MPs: Take action to restore democracy

Dec. 2, 2015

Dear Honourable Member of Parliament,

We write to you, a coalition of over 230 organizations and 5,000 individuals, from all ridings across Canada, as Canada's 42nd Parliament is setting its agenda for the future.

Each of you has been elected to uphold Canada's democracy and to ensure our government represents the interests of the people it serves.

For the past five years, Voices-Voix has been documenting how federal legislation, policies and programs have undermined Canada's democratic values and principles. We haven't minced words about our concerns over what we saw as a growing use of tactics that silenced debate and abused parliamentary processes, demonizing and defunding critics and undermining accountability. We have outlined those concerns in our report, Dismantling Democracy, included here, and in more than 110 case studies that you can see online at www.voices-voix.ca.

If we are vocal in our concerns, it is because we are also hopeful for change. Many of you are embarking on your first term as Members of Parliament, and you have a chance to plot a new course. The Supreme Court has interpreted Canadian democracy as requiring “a continuous process of discussion,” as well as requiring processes in which dissenting voices are heard respectfully and their concerns addressed.(1) We hope it helps guide you in making the important decisions you will be facing over the coming weeks and months.

Concretely, we call on you to renew the safeguards and parliamentary institutions that help ensure transparency and accountability in the House of Commons. These include:

▪ Ensuring that parliamentary committees and public consultations are open and transparent, encouraging the participation of a broad range of voices and respecting their diverse input.
▪ Striving for a Question Period that addresses important issues of public policy and avoids vilification or smearing of those voicing concerns.
▪ Allowing independent officers of parliament – ranging from the Parliamentary Budget Officer to the Veterans' Ombudsperson – to carry out their work without interference.
▪ Respecting and reinforcing principles of access to information and reforming the relevant legislation in order to increase parliament's transparency and accountability to Canadians.
▪ Respecting the judiciary's independence, and responding quickly and appropriately to rulings.

We have faith that you will take these issues to heart and see the opening of this new session of Parliament as an opportunity to take quick and decisive action to set the tone for the next four years and beyond.

We also call upon you to help create an enabling environment for a rich, diverse and active citizenry in which community groups and other actors in civil society get the respect, support and engagement they need to contribute fully to the peace, equality and prosperity to which we all aspire.

There are, of course, many other ways we hope you will address the urgent need to reinforce and reinvigorate debate and dissent in Canada. Voices-Voix has developed a series of priority issues on human rights and social justice issues that are informed by our research and by the campaign commitments of this government. A copy is included here for your convenience.

In keeping with this spirit of openness and discussion, we would be more than pleased to meet with you or members of your office to discuss these issues and explore how we can work together to build a stronger democracy for all Canadians.

Please do not hesitate to contact: 
Tim McSorley, Voices-Voix Coordinator 
communications@voices-voix.ca or at 514-561-9919.

You can find out more about our work and coalition at http://voices-voix.ca, and can subscribe to our monthly newsletter here.

Best regards,

tim sig

Tim McSorley, 
on behalf of the Voices-Voix Coalition

encl.: 
Dismantling Democracy [PDF] 
Human Rights To-Do List [PDF]

(1) Reference Re Secession of Quebec, [1998] 2 SCR 217 para 68 [Secession Reference].

Issues