Prime Minister Harper muzzles diplomats and foreign agencies

Stephen Harper

By Haroon Siddiqui, The Star, 7 April 2012

The Stephen Harper government was ready to splurge $25 billion or more for fighter jets. It’s spending $9 billion for jails we don’t need. But it has no money for programs and agencies it does not like. It has been axing or starving them — for example, the CBC, the Canadian International Development Agency, the foreign affairs department and the Montreal-based human rights group, Rights & Democracy, in this latest round of cuts alone. […]

His compulsive need to control all government communications hit our diplomats particularly hard. It hobbled their ability to publicly speak for Canada, something they have long been very good at. He muzzled them so much that, in 2008, the John Manley commission on Afghanistan publicly criticized him for preventing our embassies and ambassadors from representing our interests abroad. […]

The Harperites boast a commitment to the promotion of democracy, human rights and freedom of religion abroad. Yet they have systematically eviscerated the groups that have long advanced those Canadian values. Among the victims: the Ottawa-based Forum of Federations, which promotes federalism and democratic governance; Kairos, the global human rights arm of 11 Canadian churches; the Canadian Council of International Cooperation, which coordinates public policy on foreign aid; and MATCH, which worked on rights of women in the developing world. […}

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Photo: Carolyn Kaster/AP