Tiny Vigil at office of Secret-Trials-and-Deportations-to -Torture Supporter Bennett Draws Angry Office Response
Toronto, October, 2008 -- One would have hoped that the sick individual or individuals who have been going through the ridings of Toronto Liberals, spray-painting homes and slicing brake lines, could have found another way to express displeasure with the Liberals that did not involve putting people’s lives at risk.
One of the ridings subject to this horrifying hooliganism was that of Liberal MP Carolyn Bennett who, along with her “leader” Stephane Dion, rightly condemned the physical attacks as undemocratic and dangerous -- cutting brake lines gets into an area where people’s lives are at very real risk.
While most would certainly agree with their sentiment and concern, one has to wonder what kind of country we would live in if such sentiments were equally applied to all people in Canada (and around the world), and not simply to those who, because of their support for the Liberals, have been targetted.
Indeed, these Liberals have shown little concern for the people of Afghanistan, whose lives they agreed would have to be put at continued risk of torture and murder at the hands of Canadian troops when they voted to extend the occupation until at least 2011. These sacrifices of the Afghan people were necessary to prevent what the Liberals perceived as their own drubbing at the polls had they decided to show some backbone and call for the earlier withdrawal of Canadian troops.
Some Liberals abstained from voting on the legislation (hardly an honourable neutrality. As Desmond Tutu reminds us, “If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”)
But numerous Liberals, including Carolyn Bennett (a physician), voted FOR it, despite the human rights abuses associated with it, depsite the medical consequences of torture and prolonged detention without charge. Bennett was one of numerous Liberal MPs who met with our campaign during the run-up to the vote on the bill, and expressed her concerns at the unfairness of the legislation. Yet she went ahead and voted for it anyway (full list of shame of all MPs who voted yes to secret trials appears at the bottom of this posting)
To protest such cowardice, and the Liberals’ role in not only putting lives at risk, but putting democracy at risk (how can it not be when there is two-tier justice?), two members of the Campaign to Stop Secret Trials in Canada held a noon-hour vigil recently at Ms. Bennett’s campaign office at Eglinton and Bathurst.
(The vigil took place long before the cut brake lines and graffitti incidents marred the campaign. )
What was most interesting about the day was the horrified reaction of her election staff and volunteers when a little bit of democracy broke out on the sidewalk in front of their office. Holding a banner that read “Stop Secret Trials in Canada: End Deportations to Torture,” the two individuals were fairly dwarfed by the massive windows filled with Bennett signs and gaudy paeans to the greatness of Liberals.
Office staff curious about the banner were informed why we had chosen to be there, but refused to allow that what we were doing was in any way acceptable.
“You must be working for Stephen Harper,” one agitated staffer declared.
“Does it not concern you that Carolyn Bennett voted for secret trials and deportations to torture,” we ask.
“No she didn’t.”
“We can show you the Hansard record of Parliament that shows she clearly did.”
They try and change the subject.
“Well, she had no choice, there could have been an election” if she actually voted against the bill.
“Well, we have an election right now, what’s the difference? She and the Liberals caved on everything Harper wanted to do, they didn’t force the election, Harper chose it. If anything, the Liberals are the Harper supporters.”
“Don’t you see what you’re doing?” she demands. “You’re trying to get Harper elected!”
As more volunteers filter into the office, few stop to discuss the issue with us. Many carry with them that sick sense of entitlement that only the Liberals should be allowed to govern Canada, and no one seems concerned that their candidate, the one they spend hours knocking on doors for, supports secret trials and deportations to torture.
No one, that is, until two young volunteers come out and ask what this is about.
“I have an uncle who spent nine years in an Albanian jail without ever being charged,” says one of the volunteers, noting that what we are talking about sounds a lot like whather uncle went through. She takes our flyers, and as we discuss the issue, the agitated staffer comes out again and yells at us to stop “harassing” her staff.
So much for all the Liberal rhetoric about how elections should be about issues. We show up to discuss an issue and, rather than looking at the facts of the situation, we are dismissed as Harper supporters who have no right to protest.
Bennett will likely win in her riding, where she’s been a shoo-in for the past decade. But democracy lost that January day when she and fellow Liberals voted to put lives at risk by voting for secret trials and deportations to torture.
Below is a list of shame, individuals who voted in Parliament on 6 February 2008 for secret trials, two-tier justice, indefinite detention without charge, invasive surveillance and control orders, and deportation to torture. The NDP is the only party whose members all stood against the bill.
Bell (North Vancouver)
Cannan (Kelowna—Lake Country)
Cullen (Etobicoke North)
Kamp (Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission)
Keddy (South Shore—St. Margaret's)
Kenney (Calgary Southeast)
Kramp (Prince Edward—Hastings)
Martin (Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca)
Moore (Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam)
Moore (Fundy Royal)
Thibault (West Nova)
Thompson (New Brunswick Southwest)
Thompson (Wild Rose)