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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.”

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