Harper Government Sides With Iran Against a Canadian Citizen
Somebody asked me recently why I am so angry about the Harper government’s handling of the Ukraine crisis. It was a good question and deserves an answer so – here it is.
I find it not only hypocritical but patently offensive for Stephen Harper to posture internationally as the defender of democratic rights in Ukraine while he tramples them here in Canada. It’s really that simple.
Harper argues before the world that Russia and Crimea have violated Ukrainian law which is correct although, everything that has happened in Ukraine since the impeachment of the duly elected government is unconstitutional. That, however, is an argument for another time. More to the point, considering his own track record here at home, Stephen Harper is hardly the one to be leading the charge to defend law and civil rights anywhere let alone in Ukraine.
With Stephen Harper, there is no respect for law, constitutional rights or simple ethics. He is guided only by political expediency and bases his decisions on what is right for him rather than what is either constitutionally required or right for all Canadians. His posturing over Ukraine is nothing more than one more attempt to make himself a player on the international stage rather than a sincere defense of Ukrainians, their constitution or their democracy.
His treatment of three former Conservative senators was disgraceful. There is no question that there should be consequences – serious consequences – when laws are broken but we have a process for addressing that and accordingly, the RCMP were already investigating the senators involved. That wasn’t good enough for Stephen Harper, however; he rounded up the Conservative caucus in the Senate and ordered them to suspend the three senators without respect for presumption of innocence or due process or the simple fact that the Senate belongs to Canadians and does not operate on his whim.
It wasn’t the first time Harper has ignored the law and trampled the constitutional rights of others.
Omar Khadr is anything but a sympathetic individual. Accused of murdering an American medic during a shoot out in Afghanistan, he was captured by American forces and sent to Guantanamo, itself a violation of the American constitution. While there he was subjected to interrogation that has been listed internationally as forms of torture. He was 15 at the time of his capture.
Under Canadian law and our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, even people like Omar Khadr have rights no matter how odious we may find it to apply those rights. They, like all other Canadians, are entitled to due process and our government, no matter how much it might believe the accused is guilty, has an absolute responsibility to ensure that every Canadian citizen’s rights are protected and applied evenly. The Harper government fought courts all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada to avoid repatriating Khadr to a Canadian prison as every other western democracy had done for its citizens in Guantanamo and which is dictated by Canadian law.
The Supreme Court did not order the government to repatriate Khadr but it did find the government in violation of his constitutional rights. It left it to the government to do the ‘right’ thing which was optimism elevated to desperate hope.
The law and our rights exist to protect all of us – not just those of whom we approve. If it can’t protect the worst of us, it won’t protect the best of us either. If we disagree with the law – we change it, amend it or repeal it but we don’t ignore it. That is the road that leads to the loss of rights for all citizens.
That is constitutional anarchy not democracy. It puts our rights — not just those of a few — in jeopardy and we are seeing an increasing number of examples of it across this country. Home owners rights were violated in Caledonia and High River, language and privacy rights are being violated and now the Harper government has introduced the Fair Elections Act; an act that strips away voting rights from Canadian citizens living abroad for more than five years among other things.
I find it offensive that the same Stephen Harper that is lecturing Vladimir Putin about respecting the rule of law and the constitution of the Ukraine is so ambivalent about those things in Canada. He’s off to Ukraine this weekend to show support for Ukrainians and their constitution but refused to allow public consultation to Canadians on his Fair Election Act.
It’s a double standard that screams cynical politics rather than a respect for the constitutional rights of citizens.
Harper’s treatment of one of his own cabinet ministers, Helena Guergis, was classic. Guergis was a train-wreck in progress. She had thrown a hissy-fit at an airport because she didn’t get preferred seating and was known to be somewhat flighty and inept in her portfolio. She probably should never have been appointed to cabinet but then, Stephen Harper’s record on appointments leaves more than just a little to be desired.
When someone whispered in Harper’s ear that Guergis and her husband Rahim Jaffer had consorted with prostitutes and drug dealers, he promptly threw her out of cabinet and the Conservative caucus while calling in the RCMP to investigate.
Again, there was no presumption of innocence – not even after the RCMP found that the allegations against Guergis had no basis in fact. He refused to readmit her to caucus or to allow her to run again as a Conservative in her riding denying both her and her constituents the right to decide for themselves.
When Stephen Harper likes you – he’ll protect you regardless of the law or what is right. His government recently blocked a motion for a committee investigation into Conservative MP Brad Butt’s admission that he had lied to Parliament after the Speaker of the House ruled that there was a prima facie case of contempt of Parliament.
Trivialities like that mean nothing to Stephen Harper when he’s protecting his political ambitions. He remains the only Prime Minister in Canadian history to have been found in contempt of Parliament but he not only didn’t care – he merely shrugged off that triviality.
When the Government of Quebec introduced it’s Secular Charter of Values which takes away the right to freedom of religious expression to some Canadians living in Quebec, Harper dismissed it as nothing more than a provincial matter and it was only after he was shamed into it by public opinion that he reversed his position.
Now, this would be champion of democracy and the protection of constitutional legalities in Ukraine has government lawyers before the Supreme Court of Canada arguing to protect Iran’s diplomatic immunity from civil prosecution in Canada in the case of Zahra Kazemi, a Canadian citizen who was murdered while in the custody of the Iranian government.
Born in Iran, Zahra Kazemi became a Canadian citizen and worked internationally as a photo-journalist. She was arrested by the Iranian government for taking pictures of a protest in Tehran. In prison where she was held without trial, she was repeatedly raped, tortured and brutalized. Her injuries were so severe that eventually the authorities transferred her to a state hospital where she subsequently died.
The Harper government which did little to gain her release or to protect Kazemi from the torture she endured is now before the courts defending Iran from a lawsuit by Kazemi’s son. The same government that claims to stand on the side of Jesus in Ukraine and which has not only railed against the Iranian government but frozen whatever assets Iran has in Canada is arguing to protect those assets from legal action brought against Iran by her son, a natural born Canadian citizen.
It is disgraceful.
There is ample precedent for the lawsuit as the courts have repeatedly made exceptions to the immunity statute of 1982 for legal action against countries that engage in state-sponsored terrorism or for actions based on torture. Surely to God, if there was ever a country that qualified for exception, it is Iran but apparently not to the Harper government.
The same Harper government that is currently in court arguing that Canada does not have a social contract with its vets is at the same time in the Supreme Court siding with Iran against a Canadian citizen.
The Ukrainian people would do well to take Stephen Harper’s support for their cause with a grain of salt. , as an increasing number of Canadians are discovering. While Stephen Harper may publicly declare his support for the rule of law and the application of the Ukrainian Constitution, his track record is not so great. He tends to support and defend those laws and rights only when it suits him.
When it doesn’t people and their rights get thrown under the bus. Ukrainians would do well to remember that when deciding whether or not Stephen Harper can be trusted.
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