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Margaret Atwood, Stephen Lewis Join Coalition Calling on Canada’s Next Government to Protect Dissent and Democracy

Attacks on civil liberties, the right to protest, freedom of information and democracy must be put to an end by Canada’s next government, according to a group of organizations called the Voices-Voix Coalition.

Famed Canadian author Margaret Atwood, former Canadian ambassador Stephen Lewis and former federal justice minister Irwin Colter are backing the demand, saying Canadians have faced an unacceptable erosion of their democratic rights in recent years.

“We have been witness to a fundamental shift in the tone and tactics of the federal government, moving to shut down debate and dissent,” Atwood said.

“We need to ensure that these actions — from defunding of women's organizations, to limits on free expression found in laws like Bill C-51 — do not become the new normal.”

Changes to Canadians’ right to know and rights to speak out are documented in Voices-Voix’s recent report Dismantling Democracy: Stifling Debate & Dissent in Canada.

The report “superbly captures these concerns, helping us remember what we have lost, and what must be undone by future governments,” Atwood added.

Stephen Lewis, former ambassador for Canada to the UN said “the evisceration of cherished Canadian values should be front and centre in this campaign,” adding the report is “a staggering compendium of political abuse.”

Documenting the abuse of political power and “arrogance” of Canada’s federal government “drives us all to recognize that unless the government of Canada changes course, the Canada we once knew is definitively doomed,” Lewis said.

Human rights advocate and former federal justice minister Irwin Colter said election debates focused primarily on jobs and the economy but didn’t focus enough on “issues relating to the promotion and protection of Canadian constitutionalism, the Charter of Rights, respect for Parliament, the independence of the judiciary, and in particular the protection of our democratic space and civic engagement.”

In a press release the Voices-Voix Coalition said that while the outcome of the election is still unclear, “what is certain…is that the MPs elected will have important, urgent and unanswered questions to address about the future of dissent, democracy and civil liberties in Canada.”

Like a kid in a candy store
When those boxes of heavily redacted documents start to pile in, reporters at The Narwhal waste no time in looking for kernels of news that matter the most. Just ask our Prairies reporter Drew Anderson, who gleefully scanned through freedom of information files like a kid in a candy store, leading to pretty damning revelations in Alberta. Long story short: the government wasn’t being forthright when it claimed its pause on new renewable energy projects wasn’t political. Just like that, our small team was again leading the charge on a pretty big story

In an oil-rich province like Alberta, that kind of reporting is crucial. But look at our investigative work on TC Energy’s Coastal GasLink pipeline to the west, or our Greenbelt reporting out in Ontario. They all highlight one thing: those with power over our shared natural world don’t want you to know how — or why — they call the shots. And we try to disrupt that.

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Like a kid in a candy store
When those boxes of heavily redacted documents start to pile in, reporters at The Narwhal waste no time in looking for kernels of news that matter the most. Just ask our Prairies reporter Drew Anderson, who gleefully scanned through freedom of information files like a kid in a candy store, leading to pretty damning revelations in Alberta. Long story short: the government wasn’t being forthright when it claimed its pause on new renewable energy projects wasn’t political. Just like that, our small team was again leading the charge on a pretty big story

In an oil-rich province like Alberta, that kind of reporting is crucial. But look at our investigative work on TC Energy’s Coastal GasLink pipeline to the west, or our Greenbelt reporting out in Ontario. They all highlight one thing: those with power over our shared natural world don’t want you to know how — or why — they call the shots. And we try to disrupt that.

Our journalism is powered by people just like you. We never take corporate ad dollars, or put this public-interest information behind a paywall. Will you join the pod of Narwhals that make a difference by helping us uncover some of the most important stories of our time?

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