Political activist Ralph Nader discusses his open letter to Canadian PM Stephen Harper in which he criticizes Harper’s fear mongering ahead of Canadian elections
JESSICA DESVARIEUX, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore. The Canadian government has introduced a bill, Bill C51, that is causing quite a stir amongst civil liberties advocates. The bill proposes to give Canada’s spy agency broad new powers to disrupt suspected terrorist plots. Also it will allow government departments to share private information more widely and grant them the authority to detain suspects without charge for longer periods. Canada’s Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, is advocating for a swift passage of the bill, and our guest today penned an open letter to Harper about just what he thinks about that bill. Our guest is Ralph Nader. He joins us from Washington, D.C. He is a renowned political activist, attorney, auto safety reformer, and consumer advocate. Thanks for joining us, Ralph. RALPH NADER, FOUNDER, CTR. FOR STUDY OF RESPONSIVE LAW: Thank you, Jessica. DESVARIEUX: So, Ralph, what was your message to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper? NADER: Well, stop slavishly following the U.S. militarization of its foreign policy, blasting away in one country after another regardless of international law, our U.S. Constitution, or even federal statutes. Canada used to be a leading peacekeeper. It had peacekeeping functions around the world under the auspices of the United Nations. That’s what its image was. But in recent years, it’s been deploying Canadian soldiers in the service of the belligerent boomeranging U.S. policy in Afghanistan, Iraq, elsewhere, wherever the U.S. seems to want Canadian soldiers to give them coverage under the rubric of coalition of the willing. It even reached so far that Prime Minister Harper, who was about to use $30 billion Canadian taxpayer dollars to buy into the boondoggle cost overrun F-35 fighter plane program of the U.S. Pentagon. Fortunately, there was such an uproar in Canada–that’s a big number for Canada–that he has put it on the shelf. But what does Canada need a aggressive fighter plane for? Who’s going to attack Canada? That is just to help bail out a floundering and long-delayed F-35 fighter program in Washington. So my letter to the prime minister was: return to your peacekeeping role, stop piling on more and more stringent laws that threaten Canadian democracy. As the editorial in The Globe and Mail, one of Canada’s leading newspapers pointed out in denouncing Prime Minister Harper’s proposal, stop criminalizing free speech, stifling dissent, and creating a politics of fear throughout Canada by exaggerating the jihadi threat in Canada. And, of course, that’s what he’s doing. While the exaggerations–he calls violent jihadism the greatest threat to the world he can remember. So I have to remind him about World War II and all the other huge, bloody civilian casualty wars. DESVARIEUX: Ralph, there are some that may agree with you that Harper’s language is sort of fear mongering. And he’s kind of playing into that. But still they feel like there needs to be a level of security maintained for everyday people against potential terrorist attacks, especially in light of the October 2014 shootings in Canada that killed two Canadian soldiers. How do you deal with a potential real threat from so-called home-grown terrorists or those that become radicalized once they go abroad? NADER: Well, first of all, those were lone wolf attacks. There is no evidence that they were connected with the Islamic State over there in terms of a plot, number one. Number two, how do you define terrorism? Are Canadian protesters, native Canadians protesting? The police move in on them, there’s a fight. Do they call these protests terrorism? The definition of terrorism is very vague in this bill. Number two, there already is very strong Canadian laws against what they call terrorism after 9/11. And civil libertarians from coast-to-coast in Canada, and academics expert in constitutional protections at Canadian universities, pointed out that there already plenty of existing laws in Canada to deal with the security issue. DESVARIEUX: Can you give me some specifics? NADER: Yeah, there’s investigative powers to the equivalent of our CIA. The police have been given surveillance equipment, as well as pretty advanced military equipment. And so the Canadian post-9/11 law can do already whatever our Patriot Act allows it to be done in this country. They can go into private records. They can engage in mass surveillance. This simply increases it. Why is he doing this? He’s doing this cause there’s an election coming up in the fall and he thinks selling the politics of fear works for George W. Bush, why wouldn’t it work for Stephen Harper. Totally unnecessary, and as The Globe and Mail pointed out, it pushes Canada closer to police state. Very un-Canadian like. DESVARIEUX: Alright. Do you see a future where Canada could sort of go back to the roots and become the peacekeepers of the world again? NADER: I think if there’s the change of government, although the liberals in Canada, the Liberal party, is sort of like the Democratic Party. They’re not what they used to be. The new Democratic Party, the NDP, which right now has the number-two number of parliamentarians in Ottawa, they give a little hope that if they can prevail or if there’s a coalition government between the Liberals and the NDP ousting the conservative government of Prime Minister Harper, that there’ll be a reversal. There used to be a lot of Canadian foreign policy conflict avoidance people in the UN, in New York. Last I checked, there’s only one left. That’s what’s left of the peacekeeping functions of the Canadian government before the Canadian government signed up in the perpetual war, militarization of foreign-policy of Washington, D.C. Alright. Ralph Nader, joining us from Washington, D.C., thank you so much for being with us. NADER: Thank you, Jessica. DESVARIEUX: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.
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