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March 1, 2013 - No. 27

Without Dignity of Labour There Can Be No Dignity for Canada

Oppose  the State Organized Attacks on Labour

Without Dignity of Labour There Can Be No Dignity for Canada
Opposition to Harper Government's Anti-Worker Legislation in the Senate
Dangerous State Organized Attacks on Labour - Peggy Morton
Saskatchewan Government Conducts Sweeping Rewrite of Labour Laws

Affirm the Rights of First Nations!
How DeBeers Contributed to the Housing Crisis in Attawapiskat - Philip Fernandez

The Human Right to Conscience
Harper's New Office of Official Intolerance Opposes the Right to Conscience - Dougal MacDonald


Without Dignity of Labour There Can Be No Dignity for Canada

Opposition to Harper Government's
Anti-Worker Legislation in the Senate

The Harper government's anti-union legislation Bill C-377, an Act to amend the Income Tax Act (requirements for labour organizations) is facing more opposition, this time in the Senate.

Bill C-377 singles out trade unions for an onerous system of public reporting not required of any other organization or enterprise. It was put forward as a private member's bill by Conservative MP Russ Hiebert on December 5, 2011. It was passed by the Harper government in the House of Commons on December 12, 2012 and is currently at second reading in the Senate. In October of 2012, the Union of Quebec Government Professional Employees (SPGQ) received a legal opinion stating that Bill C-377, an Act to amend the Income Tax Act (requirements for labour organizations), is unconstitutional.[1]

Among other things the law would force trade unions to report all individual transactions above $5,000 identifying the payee, payer, the purpose and description of the transaction. Disbursements to officers, directors and trustees would have to be reported, with the added disclosure of the percentage of time dedicated to political and lobbying activities. That information would be posted on the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) website.

On February 14, Conservative Senator Hugh Segal spoke in opposition to the anti-labour spirit of the bill during debate at second reading in the Senate. Segal called on senators to significantly amend the legislation at Committee or if this was not permitted, to stop it "dead in its tracks." Below are excerpts from Segal's remarks and the debate that followed.

***

Senator Hugh Segal: "Honourable senators, I rise with the permission of Senator Ringuette, who has adjourned this motion, to speak on Bill C-377. I believe the bill must be amended and critically examined before committee. As I do believe that, I do not oppose second reading, although I cannot vote for the bill in principle and will not. Let me share my best judgment as to why Bill C-377, dealing with broadening trade union disclosure to CRA, is bad legislation, bad public policy and a diminution of both the order and the freedom that should exist in any democratic, pluralist and mixed-market society.

"While I do not question the good faith and enduring belief in transparency of those in the other place who proposed and supported the law, and of my esteemed colleague Senator Eaton who sponsored the bill in this place, I want to point out that, while transparency is a compelling public good, applying it in a discriminatory way is harmful and divisive.

"As a Tory, I believe that society prospers when different views about the public agenda, on the left and the right, are advanced by different groups, individuals and interests. Debate between opposing groups in this chamber, in the other place and in broader society is the essence of democracy. Limiting that debate as to scope and breadth is never in the long-term interest of a free and orderly society.

"Dispatching CRA to police how trade unions spend their money, in denominations of $5,000 or more, is to increase the role of CRA and of the state in ways that create a bigger, nosier and more expensive government. As a taxpayer and as a Conservative, I oppose that kind of increase in any government's power or expenditures.

"At the disclosure level that is now in the bill -- $5,000 -- a two-year supply of coffee, a used car, a new computer system or printer, or the replacement of plumbing or a boiler at a union headquarters would qualify for explicit disclosure. Is this all that CRA has to do?"

[...]

"My colleague from Prince Edward Island, Senator Downe, has spoken eloquently about the need to work harder on tax evasion. Do we want to take people who might be working on tax evasion and have them assess which union local bought a new boiler for its headquarters? That is what this bill would produce.

"If this is to apply to trade unions, why would it not apply to rotary clubs, the Fraser Institute, Christian, Muslim and Jewish congregations across Canada, the Council of Chief Executives, local car dealers or the many farming groups, like the cattlemen's associations or the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, all of whom do great work? How about local constituency associations, food banks, soup kitchens, or anglers' and hunters' clubs?

"All of these groups express views on policy. All have the right, under election law, to volunteer in municipal, provincial or federal elections, and all come to Ottawa to lobby and press government on issues important to them. They do so along with representatives of the defence industry, our First Nations and various cultural groups. Are they all to be swept into the CRA bureaucratic remit? That is what this bill would lead to. If CRA is to become the political judge of what expenses are appropriate, what are the guiding criteria? The bill is silent on that.

"There are, honourable senators, other doubtful provisions that should be of deep concern, such as proposed paragraph 149.01(3) (a), on page 2. It says that information shall be provided in 'such form and containing such particulars... as may be prescribed.' It does not say by whom. Would it be the representatives of the Privy Council Office or the Department of Labour? Spare me.

"Proposed subparagraph 149.01(3)(b)(ix) lists the need to declare what is spent on labour relations activities, with no concurrent disclosure imposed on the management side. How about a law that forced my political party to disclose its campaign, travel, research and advertising budgets to the Liberal Party of Canada or to the NDP two weeks before the election was called?

"Perhaps Coca-Cola should be forced to disclose to Pepsi its marketing plan and expenditures over $5,000.

"How about the Montreal Canadiens having to tell the Boston Bruins whether their coach spent more than $5,000 on dinner for their team and where they ate in Boston before the game?

"Honourable senators, this bill is about a nanny state; it has an anti-labour bias running rampant; and it diminishes the imperative of free speech, freedom of assembly and free collective bargaining.

"I imagine that, were it to pass, subsequent legislation from the other place from private members might be aimed at newspapers; networks, TV and otherwise; student groups; universities; junior baseball leagues; and even, God forbid, community soccer. Where we are headed with this bill is down a dark alley to a very dark place indeed.

"If the unions should disclose, so should the auto dealers, the C.D. Howe Institute, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, all the local Legions and all of the various local organizations.

"Have we decided that CRA has lots of employees with little to do? When did that meeting happen? Who came to that conclusion? To manage the new nosey mission, CRA would need new employees and up to $2.5 million in operating funds, plus an extra $800,000 a year. That is CRA's own estimate. The Parliamentary Budget Officer says the number will be much higher."

[...]

"The negative effect of this bill, either in deploying CRA on political missions or on limiting freedoms, is debilitating and offensive. The bill before us today, as well as right-to-work legislation that is being proposed in the other place as a private member's bill, is not who we are as Canadians. It is time this chamber said so."

[...]

"Honourable senators, I know union leaders whom I dislike and do not trust. Some have been mean, narrow, divisive and unconstructive, but I defend their right to advance what they consider to be their members' interests. I know corporate, political and not-for-profit leaders who suffer from the same faults.

"As for soft-sounding, labour-financed coalitions that campaign against Conservatives at various points in provincial elections, we have seen that. It is the election laws that should be changed to limit anybody's right to do so on the right or the left without spending limits and full, timely disclosure, not the Income Tax Act of Canada. This is a matter of election law, not CRA inquisition.

"As I adjourn the debate in Senator Ringuette's name, I urge honourable senators on all sides to reflect on how this bill might be revamped or, if necessary and if it is not revamped at third reading, actually stopped dead in its tracks."[...]

Senator Pierrette Ringuette: [...] "In the interests of having a balanced approach to the issue that we have in front of us, would the honourable senator consider putting forth an amendment to balance this bill?"

Senator Segal: "I thank the honourable senator for her question. When I listed other organizations that, if we were to be fair about this, should have to face a similar level of disclosure at the $5,000 level or above, it was not because I wanted to see the state expand its role even further than this bill provides to sweep them all in. I sought to list them so that honourable senators might reflect here and in committee as to how the imbalance implicit in this particular bill might be best addressed.

"As a Conservative, my instinct would not be to expand the role of the state to look into other organizations. I want to be fair to the government: The government came to committee in the other place and attempted to raise the $5,000 threshold to a much larger number so as to reduce the level of 'nosiness' in the legitimate activities of our trade unions. I do not think they were successful at committee, although I think they endeavoured to do so. There was a ruling made as to whether the amendments could be introduced into the chamber.

"The government has been trying to find a way to take what was private member's legislation, offered in good faith, and moderate it in some fashion. They have not been successful in so doing. We are now faced with this bill before us, so I will not prejudge what honourable senators in committee might choose to do other than to say that I think a broad array of witnesses who would discuss some of the implications of this process on the free collective bargaining process, mixed-market economies and the relationship between management and labour might be invited to express their views so that we can benefit from that wisdom and decide appropriately thereafter."[2]

Note

1. TML Daily, November 7, 2012 - No. 141.
2. Debates of the Senate (Hansard), Volume 148, Issue 141, Thursday, February 28, 2013

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Dangerous State Organized Attacks on Labour

On December 4, 2012, the government of Saskatchewan introduced Bill 85, a sweeping rewrite of Saskatchewan's labour laws. Bill 85 will repeal 12 pieces of legislation and amend 21 others, including the Labour Standards Act, the Occupational Health and Safety Act, and the Trade Union Act, the Construction Industry Labour Relations Act and the Health Labour Relations Reorganization Act. Bill 85 will be on the agenda when the Saskatchewan Legislature resumes on March 4.

The Saskatchewan Federation of Labour (SFL) states that the new legislation drastically changes the mandatory minimum standards which currently cover employees in the workplace. It also makes it more difficult for workers to join a union.

More than 900 pages of Saskatchewan's current labour legislation is repealed and consolidated into the new 184-page Act. Many sections of current legislation have been left out of the new Act and will instead be included in the regulations. Regulations do not require the approval of the Legislature and can be changed at any time by the executive power, and thus greatly expand the use of the executive power. There are over 350 different instances where regulations and/or "as proscribed" are referenced throughout the Act, the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour (SFL) points out. "With so much unknown, it is difficult to gauge the impact of the changes until those regulations and proscriptions are reviewed."

The SFL and unions throughout the province have identified important changes to the legislation. The government has also issued its own summary. This analysis of the bill shows that the changes constitute a broad attack on the right of workers to organize and defend their collective interests and the interests of society. Employment standards, labour relations legislation and health and safety legislation are being rewritten to give the monopolies an even freer hand, in particular when it comes to the plunder of resources.

The Wall government of Saskatchewan speaks of "modernizing" and "renewing" legislation. This is expressed in the "principles" that "unions must adhere to responsible governance practices and be accountable; and legislation must reflect the realities of modern workplaces and work practices." What is this "modern reality" that the Wall government speaks of and which workers are supposed to get used to? It is that private interests have overwhelmed governments and the state put in the service of these private interests. In particular, these changes to legislation affecting workers are being made in the service of the resource-extraction monopolies to facilitate their plunder of the natural resources. This is why the government is attacking the unions so as to make it more difficult for workers to organize and defend their collective interests and the general interests of society.

Bill 85 has nothing to do with "modernizing" anything. What is modern is the affirmation of rights and fighting to bring into being new arrangements to guarantee rights. Bill 85 is another step in smashing the arrangements established by the social contract in the post-World War II period where much of the legislation being rewritten was first enacted. The post-World War II arrangement recognized the economy as a social relation and that the two parties in the relationship -- the working class and owners of capital or employees and employers should establish an equilibrium based on mutual benefit. Workers could expect Canadian standard wages and working conditions, health care and pensions in retirement, and owners of capital could expect that the working class would not organize based on its own independent politics and it rightful place in setting the direction of the economy.

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall has grand designs to continue and escalate the attacks on the rights of workers to organize and resist. In the period leading up to the introduction of Bill 85, he threatened to get rid of the Rand formula so there would be no automatic dues check-off. He has threatened to introduce Michigan-style "right-to-work" laws which are designed to cripple the union movement by depriving it of necessary funds for operations and organizing. While the new legislation does not go this far in dismantling the existing arrangements, such threats are clearly intended as a form of blackmail.

The "reality" that Wall is demanding that workers accept is a one-sided social relation in which monopoly right trumps all other rights. This introduces a profound disequilibrium which the working class cannot and will not accept, and which is very harmful to society and the socialized economy. The workers' opposition will organize against this disequilibrium and illegitimate use of state power to deny the rights of workers. A new equilibrium of mutual benefit must be established based on recognizing the rights of workers in opposition to depriving them of their rights and criminalizing their right to resist.

The starting point of modern employment standards, labour relations and occupational health and safety legislation is the recognition that workers are the producers and owners of capital are the cost. Even the term "labour relations" would become outmoded. A modern definition negates the capital-centred perspective that views workers who are the actual producers and providers of services, as labour -- labour as a cost of production, a commodity. It would affirm that workers have rights by virtue of the fact that they are the actual producers and providers of services, not a commodity. To be modern is to recognize the claim of the working class to all its produces and its right to exercise control over the direction of the socialized economy. The old master-servant relationship on which modern "labour relations" are built would become a relic of the past where it belongs along with the concept of master and slave, serf and lord and all relations built on class privilege and the exploitation of persons by persons.

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Saskatchewan Government Conducts
Sweeping Rewrite of Labour Laws

The Saskatchewan government introduced Bill 85, the Saskatchewan Employment Act (SEA), a sweeping rewrite of legislation governing employment standards, labour relations, and occupational health and safety in December 2012.[1] The Saskatchewan Federation of Labour and union representatives point out that the legislation is being repealed or rewritten to give the monopolies an even freer hand, in particular when it comes to the plunder of resources.

The government began consultations on labour legislation beginning in May 2012. It also established a labour advisory committee has been meeting for the past ten months. But the unions only became aware of the scope and substance of the changes when the bill was introduced. "We've spent a considerable amount of time studying the proposed SEA and despite the apparent goodwill around the advisory committee table, Bill 85 constitutes a wholesale change to labour legislation in Saskatchewan," said advisory committee member Hugh Wagner. The SFL and many unions are urging the government to reconsider the legislation.

"If the proposed SEA becomes the new consolidation of labour laws in the province, working people (particularly young workers, immigrant workers and other vulnerable workers) will suffer from a hasty watering down of our current labour standards which set the mandatory minimums for all Saskatchewan workers," Wagner said.

"Stable labour relations in all sectors run the risk of being thrown into turmoil. Thousands of represented workers stand to lose their rights to bargain collectively and be represented by the union of their choice. Litigation will become even more common place as collective bargaining becomes fragmented, bargaining units will multiply and costs will increase for employers, unions and the public due to duplication of bargaining."

Attacks on Labour Standards

The Saskatchewan Federation of Labour points out the following changes which further erode basic workplace rights:

- for all intents and purposes, weekends will become non-existent;

- lunch breaks will be provided only where the employer deems it reasonable;

- the 8-hour day/40 hour work week will become a thing of the past as responsibility for administering the work week shifts from legislation to the discretion of employers.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees points out that workers could lose rights to overtime pay and limits to regular hours of work and the right to take a statutory holiday at its designated time.

The Right to Join a Union

Bill 85 launches a many-pronged attack on the right of workers to join a union and organize their collective. Many workers will be deprived of the right to join a union because they are not longer considered "employees" under the Act. Traditionally labour legislation deems employees who can hire and fire and discipline other employees to be "out of scope." This scope is expanded to include everyone whose work involves such matters as business strategic planning, policy advice, and budget implementation or planning.

Existing bargaining units will be split and workers with any "supervisory" responsibilities will not be able to belong to the same union as those they supervise, except with the agreement of the employer. Don Morgan, Saskatchewan Minister of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety claims that he is protecting union members. The purpose, Morgan said, isn't to "break up or try to destroy the effectiveness of the collective process." Instead, the section is intended to avoid situations where there is a conflict, such as a shop steward who is also a supervisor at work. "If they want to file a grievance at work, do they go to their boss, who is also the shop steward?" asked Morgan.

Saskatchewan Government and General Employee's Union President Bob Bymoen stated, "Legislating large numbers of employees out of scope will erode unions' ability to bargain effectively, and may also deprive union members of their Charter right to join a union of their choice."

An Open Door for Company Unions

Company "unions" such as the Christian Labour Association of Canada (CLAC) rely on two methods of certification. One is voluntary recognition from the employer. The other is to make an application for certification when there are no workers or only a few hand-picked workers on site and before hiring begins.

Bill 85 opens the door wide to CLAC on construction sites. It permits an employer to voluntarily recognize a union in specific situations, which will be prescribed in regulations. The government's overview suggests that this would include what it describes "as short-term projects where a highly skilled, captive labour pool is to be provided by the union."

In 2008, the Wall government amended the Trade Union Act to permit CLAC to be certified in Saskatchewan. CLAC now has a foothold in Saskatchewan after the Labour Relations Board granted it certification for five construction companies in 2012.

Occupational Health and Safety

The SFL points out that the proposed SEA places individual workers and supervisors in the front line to shoulder responsibility for workplace safety as they may be held personally responsible and fined for incidents. The number of infractions for which workers can be fined is greater than the number for which employers are held responsible.

Union-Busting Provisions

Harper's recent Bill C-377 singles out trade unions for an onerous system of public reporting not required of any other organization or enterprise. Bill 85 will add to this with additional requirements for reporting provincially. The idea behind this is that every hour and every dollar spent fulfilling these requirements cannot be spent on organizing and meeting the needs of the collective.

In addition, employers must forward dues deducted under the Rand formula to the local unions, not to provincial or national offices. This places additional burdens on the local unions, especially in small locals where workers voluntarily look after the local's book-keeping.

Current legislation requires the transfer of a certification order and collective agreement when a business successfully bids on a contract to provide cafeteria, janitorial or security services in a government-owned building (section 37.1 of the Trade Union Act.) This will be removed from the new legislation, permitting the private interests to whom public services are handed to tear up collective agreements.

Another way that Bill 85 permits interference with unions is that it essentially bans them from fining members who cross a picket line. Although unions can still levy fines in accordance with their constitutions, they cannot collect the fines without applying and receiving a court order.

In a move to encourage raiding, Bill 85 permits a decertification application at any time, instead of the present during a 30- to 60-day window each year.

Another provision requires a 14-day cooling off period before a strike or lockout can occur. This gives an employer to prepare for a strike including advertising for scab replacement workers. The monopolies get further assistance from another new provision that enables the Minister to establish an industrial inquiry commission to consider any impasse in collective bargaining that may exist. The powers of such a commission are not spelled out but could be in the regulations. Similar legislation in Alberta prohibits a strike or lockout for a further 60 days if a disputes inquiry commission is established.

Note

1. The 12 Acts consolidated in Bill 85 are: the Assignment of Wages Act; the Building Trades Protection Act; the Construction Industry Labour Relations Act, 1992; the Employment Agencies Act; the Fire Departments Platoon Act; the Health Labour Relations Reorganization Act; the Labour-Management Dispute (Temporary Provisions) Act; the Labour Standards Act; the Radiation Health and Safety Act, 1985; the Occupational Health and Safety Act, 1993; the Trade Union Act; and the Wages Recovery Act.

(With files from the Regina Leader Post, Canadian Union of Public Employees and the Saskatchewan Employment Act - Overview, by the Saskatchewan Ministry of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety)

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Affirm the Rights of First Nations!

How DeBeers Contributed to the
Housing Crisis in Attawapiskat

According to a report by the Aboriginal People's Television Network (APTN), on March 5, 2005, DeBeers Canada Inc. dumped raw sewage from its construction site into the sewer system of the Attawapiskat First Nation, a 2,000-member Cree First Nation on James Bay. According to the APTN report, DeBeers' raw sewage caused the community's lift station to malfunction, resulting in a sewage backup and the resultant flooding of many homes in the area. (A lift station is a point in the sewage treatment system used to move sewage water to a higher elevation so that gravity can be used to treat the sewage.) This worsened a housing and heath crisis in the community which continues to this day. Many people had to abandon their homes and live in makeshift accommodations such as non-winterized tents, tar paper shacks and so on without sanitary facilities or clean water. DeBeers refused to take responsibility, let alone intervene to set things right. Neither did the Harper government come to the assistance of the community.

Two reports from outside engineering companies investigating what happened concluded that the DeBeers' discharge was the likely cause of the sewage backup and subsequent flooding of homes. One of these firms, Ontario First Nations Technical Services, noted that as it was, the lift station was not working well, and the raw sewage must have caused it to malfunction. A follow-up report by First Nations Engineering Services noted that even though the Harper government had been informed of the situation, it did nothing to intervene in the crisis.

In 2009, there was another sewage backup which necessitated the evacuation of more than 100 people from the community. Once again Indian and Northern Affairs Canada refused to do its duty to the community and assist in this crisis, and the evacuation had to be organized and paid for by the Band Council. As is well known, in late 2011, Chief Theresa Spence and the Band Council declared a "State of Emergency" in Attawapiskat and demanded action by the Harper government, a stand which won widespread support from the Canadian people. For their just stand, the Harper government criminalized the Chief and her community and blamed them for being responsible for the housing crisis!

DeBeers, which from the evidence clearly triggered the housing crisis that continues to today, now presents itself as a "victim" of the people of Attawapiskat. In a recent blockade of the winter road which brings supplies to DeBeers' Victor Mine, the entire Canadian state has gone to bat for DeBeers including Judge Robert Riopelle. In a court hearing on February 20 in Timmins, where DeBeers successfully sought an injunction against the protesters, Justice Riopelle called the latter "extortionists." This is to turn the truth on its head. A number of people in Attawapiskat have been engaged in blockading the winter road for more than five years to express their outrage at the manner in which diamonds are taken from their lands while they live in abject poverty. They have been demanding that the fraudulent Impact Benefits Agreement, that was imposed on the community members and voted on by less than 30 per cent of the community members in 2005, be revisited and new terms be drawn up so that Attawapiskat First Nation can have a more significant compensation package and bigger claim on the wealth that is being plundered from their territory.

Currently, DeBeers is reporting close to $500 million in revenues each year from the mine, while paying no royalties to the Ontario government or corporate taxes, according to Mining Watch Canada. It pays the Attawapiskat First Nations $2 million each year. This shows the level of exploitation that is going on.

Attawapiskat's experience with DeBeers is consistent with the long history of this international mining monopoly, the brainchild of Cecil Rhodes, the arch British imperialist megalomaniac who carved out a country called Rhodesia through suppression by military force and mass-murder of the indigenous peoples of southern Africa. From the time it was founded in 1888, the DeBeers mining company has committed numerous crimes against humanity that have been well-documented. These include upholding and supporting the apartheid system in South Africa for more than a century so that black mine workers could be exploited as slaves with absolutely no rights; working hand in glove with the government of Botswana to systematically remove the Gana and Gwi bushmen from the Central Kalahari Game Reserve so that DeBeers could have free access to diamond mining in the region. It also worked against the Mineworkers Union of Namibia for years to prevent the unionization of mineworkers in that country so that they could have decent wages and living conditions -- workers who were indentured and could be jailed if they broke their contract. There are many other examples.

The people of Attawapiskat are fighting an infamous international mining monopoly whose hands are dripping in blood. It is unconscionable that the Canadian state is working in cahoots with DeBeers to criminalize the leadership and people of Attawapiskat instead of doing its duty to that community as required by the Constitution and by Treaty 9 signed with the Crown. The Cree people of Attawapiskat have just cause in affirming their rights in the face of their exploitation and abuse by DeBeers. They have a right to demand that DeBeers negotiate a more equitable Impact Benefits Agreement with the community, and not be tossed aside as used goods. The working class and people of the entire country must put an end to DeBeers' and the Canadian state's abuse and disinformation campaign against the people of Attawapiskat that is aimed at criminalizing and creating racist hysteria against them.

(With files from APTN, www.miningcanada.ca www.timminspress.com)

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The Human Right to Conscience

Harper's New Office of Official Intolerance
Opposes the Right to Conscience

On February 19, Dr. Andrew Bennett was named head of the Harper dictatorship's new "Office of Religious Freedom," which Harper had promised to establish during the 2011 election campaign. Bennett, who has a PhD in political science from University of Edinburgh, is the dean of a small privately funded Christian College in Ottawa and has previously worked for Natural Resources Canada, the Privy Council Office, and Export Development Canada.[1] Immigration Minister Jason Kenney joined Harper for Tuesday's announcement, along with Minister of International Co-operation Julian Fantino. Kenney said that Bennett can "develop an expertise" on religious persecutions that can better inform Canada's foreign and immigration policies. Kenney claimed that the idea to create a religious freedom office was inspired by the 2011 death of Pakistan's Christian minister for minorities, Shabhaz Bhatti.


"Harper! A bible [in one hand] and a gun [in the other] -- we don't want that here! Go home!"

The notion that the Harper dictatorship will champion religious freedom is bizarre in the extreme, since Harper is an evangelical dominionist[2] who has made his own sectarian views quite clear. For example, on a CBC radio interview on September 6, 2012 he made a clumsy attempt to politicize an interpretation of the Muslim religion. He said that a "hate ideology" he called "Islamicism" is the greatest threat to Canada's internal and external security. Harper went on to say that because of this his government will bring back anti-terrorism measures that were brought in during 2001 but had sunset clauses and expired in 2007. Harper was declaring that the state is singling out those of the Muslim faith his government opposes for further repression, as well as asserting that the Harper government will arbitrate which religions and beliefs should have "freedom," both at home and abroad.

Harper's deliberate public attack on certain Muslims directly contradicts any notion of an Office of Religious Freedom, demonstrating that Harper is not concerned with religious freedom at all but with using any means, including religion, to advance his agenda at home and abroad. This is clearly exposed by how Foreign Minister John Baird, in his September 26, 2011 address to the 66th United Nations General Assembly, shamelessly advocated the use of force as a way to resolve international disputes, then ranted about democracy and religious freedom while being careful to only state examples that serve the purposes of the Harper dictatorship and U.S. imperialism. Deliberately trying to demonize certain countries and groups, Baird highlighted what he referred to as "religious persecution" in Iran, Burma, China/Tibet, Pakistan, and Iraq (with direct reference to the Taliban).

While discussing the international front and to serve the Harper dictatorship's interests, Baird omitted to mention, for example, the 2012 campaign by Peter King, U.S. Republican chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, to demonize the U.S. Muslim community through McCarthyite "hearings"; the fact that in Israel, to which the Harper dictatorship gives unqualified support, only Jews can get citizenship; the banning of the niqab by France, Belgium and the Netherlands; and the control by evangelicals over the distribution of aid in Haiti, to the detriment of other groups such as those who practice traditional West African voudoo.

Within Canada itself, Baird carefully omitted mention of how the Harper dictatorship funds and supports those religious groups which serve its purposes. Examples include millions in federal funding for a Winnipeg centre for the U.S.-based evangelical Youth-for-Christ organization (heavily promoted by U.S. monopoly media publisher and Nazi sympathizer William Randolph Hearst at its inception) to proselytize among Manitoba's urban and rural aboriginal youth;[4] the campaign in Canada's north by evangelical dominionists, including those of the Christian and Missionary Alliance of which Harper is a member, to coerce the Inuit people into discarding symbols based on traditional beliefs including, for example, face tattooing; and the earmarking by Minister of International Cooperation Julian Fantino of more than half a million CIDA dollars to a Canadian evangelical organization that criminalizes homosexuality. It is also noteworthy that research by the Montreal-based Canadian Research Institute on Humanitarian Crisis and Aid shows that from 2005 to 2010, CIDA funding for religious non-government organizations increased 42 per cent, while secular groups received an increase of a mere five per cent.

The fact that at the UN Baird carefully chose examples that advance the Harper warmongering agenda is additionally important because the latest information suggests that the ORF will operate mainly by taking up carefully selected cases. A professor from Langley, BC's Trinity Western University, Canada's number one training institution for evangelical dominionists which has itself received millions in federal funding,[3] recently confirmed that the ORF will most likely "track cases of religious persecution" and "act as a resource to government policymakers across departments like Foreign Affairs and Immigration." In other words, the new office will not only function as an international political weapon but will also be used to control immigration into Canada whereby those who practice "acceptable values" will be welcomed while those who practice "unwelcome values," i.e. what Harper calls "Islamicism," will be turned back or expelled. This is how Harper and Kenney plan to build the "new Canada" to serve their own nefarious purposes.

Another confirmation of the blatant political purpose of Harper's ORF is the U.S. office of the same name. Established in 1998, it is part of the U.S. State Department, which implements U.S. imperialist foreign policy. The U.S. ORF deliberately selects certain countries that are a block to U.S. imperialist plans, such as the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea, China and Iran, and tries to isolate them by branding them as "Countries of Particular Concern," pretending that they are only being singled out because they supposedly violated religious freedom. The U.S. ORF site also links to the website of the U.S. Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism whose main purpose is to whitewash Israeli crimes against the Palestinian and other Arab peoples by pretending that any criticism of Israeli war crimes is "anti-Semitism." The Harper dictatorship has created an extra-parliamentary committee for the same purpose.

Harper's evangelical dominionism resonates well with Baird's simultaneous talk of the use of force to protect "religious freedom." Dominionists believe they have a divine mandate to build an end-time military force to impose Christian "dominion" on all non-believers. They preach a coming world war, Armageddon, when good will defeat evil, all other nations and religions will be destroyed, and dominionists will rule the Earth. The obscurantist notion of waging battle against so-called forces of darkness is a means of sanctifying state violence against all those who are not dominionists. Advocates of such apocalyptic violence are prominent in the U.S. military, e.g., General William Boykin, former U.S. Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence, believes that the U.S. military is recruiting a spiritual army to defeat the forces of evil. Prominent U.S. dominionist and televangelist Pat Robertson, the "spiritual" mentor of the Guatemalan General Rios Montt known for his murderous evangelical regime, has called for the assassination of Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, known as a Christian believer, and a pre-emptive strike against Iran, accused of every crime in the book for following "wrong" religious beliefs.

The real issue behind all of the above is not religious beliefs per se, but the need for any modern society to provide a practical guarantee of the right to conscience. It is the right to conscience which makes us human, and those who violate it inhuman. Social mechanisms need to be developed to ensure that every individual's ability to form conviction is protected. Unless the human right to conscience is protected, then societies will not eliminate laws of slavery whereby they dictate what people can or cannot believe and do. Retaliation by the state in any way for holding beliefs is not an option and as concerns practicing them, only the polity duly consulted can decide what is or is not a criminal offence. The Harper government refuses to recognize the right to conscience, let alone provide it with a guarantee. In fact, the Harper government gives itself the exclusive right to pick and choose who has the right to conscience and who does not by "validating" certain beliefs and not others. Those who hold the "wrong" beliefs will be criminalized, even deprived of their citizenship, as recently proposed by Jason Kenney. The factor that determines what beliefs Harper will allow is whether the beliefs declared accord with what Harper calls "Canadian values," i.e., the values put forward by Harper to oppose public right and to uphold monopoly right at home and abroad, including Canada's annexation into U.S. security arrangements and its participation in the endless U.S. wars of aggression and occupation.

Notes

1. Bennett is currently studying at the privately funded St. Paul University's Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies in Ottawa, which is named after a Ukrainian aristocrat and church leader commemorated in the online Global Museum of (Anti-) Communism.
2. Dominionism, also referred to as Christian Reconstructionism, is an evangelical theocratic sect centred in the United States which has gained positions of power through intrigue. Dominionists want to establish the United States and Canada as Christian theocracies based on biblical law. According to dominionism, the Bible has supremacy over the Constitution. The defining concept is that of Christian Zionism whereby Christians alone are biblically mandated to occupy all secular institutions until Christ returns, while non-Christians are to be stripped of their rights.
3. Trinity graduates include Reform/Conservative MPs Deborah Grey, Grant McNally, Chuck Strahl, Mark Strahl, and Mark Warawa (MP for Langley), as well as Harper's former Deputy Chief of Staff and unsuccessful Conservative candidate, Darrel Reid. Paul Wilson, who replaced Reid in the PMO, is a former Trinity employee who left to become senior policy advisor to then Conservative Minister of Justice Vic Toews, another evangelical. Trinity's Laurentian Leadership Centre certificate program housed in Ottawa gives students an opportunity to complete a fully credited semester of study while working at a Parliamentary, political, business, media, or NGO internship in Ottawa.
4. Winnipeg's new police chief, Devon Clunis, and Stephen Harper both belong to the same evangelical sect. Rural areas being worked by Youth-for-Christ include the ridings of Conservative evangelicals Vic Toews and James Bezan.

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