Monday, August 25, 2014

Harper's Reign Of Terror - A Closer Examination

While Stephen Harper's attacks on charities have been followed here and elsewhere, the Star presents a good overview of how the offices of the CRA have been subverted by a vindictive regime that brooks no opposition to its neoliberal agenda.

The article begins with the egregious case of CoDevelopment Canada, a small Vancouver charity that works with its Latin American partners in helping to fund programs that assist the poor. Apparently, if that assistance threatens to upset the corporate status quo, a crime has been committed in Harperland.

One of CoDev's Latin American partners is the Maria Elena Cuadra Movement for Working and Unemployed Women (MEC), which is based in Nicaragua. MEC’s goals include helping to modernize labour relations in Nicaragua’s free-trade zones by promoting the notion that human, labour and gender rights for workers must be upheld.

In 2013-14, CoDev and its Canadian partners sent MEC nearly $38,000. The money was used for causes such as MEC’s legal clinic, which that year handled 2,000 cases — 1,600 involving women — pertaining to issues such as labour-rights violations and gender-based violence.

Previously, the charity vigorously opposed Ottawa’s decision to sign a free-trade agreement with Colombia, a country [Barbara] Wood [CoDev’s former executive director,] describes as having “massive displacement and violence.’’

Wood muses about whether CoDev’s criticism of the government played a role in putting it on CRA’s radar.

Consider the tale of CoDev's two audits. Their first, in 2009, was a relatively innocuous affair:

The auditor came for about four days to the group’s small second-floor office in east Vancouver on June 10, 2009. A few glitches were spotted. For example, CoDev had been reporting some of its money in the wrong boxes on its tax returns, and filing cabinets in the charity’s office containing donor information weren’t being locked.

Case closed, right? Not quite. In 2012, 'Uncle' Joe Oliver, then Natural Resources Minister, in an open letter warned that environmental and other "radical groups" are trying to block trade and undermine Canada's economy.

It wasn't long after this that nonprofits critical of aspects of government policy suddenly found themselves the centre of the CRA's attention. The David Suzuki Foundation, of course, was one of them.

In mid-October, a new audit wass ordered of CoDev, one that began in January of 2013, this one involving three investigators, an auditor and two others whose area of specialty was program funding. They ultimately imposed onerous stipulations on the four-person office, including the translation of all Spanish documents into English. More specific details outlining the Harper-directed CRA vindictiveness can be found here.

Most reasonable people will draw the conclusion that these audits are far from innocent. In the simplistic and bifurcated world of Stephen Harper, you are either with the government or you are with its 'enemies'. If you fall into the latter category, beware the consequences.


  1. A power hungry man who brooks no opposition is getting his revenge, Lorne.

    1. Hopefully, Owen, he pays a price for being a martinet in 2015.

  2. This illustrates, to me at least, the success Harper has had in compromising the public service. What he's doing is a blatant abuse of power and yet we've not seen a single public servant stand up in opposition and resign. This seems to comport with what I've been hearing about life in the middle tiers of the public service. There, I'm told, career public servants work in a hostile environment that is marked by fear and insecurity. Solidarity is gone, undermined by public servants being turned against each other. After listening to a fairly lengthy account from one relatively senior public servant I was struck by how Stalinist it all sounded.

    1. The fact that most civil servants suffer in silence, Mound, is perhaps understandable, but it makes Munir Sheikh's principled resignation as head of Statistics Canada after it had been compromised an even more remarkable act, doesn't it?

    2. The former head of Stats Canada resigned, I believe.

  3. It is not only the response of the public servants, but also that of the muzzled scientists, that surprised me.

    Unlike public servants, scientists have been trained to think outside the box and the better ones pride themselves at being critical thinkers and are usually unafraid to challenge prevailing thinking or even authority. Thus I must admit at being surprised that the number of government scientists who are protesting being muzzled is not much higher than what we have seen.

    One possibility is that jobs are so scarce, and must be more difficult to find if one is a more specialized scientist, thus many of these people must have been scared to speak up in fear of losing their jobs and livelihoods.

    Of course, as with everything, by not speaking up, it usually guarantees that the situation will progress from bad to worse (unless we manage to Heave Steve and replace it with a more tolerant government). Sad situation, but perhaps understandable seeing how vindictive Steve and his minions appear to be.

    1. Agreed, Anon. During my teaching career there were battles I fought, but I was always mindful that I couldn't cross certain lines lest I jeopardize my employment. The reticence of more people to speak out against the Harper cabal is quite understandable within that context.