06 March 2012
I would like to place a slightly different emphasis in my remarks on
the issues that are at stake in this bill. My colleagues have discussed
the bill in many different substantive ways. They have addressed the
issues of this bill's relationship, or lack thereof, to solving the
issues of crime, crime prevention, rehabilitation and so on. There is
another side to this.
To be sure, this bill is about crime. It is less about crime
prevention than the government would purport it to be. In fact, it is
very much about a weak and failing crime agenda, one whose failures will
be proven in the not-too-distant future — in fact, are already
beginning to be proven — and one for which failure will incur huge human
costs. Those costs will be on the vulnerable and unsuspecting victims,
as well on those whom the government sees purely as offenders in varying
colour and varying degree of evil — offenders who themselves will in
many ways become victims of this bill.
This bill is very much about more than simply crime and the crime
agenda. It is very much about retribution and punishment versus
forgiveness as ways and means of creating the healing process in those
experiences that people have with respect to crime. In that context, in
particular, it is about who we are and what we are as Canadians. Bill
C-10 is about what we value; how we promote and reflect those values in
our society; how we relate to one another; how we relate to the more
vulnerable; and how we relate to people for whom, if we could only offer
a little bit more understanding, we would actually solve their problems
and create a stronger, more healthy, more giving and more compassionate
This bill is about reducing complex problems to very simplistic
characterizations that simply will not be fixed by the even simpler
"remedies" — and I use that word lightly — this bill and this government
would apply to those kinds of complex problems. It is about the
difference between understanding and accepting science, research and
thoughtfulness versus being driven by an ideology that may percuss this
government and its members at some emotional level, but absolutely will
not solve the problems which they have identified. In many respects, of
course, we agree on what the problems are, however, we certainly have a
deep difference in our estimation of what the symptoms are.
Now, because of closure, this bill, in addition to being about
democracy to the extent that it addresses directly issues of fairness
and justice, is very much about democracy because closure is an assault
on the democratic institutions that we work within. Closure is an
assault on the democratic processes that give us and sustain our rights
and freedoms that make Canada one of the most remarkable and envied,
just and fair — at least to this point — societies on the very face of
the earth. Therefore, this is not simply about crime and a crime agenda;
this is now about democracy, the democratic process and the assault
that this closure represents.
This closure is not simply an isolated incident. It is, in fact, part of a pattern of closure.
Senator Mercer: They are addicted to it.
Senator Mitchell: Talk about the need to deal with addiction.
This government has invoked closure 24 times since it became a
majority government. I am not sure, but I will bet that is more than the
previous government invoked in its entire 13 years in government.
I thought it was a record, but, when I was in the legislature in
Alberta, one summer when we were sitting that government invoked closure
18 times. Probably per month, per day or per unit of time that was
more, but this is certainly a record in volume.
It is not just that this closure today is part of a pattern of
closure. It is part of an assault in many different respects on our
democratic institutions, on our democratic processes and on the
intensity with which people in this country are encouraged to or
discouraged from day-to-day debate, action and involvement in democratic
processes and democratic debate in this country and in our society.
We saw almost breathtaking examples that illustrate what I am saying
on this issue. We saw, for the first time in the history of this
country, the government ruled in contempt of Parliament. They can say
that it is because of the configuration of Parliament at that time, but
there have been many periods of minority government. Never before in the
history of this country has a government been ruled in contempt of
Parliament. The foundations for that ruling speak for themselves.
The fact of the matter is that this government was making decisions —
in fact on this very bill — and asking for decisions to be made without
ever providing the kinds of information that any properly functioning,
democratic, parliamentary institution would be absolutely right to
expect that a government should provide them.
Then, of course, there have been multiple examples of muzzling of
free speech among our scientists. In the Department of the Environment,
our scientists are noted internationally for their credible, world-class
leading scientific research and peer-reviewed publishing. Those who are
left, if not fired, have been systematically inhibited from speaking
out about their work.
In relation to access to information, the program has been bogged
down in a way that is unprecedented. People have never seen anything
like this before. When information is finally revealed, or when the
documents are finally presented, they are often heavily redacted and
almost unusable in the context of access to information.
This is perhaps one of the most serious and revealing features of the
character of this government. When confronted with groups that disagree
with whatever it is this government wants to do, if the government was
funding them, they stop funding them. We saw that with KAIROS. Not only
did the government stop funding that organization the way they had, but
they actually took it over in a surreptitious matter, to stifle debate,
to stifle those groups that have opinions or positions that this
government would disagree with. They have done the same with many
women's groups that were funded and that provide a remarkably important
process of representing and advocating for women's issues and on behalf
of women in our society and in our government public policy process.
They have cut funding to stifle that.
There has been a direct assault in many ways — beyond the question of
closure — on how these institutions have been treated and how they
work. For example, several years ago, while still a minority government,
this government prepared a huge manual to instruct its members on how
to inhibit the process and the work of parliamentary committees.
Senator Mercer: The dirty tricks handbook.
Senator Mitchell: There it is, one of the dirty tricks handbooks.
In more recent times, with their majority, they are now conspiring to
put much of the work that has been done by parliamentary committees, as
a matter of course and tradition and, of course, in honour of
democratic openness and transparency, in camera — behind closed doors —
so that Canadians cannot see what it is that they want to do.
We have seen more and more — and this is very disconcerting —
intimidation, in various ways like cutting off of funding, as I just
mentioned, of groups that simply want to participate, legally and
responsibly, in the public policy process and debate in this country.
There is a concerted strategy to intimidate. Most recently, there has
been the effort to demonize environmental groups and to somehow stifle
whatever they are saying before processes that were set up by government
so that people can openly debate issues on both sides, for example,
development and the environment. These groups are now being intimidated
by the kind of initiative that has been undertaken by the government
generally and furthered by a recent inquiry by a member of this Senate.
The government has specifically launched intimidating attacks on
environmental groups, and I will speak more broadly and at greater
length about that when I address that particular inquiry.
Then there is the assault on fairness in the electoral system. If all
of the various assaults that I have just listed were bad, this perhaps
elevates the nastiness of what this government is doing to democracy
even further. Of course, I am referring to their guilty plea on the in
and out strategy that was clearly cheating. Whether or not it ultimately
meant that they had bought or stole an election, it certainly was
intimidation and erosion of the democratic process.
Even more disconcerting, we now see the question of voter
suppression. It has yet to be determined whether the government actually
stole the election based on voter suppression, but I am saying that
there were forces afoot that certainly underlined that the fairness of
this electoral process has been absolutely eroded and undermined by this
government. When they saw that it was happening during the election,
they did nothing about it.
One of the most —
[each senator has 10 minutes for debate; Senator Mitchell's time has expired]
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