Citizen Action Monitor

Terminator-in-Chief Harper removes, silences government watchdogs, senior bureaucrats who cross him

Their offense? — They simply reported what they found and refused to back down

No 1340 Posted by fw, May 18, 2015

“Forthright government watchdogs have a way of disappearing in Ottawa. They are quietly replaced. Their mandates are terminated or not renewed. They are suddenly found to be unqualified…. They simply reported what they found and refused to back down, leaving Prime Minister to Stephen Harper to reconcile their departures with what he said back 2005, while opposition leader: ‘When a government starts trying to cancel dissent or avoid dissent is frankly when it’s rapidly losing its moral authority to govern.’”Toronto Star Editorial

Terminator-in-Chief – That rubric, in 3 little words, sums up prime minister Stephen Harper’s approach to people management. Speak softly in public, in private, carry a big chip on your shoulder. The latest victim of Harper’s vindictive rule is Howard Sapers, outspoken correctional investigator of Canada who dared warn that federal prisons were overcrowded and underfunded. To those who think this characterization of the PM is unfair, read this January 2, 2015 post: Stephen Harper is “the most vindictive politician I’ve ever met, someone who I think is ruthless to the bottom”

To learn the names of Harper’s other 9 victims, click on the following linked title to the Toronto Star editorial. Alternatively, the piece is cross-posted below.

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The high price of speaking out in Ottawa, Editorial, Toronto Star, May 11, 2015

The Harper government stifles or removes government watchdogs who get in its way.

Forthright government watchdogs have a way of disappearing in Ottawa.

They are quietly replaced. Their mandates are terminated or not renewed. They are suddenly found to be unqualified.

Howard Sapers, the outspoken correctional investigator of Canada, is the latest to join the involuntary exodus. He was a strong advocate for mistreated inmates. He highlighted the disproportionate number of aboriginal prisoners in the system. He asked why so many people with mental disorders were behind bars and why so many prisoners were released without adequate supervision. He warned that federal prisons were overcrowded and underfunded. “An ombudsman’s role is to comment on maladministration,” he said.

Sapers will be relieved of his responsibilities as soon as the government can find a replacement. Public Safety Minister Stephen Blaney provided no explanation, other than noting the fact he had served for more than a decade. Canada’s last corrections investigator, Ron Stewart, served for 26 years.

Seven government watchdogs and three senior bureaucrats have been stifled or impugned since the Conservatives took office.

The first to go, in 2008, was Linda Keen, who headed the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. She ordered AECL (Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd.) to shut down its Chalk River Reactor till its emergency power system over concerns about its emergency power system. The government kept it open and fired her.

Peter Tinsley, who chaired the military complaints commission, was axed after he brought to light allegations that Canadian soldiers handed over Taliban captives to Afghan authorities knowing there was a high chance they would be tortured.

Richard Colvin, a senior foreign affairs official who testified that he was hearing similar accounts from diplomats in Afghanistan was subjected to a vicious public attack by senior ministers of the government.

Paul Kennedy, who headed the Commission for Public Complaints against the RCMP, crossed the Tories by questioning the amount of time it took to investigate the death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski, who was repeatedly tasered at Vancouver airport. He was told his services would no longer be required.

Marty Cheliak, director-general of the RCMP’s Canadian Firearms Program, was yanked after nine months in the job for defending the long-gun registry, which the Tories were poised to scrap. He told a parliamentary committee “it does serve a very real purpose and contributes to police officer safety and the safety of all Canadians.”

Pat Stogran, Canada’s first veterans’ ombudsman, was told his appointment would not be renewed after he exposed the way the government treated former members of the armed services, especially those who came home injured or traumatized.

Steve Sullivan, appointed with great fanfare as the country’s federal ombudsman for victims of crime, was canned after a frustrating three-year term. He had no power to do anything for victims. His reports were shelved by the public safety minister. “My sense is that they (the Conservatives) created the office because it made a good press release,” he said afterward.

Munir Sheikh, Canada’s former chief statistician, resigned after then-industry minister Tony Clement falsely cited him as a supporter of the government’s controversial decision to replace Statistics Canada’s highly regarded mandatory census with an unreliable voluntary household survey. Rather than go along with the lie, the conscientious economist quit.

Kevin Page, head of the parliamentary budget office, which monitors public spending for MPs and Canadians, provided more accountability than the government wanted. As his disclosures became more embarrassing, he was denied access to departmental records, denigrated in Parliament and treated as a pariah in Ottawa. He was replaced after a single term.

None of these public officials was looking for a fight. They simply reported what they found and refused to back down, leaving Prime Minister to Stephen Harper to reconcile their departures with what he said back 2005, while opposition leader: “When a government starts trying to cancel dissent or avoid dissent is frankly when it’s rapidly losing its moral authority to govern.”

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