shapiro argued on June 20 that the public testimony from 7,000 people who have spoken to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is enough for the historical record. He has previously claimed that censoring the documents would be too cumbersome.

This outrageous proposal shows once again the attitude of the Harper government to destroy the historical record of the experience of First Nations in Canada. Far from being destroyed, these records could be returned to those who testified and their Nations could decide how they should be preserved. Shapiro's proposal, in contravention of established norms and practices, sheds light on the intention of the Harper government's law which renamed the Museum of Civilization as the Canadian Museum of History (Bill C-7). This agenda to rewrite history and wipe out the very existence of Indigenous peoples shows what kind of history Prime Minister Harper wants to celebrate.

The Parliament also passed Bill C-24, the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act, which makes "Canadian values" a condition of citizenship. Citizenship is a matter of right. To claim that citizenship can be based on "Canadian values" is a move to criminalize the conscience of those with whom the government of the day does not agree. This measure enables the state to deprive people of citizenship on political grounds -- to revoke the citizenship of those Canadians the government of the day claims go against "Canada's interests." This goes against the fundamental tenets of democratic principle.

One of the most opposed legislative changes of this session was Bill C-23, the Fair Elections Actwhich received royal assent on June 19. Already there is a Charter challenge against this legislation which, under the hoax of curbing voting fraud, will restrict voter participation by making it more difficult to meet voter ID requirements. This private information is used to micro-target the electorate in order to manipulate election results. It is a retrogressive attack on the precepts of democracy.

By the end of the Second Session of this 41st Parliament, 378 private members' bills were tabled or brought forward from the First Session. Of these, five received Royal Assent; 15 were defeated; seven were not proceeded with; and 29 were at various stages of the parliamentary process. The remainder will carry forward to the next session. A total of 251 private members' bills were tabled by NDP members, while 59 were from Conservatives, including the five that received Royal Assent.

The Harper government is crowing that the large number of private members' bills is proof of the democratic character of this government. It goes further. It is allegedly proof of the vitality of Canada's democracy itself. Public Safety Minister Vic Toews told reporters that "private members' bills have been used more successfully by private members in this Parliament than I think in the history of Canada." Conservative MP Joy Smith has stated, in another example of Harperite boasting about the freedoms and powers of its members, that in the history of Confederation, only 17 Members of Parliament have been able to change the Criminal Code and more than a dozen of these changes have taken place since Harper's ascension to power in 2006. These changes include restrictions on parole hearings and the mandatory minimum sentences for "gang" recruitment. More than half of the Conservative private members' bills introduced since the 2011 election involve either Criminal Code matters, a crackdown on prisoners or terrorism related measures.

This session of Parliament also saw more opposition to the Harper government, including actions by veterans, First Nations, continued opposition to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program and actions in communities across the country to protest the Harper dictatorship and its nation-wrecking and anti- social agenda.

The sharp contrast between the proceedings of the Second Session of the 41st Parliament and the actions of the people highlight the situation facing all Canadians -- that the current political arrangements are irrevocably broken. They do not function except to exclude the people from having a say in matters which affect their lives. The task at hand is how to build the mechanisms to negate the power of those who deprive us of political power, so as to exercise control over our lives.