Ralph Nader’s Open Letter to Stephen Harper

February 18, 2015

The Right Honourable Stephen Harper, P.C., M.P.
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2

Dear Prime Minister:

Many Americans love Canada and the specific benefits that have come to our country from our northern neighbor’s many achievements (see Canada Firsts by Nader, Conacher and Milleron). Unfortunately, your latest proposed legislation—the new anti-terrorism act—is being described by leading Canadian civil liberties scholars as hazardous to Canadian democracy.

A central criticism was ably summarized in a February 2015 Globe and Mail editorial titled “Parliament Must Reject Harper’s Secret Policeman Bill,” to wit:

“Prime Minister Stephen Harper never tires of telling Canadians that we are at war with the Islamic State. Under the cloud of fear produced by his repeated hyperbole about the scope and nature of the threat, he now wants to turn our domestic spy agency into something that looks disturbingly like a secret police force.

Canadians should not be willing to accept such an obvious threat to their basic liberties. Our existing laws and our society are strong enough to stand up to the threat of terrorism without compromising our values.” 

Particularly noticeable in your announcement were your exaggerated expressions that exceed the paranoia of Washington’s chief attack dog, former vice-president Dick Cheney. Mr. Cheney periodically surfaces to update his pathological war mongering oblivious to facts—past and present—including his criminal war of aggression which devastated Iraq—a country that never threatened the U.S.

You are quoted as saying that “jihadi terrorism is one of the most dangerous enemies our world has ever faced” as a predicate for your gross over-reaction that “violent jihadism seeks to destroy” Canadian “rights.” Really? Pray tell, which rights rooted in Canadian law are “jihadis” fighting in the Middle East to obliterate? You talk like George W. Bush.

How does “jihadism” match up with the lives of tens of millions of innocent civilians, destroyed since 1900 by state terrorism—west and east, north and south—or the continuing efforts seeking to seize or occupy territory?

Reading your apoplectic oratory reminds one of the prior history of your country as one of the world’s peacekeepers from the inspiration of Lester Pearson to the United Nations. That noble pursuit has been replaced by deploying Canadian soldiers in the belligerent service of the American Empire and its boomeranging wars, invasions and attacks that violate our Constitution, statutes and international treaties to which both our countries are signatories.

What has all this post-9/11 loss of American life plus injuries and sickness, in addition to trillions of American tax dollars, accomplished? Has it led to the stability of those nations invaded or attacked by the U.S. and its reluctant western “allies?” Just the opposite, the colossal blowback evidenced by the metastasis of al-Qaeda’s offshoots and similar new groups like the self-styled Islamic state are now proliferating in and threatening over a dozen countries.

Have you digested what is happening in Iraq and why Prime Minister Jean Chrétien said no to Washington? Or now chaotic Libya, which like Iraq never had any presence of Al-Qaeda before the U.S.’s destabilizing military attacks? (See the New York Times’editorial on February 15, 2015 titled “What Libya’s Unraveling Means”.)

Perhaps you will find a former veteran CIA station chief in Islamabad, Pakistan, Robert L. Grenier more credible. Writing in his just released book: 88 Days to Kandahar: A CIA Diary (Simon & Schuster), he sums up U.S. government policy this way: “Our current abandonment of Afghanistan is the product of a…colossal overreach, from 2005 onwards.” He writes, “in the process we overwhelmed a primitive country, with a largely illiterate population, a tiny agrarian economy, a tribal social structure and nascent national institutions. We triggered massive corruption through our profligacy; convinced a substantial number of Afghans that we were, in fact, occupiers and facilitated the resurgence of the Taliban” (Alissa J. Rubin, Robert L. Grenier’s ‘88 Days to Kandahar,’New York Times, February 15, 2015).

You may recall George W. Bush’s White House counterterrorism czar, Richard Clarke, who wrote in his 2004 book, Against All Enemies: Inside America’s War on Terror—What Really Happened,“It was as if Osama bin Laden, hidden in some high mountain redoubt, were engaging in long-range mind control of George Bush, chanting, ‘Invade Iraq, you must invade Iraq.’”

Mr. Bush committed sociocide against that country’s twenty-seven million people. Over 1 million innocent Iraqi civilians lost their lives, in addition to millions sick and injured. Refugees have reached five million and growing. He destroyed critical public services and sparked sectarian massacres—massive war crimes, which in turn produce ever-expanding blowbacks.

Canadians might be most concerned about your increased dictatorial policies and practices, as well as this bill’s provision for secret law and courts in the name of fighting terrorism—too vaguely defined. Study what comparable practices have done to the United States – a course that you seem to be mimicking, including the militarization of police forces (see The Walrus, December 2014).

If passed, this act, piled on already stringent legal authority, will expand your national security bureaucracies and their jurisdictional disputes, further encourage dragnet snooping and roundups, fuel fear and suspicion among law-abiding Canadians, stifle free speech and civic action and drain billions of dollars from being used for the necessities of Canadian society. This is not hypothetical. Along with an already frayed social safety net, once the envy of the world, you almost got away with a $30 billion dollar purchase of unneeded costly F-35s (including maintenance) to bail out the failing budget-busting F-35 project in Washington.

You may think that Canadians will fall prey to a politics of fear before an election. But you may be misreading the extent to which Canadians will allow the attachment of their Maple Leaf to the aggressive talons of a hijacked American Eagle.

Canada could be a model for independence against the backdrop of bankrupt American military adventures steeped in big business profits…a model that might help both nations restore their better angels.


Ralph Nader

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23 Responses to Ralph Nader’s Open Letter to Stephen Harper

  1. carlosbeca says:

    Harper will dismiss this and move on. The man is in love with his own beliefs which of course along with the market ideology came directly from God.
    Interestingly enough the new poll clearly show how easy it would be to get rid of these maniacs. He has the support of 35%. The Liberals 34% and the NDP 21% – this means that the Progressive voice in Canada is a strong 55% but in the First Past the Post that means NOTHING and they will govern us all with a majority because Justin Trudeau and Thomas Mulcair cannot talk to each other. And then we wonder how nations fail.

    • Carlos, the problem is Harper’s at 35% and Trudeau’s at 34%. Trudeau won’t cooperate when victory is so close he can taste it. Back to the anti-terrorism bill, I was very disappointed with the way the Liberal handled this. They won’t oppose it but say it’s so flawed they’ll amend it when they form government. If you need to fix it, then why are you supporting it? Answer: the polls show over 80% of Canadians support it (even though they likely don’t even know what’s in it). At least the NDP had the decency to say they opposed it before they said they’d amend it after they became government.

  2. Jim Lees says:

    Hear Hear, well stated.

  3. Ted Woynillowicz says:

    Patriot has been a word that has been used, deployed and tossed aroiund with wreckless abandon. If anyone has earned the authentic recogntion of ptriotism in the true sense, has lived and served by the spirit of what it is to be a patriot, it must surely be Ralph Nader. Mr Nader does not need or require a flag lapal pin to earn that title.

    • Carlos Beca says:

      Well Ted, I wished I had said those words myself. Great short paragraph that says it all. There is one but though as always. The present Conservatives do not understand patritism to this level. They are the ones who need the lapal pins to remember they are still Canadian. Their allegiance is to money and profits and once in the DNA it is almost impossible to change. I personally think that they are past the DNA, they are now at the Virus level. Ralph Nader is a great American and a great citizen of this planet.
      I should shut up now. 🙂

    • carlosbeca says:

      Well I have a correction and then shut up. I meant patriotism.
      It seems me and Ted are having a day with this word. 😦 😦

    • Ted and Carlos, I caught a snippet of news on CNN yesterday that focused on the “narrative” of patriotism. It’s devolved to: Republicans = patriots. Democrats = not patriots. Pathetic.

  4. jvandervlugt says:

    Wow! This is really good.

  5. Andrea Bosse says:

    Thanks for posting this Susan. As you already pointed out, unfortunately, what we are facing is not nearly as simple as left vs. right. We are witnessing all western governments, regardless of what end of the spectrum they represent, engage in the fear and war-mongering that is described by Mr. Nader, and the advent of the security/police state. Take Barak Obama (ironically a Nobel Peace Prize winner, who has not only endorsed and perpetuated, but intensified George Bush’s policies of war – bombing 7 countries in 6 years), as a case in point. As for Justin Trudeau’s position on this issue, I can only assume that his father, who is responsible for our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, is rolling over in his grave.

    • Andrea your point about Barak Obama intensifying George Bush’s policies is a perfect example of what Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Chris Hedges says is the biggest failure of the small “l” liberals. In a misguided effort to gain votes the liberals have moved so close to the small “c” conservatives (Republicans) that the two parties are indistinguishable. Hedges says this is the real reason that voters have become disengaged–they get the same old policies regardless of how they cast their ballots.

      • Carlos Beca says:

        I think Chris Hedges is absolutely right. In the US more than in Canada, but the situation here is not much different. The Liberal party is currently where the Conservative party use to be and the NDP in the space previously occupied by the liberals. I think if Jack Layton was still with us he probably would have had a chance to form the government in the coming election. Thomas Mulcair is a good leader and an astute debater but he seems to always be angry and that turns many people off.
        The liberal party is way to the right and for the same reason as in the US. They could not attract voters and they decidedly move to the right to be able to compete with the extreme right wing Harperists. If the conservatives win the next election, they will make the last push to where the Americans are because that is Harper’s final objective. Canadians so far have taken the bait even though they are only 39%.
        I have wondered many times why you are a Liberal because with the views that I read here you will have to be the most leftist liberal in Alberta. 🙂 you are in fact what I call an extreme left liberal. 🙂 🙂

  6. You know Carlos, I’ve wondered the same thing. Seems to me that given time extreme left liberals turn into moderate NDs. Frankly with the way things are going around here that time may be sooner rather than later! 🙂

  7. GoinFawr says:

    How many chances to elect ‘fire in the belly’ Ralph to POTUS did USeans waste? Every one. Canadians should take note, lest the world think them just as domeless, doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results.
    “You do it to yourself, you do, and that’s what really hurts.”-Radiohead

    “Patriotism doesn’t necessarily mean doing what your gov’t tells you, it means supporting the principles for which your country is supposed to stand.” -Howard Zinn

    RE:”Thomas Mulcair is a good leader and an astute debater but he seems to always be angry and that turns many people off.”

    That’s been slowly changing Carlos; as time passes and the odious legislation/evidence of corruption piles up I think that more and more (Canucks) are finding everyone else NOT ANGRY ENOUGH. Anecdotal, but in my (Canuckian) circle the attitudes have certainly changed dramatically since 2011. It bears repeating: the last federal election the only thing that separated the official opposition from the ruling party was about a million and a half popular votes; or a mere fifteen percent of those too ignorant/lazy to register their mandate.

    “Anger is an energy” – John Lydon.

    I have high hopes for Canada this year; but I would always settle for a minority gov’t over the horrorshow ‘majority’ Canada has in place right now.

    • Carlos Beca says:

      GoinFawr I agree with you in terms of Thomas Mulcair and believe me no one is angrier than myself. I was raised in a different culture and although I love the sense of calm and anti-argument typically shown by people born and raised in Canada, I have always said and still do, that it is extreme. Arguing respectfully even when voices get a bit stronger is good to resolve some intractable problems. The problem seems the be the usual. Humans are very bad on moderation. We have us Canucks and then ISIL. Not too many in between, at least as far as I know.

      I always have high hopes for Canada but unfortunately I am witnessing trends that really bother me. Canada is not the US or Germany, we are unique and if we took advantage of it we would astound the world with possibilities beyond what most people believe, but somehow 39% of people are driving us to a very well known path which is right in front of us in the South and which goes no where other than to half a dozen pockets. I am truly angry that the other 55% of us cannot get in sync and get this darn idiocracy out of there. We have the majority. They are devoid of anything that can be exciting and creative for the future of this great place we live in. I am sick of fear and the permanent sense of austerity, spin and distrust that this present government seems to thrive on.

      Always enjoyable to read your posts.

  8. Ole Infidel says:

    Great article and intelligent remarks/observations.

    I stood by, (believing 90% of Canadians were intellectually right beside me) during Gulf War 1, Chretien’s wisdom of avoiding Iraq, the rise of the American surveillance state, privatizing prisons, longer punitive prison sentences (amongst declining real crime) and the dramatic militarization of local police forces, thinking….. ‘ boy-o-boy, those Americans, what a bunch of red neck rubes ! ‘

    ….only, to witness a [Harper’s] minority of Canadians head down the same U.S. path, under theological subservience to the almighty Corporate mantel.

    While the Progressive Party of Canada was highjacked even farther to the right, by the [dung kicking] Reformers, it seems the Liberals slid into the void, entrenched even farther right of center. There is IMHO, absolutely very little difference between Canada’s Liberal and Conservative Partys; As long as Trudeau (listening to his corporate overlords counsel) keeps his mouth shut, he may have a small shot at fooling Canadians….

    I too, desire a coalition (politics of mutual agreement/compromise) of the left; however comma, as in America, our Liberal Party has long succumbed to the ‘right’ theology of corporate economics.

    Young Trudeau, has been accused of being unable/unwilling to express any platform; it’s as if he has been standing in front of the mirror (in Harper’s on-suite) admiring the reflection of power…….adopting every platform that the Americans slowly seem to be dropping (prisons, surveillance, torture, corptocracy) or at least acknowledging their errors.

    The shame is that Laureen, has not had the lady parts, to call either of them out; But, being Stephen’s second fiance/choice (to Cynthia Williams) in mates, //STRONG SARCASM ALERT// (the latter subsequently attested to Stephens ‘strong sense of loyalty’) she may feel the ground a bit unsteady.

    Harper has been accused of stating ‘you will not recognize Canada when I’m done with it’ [or words to that effect]; And he was right; up until recently, people like Duffy simply got run over by the Harper bus on inflated judicial charges. Post C-51/creeping fascism, is reminiscent of countries, where people simply disappear.

    * Please forgive the ramblings of this retired ole Canadian soldier.

  9. I so agree with Nader, Bravo for bringing this too light.

  10. Howard Jeglum says:

    Is Ralph Nader a Canadian or an American?
    Perhaps he should be more concerned with what is happening in his own country.

    • GoinFawr says:

      Uh, he spent his entire career being concerned with what is happening in his ‘own’ country; so much so he ran for President five times. Fortunately for hosers he has ‘fire in the belly’ to spare.
      Where the hell have you been, Howie?

    • carlosbeca says:

      I guess the Syrians, Iraqis and Libyans would say the same about us. I would anyway.

  11. Kathleen, GoinFawr and Carlos: I agree!

  12. Canadian guy says:

    Nader is correct and I am glad he has articulated it so well. Harper will say and do anything to be king of Canada. He has been recognized as being in contempt of our House of Commons and Parliament. This has not made any difference. He has lied and does not care about it. I have seen him referred to as a sociopath. I think it may be more accurate to call him a psychopath. He has even said that if he does not get another majority he will guit. He does not play well with others. His domocracy consists of everyone who agrees with him. ….. I have to stop now as my anger and blood pressure are rising. …..

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