Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee
Harper government attacks freedom of speech

OTTAWA – The Harper Conservatives style of threatening, attacking and defunding those who advocate views contrary to their ideological agenda has sunk to a new low with confirmation that  Canadian aid groups are receiving veiled threats to tow the Conservative party line.

“This government’s ongoing attack on democratic rights and freedom of speech becomes more Orwellian with each passing day,” said Liberal Government Ethics and Democratic Reform Critic Marlene Jennings.  “As the number of Canadians who fall victim to Conservatives vindictiveness continues to grow, so, too, will public disquiet. Canadians are being pushed to the brink of their tolerance for the vicious partisanship of the Harper Conservatives.”

A media report today says that non-governmental organizations have received warnings from government officials to not voice opinions that are contrary to Conservative public policy.

Keith Fountain, policy director for International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda, gave a verbal warning to one aid group that their policy positions were under scrutiny. “Be careful about your advocacy,” he told them. (Globe and Mail, Feb. 12, 2010)

Liberal Status of Women Critic Anita Neville said this is just confirmation of how the Conservatives treat established aid groups with differing advocacy positions. 

KAIROS, a well-respected faith-based international aid organization that has taken positions on climate change, the environment and poverty in contrast to Conservative policy, had its funding cut late last year.  Staff of the Canadian NGO Rights and Democracy have likewise been subjected to a gag order after clashes with ideologically-driven, Conservative-appointed board members.

“Given what happened to KAIROS and Rights and Democracy, NGOs are now leery of speaking out against what this government is doing – which plays right into Mr. Harper’s hands,” said Ms. Neville. “Now that the Conservatives have refused to include groups that advocate for contraception in their recently announced maternal health initiative, it makes me very nervous to think what will happen to NGOs who have traditionally received Canadian support for giving women around the world access to reproductive choice or birth control.

“The Harper government is forcing its right-wing ideals down the throats of internationally renowned and respected aid organizations,” concluded Ms. Neville. “With their decades of expertise, these groups have far better knowledge of those they help than members of the Conservative government do.”