11.13.2012 12:18 AM

In today’s Sun: Harperian bureaucratic fascism

…In one editorial published before the May 2011 federal election, Mennonites were reminded about the pacifism that is at the centre of their faith, and to vote accordingly.

The same magazine also published articles urging government to “spend less money on war.” There was another story urging compassion for the poor.

There was also one applauding young Mennonites advancing the tenets of their faith through involvement in politics.

For those sins, some faceless thugs at the Canadian Revenue Agency sent a letter to the Mennonites. The letter warned them they were going to lose their charitable status if they published “editorials and/or articles that appear to promote opposition to a political party, or to candidates for public office,” and that under the Income Tax Act, charities are “prohibited from engaging in partisan political activities.”

The letter blandly described itself as a “reminder,” but Canadian Mennonites knew what it was. It was yet another government telling them what to think — and threatening to punish them if they didn’t.

The Mennonites quietly noted that they’d once been critical of Toews. Maybe that’s what it was all about. They’d been critical of a powerful man.

The Mennonites have said, with some considerable sadness, that they’ll go along with the demands of the fascists in the federal government. That, I think, is a real shame.


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    que sera sera says:

    It appears to be the ongoing history of Mennonites: pacifist submission & then emigration to avoid persecution from fascist governments. Canada used to be the end point, not the start point, of such migrations.

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    Patrick Deberg says:

    This is tragic on so many levels……………………(sigh)

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    Peter says:

    This is the same “government” (and I use the term lightly) that cites national security as a reason to pass laws that allow unfettered access to any Canadian’s e-mail. That any Cabinet Minister can access at will or hire on in their agency to do so for them. This is the same “government” whose most notorious fraud Del Mastro wants a law that would make illegal commentary or posts on threads using an alias.

    This Harper Reformacons talk about protect people from the government…but these thugs are the first to threaten and extort Canadians.

    Remember, this thug in the PMO stood at the bed of a dying Chuck Cadman and tried to use his family as bargaining chip to buy his vote in the house of commons…

    That in itself, is all you need to know about Harper.

    And Harper has been living up to it ever since.

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    Cynical says:

    I might be mistaken, Warren, but reports of this incident have been circulating for some time in various blogs, and this seems to me to be the first mention of this in the main stream media apart from the CBC.
    Thank you for reporting this, but aren’t the rest of the major papers a bit slow on this? Seems to me to be a pretty serious issue. Has there been any mention by the Opposition in Parliament?
    For a little background on the Mennonites, I suggest Arthur Kroeger’s book, “Hard Passage”. Mr. Toews is an embarrassment to his forbears, as well as the species.

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    smelter rat says:

    Wow, your column has unleashed a torrent of hate stupid in the Sun comments section.

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    Windsurfer says:

    How do you hold the CRA to account when they appear to be so all-powerful?

    Maybe Kevin Page will take them on.

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    Philippe says:

    This is why we’ll kick their ass in the next election. This kind of injustice needs to be brought up during the election – preferably during a televised debate.

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      David says:

      Unfortunately this is all too easy to dodge and weave around unless it’s fully investigated and -proven- that leadership had knowledge. Without that, it’s just another weak attack.

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    Brad says:

    The Harper Government at work.

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    Np says:

    Having spent this past Remembrance Day weekend watching more than my fair share of war documentaries, I can’t help but read this article with a bit of disdain. Fascism? Seriously? This isn’t fascism. This is nothing more than what was described in the article: “…some faceless thugs at the Canadian Revenue Agency sent a letter to the Mennonites” telling them what to write. (Which is an undeniable tragedy. There is nothing worse than a bureaucrat who has the power to fuck with your life yet is unaccountable to anyone. When that happens, we’re all right in pointing that out and calling foul.)

    But I am so sick and tired of partisans and radicals alike calling Harper a Fascist. The CRA, like any other government institution, is massive and run by an equal mix of competent employees, mindless pedantic drones, and “faceless thugs”. I understand the need to attack a Prime Minister when he’s not from your party. As I’ve said here before, he’s given us plenty of reasons to. But please stop calling him a fascist. It belittles the word and only lowers the level of debate. Stop playing connect the dots with innuendo.

    Warren, if Harper or one of his ministers explicitly instructed the CRA to muzzle the charity, show us the proof and send it to the appropriate authorities. Because if it’s true, it belongs in a court of law, not the court of public opinion. If this is what happened, I’ll be the first one demanding that heads roll. They (and in fact anyone) should be able to proclaim their support for peace without fear of reprisal from some asshole government bureaucrat(s). While I’m not saying that it’s impossible, there is nothing in your article that proves any kind of coordinated political suppression happened. (I’m not saying it didn’t happen, I’m saying there’s nothing in your article that proves it.) If this is just some asshole bureaucrat being an asshole with you trying to use this to shame the Prime Minister (like you did that time you tried to imply he was telling racist jokes with a known racist at 24 Sussex) then all I have to say is…


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      Attack! says:

      It stems from Budget 2012: the Harper Government explicitly allocated more resources & directives to cracking down on — i.e., investigating and penalizing — charities being political / doing advocacy:

      see the section on “Enhancing Transparency and Accountability for Charities” http://www.budget.gc.ca/2012/plan/chap4-eng.html

      even though that’s exceedingly rare: http://www.cbc.ca/m/touch/news/politics/story/2012/04/25/politics-charity.html

      and that — i.e., WHO they investigate — has always been complaint-driven, but, like Elections Canada, I think they don’t have to reveal who the complainant was. So whether the annoyed complainant is a partisan MP, the MP’s staff, or a sock-puppet like EthicalOil, the Conservatives can and most likely are using Budget 2012 to use the state’s apparatus to silence their critics.

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        Np says:

        This actually makes sense. Thank you for the information. I actually like the idea of tax-exempt charities being told to not be overtly political. If you’re getting a ride from the car that is the state, you shouldn’t be telling the driver how to drive. If you want to do that, get out of the charity business and become a pundit/lobbyist or political operative.

        Since it’s anonymous, any partisan from any party can make an anonymous complaint against any charity and take an equal partisan jab at anyone. If anyone can make a complaint, then this is’t fascism at all. Thus further justifying my original disdain in the headline and content of this article. This isn’t “HARPERIAN BUREAUCRATIC FASCISM”, this isn’t even bureaucratic fascism. This is just another day at the office at the CRA and that’s the true tragedy. If Warren has a problem with that, I’d say he has a point and he’d be right to be outraged. But stop dragging hyperbolic politics into this. If you attach the PM to this problem, the problem won’t get solved. The people who love him will still love him and will (wrongly) defend the CRA. The people who hate him will still hate him and devote their energies to getting him ousted from power and will ignore the problem of a cold hearted, overgrown, often incompetent and never accountable bureaucracy. Nothing will get solved and everyone will get muddy. So, once more, from the top… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_vruB6QODDM

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          Warren says:


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            Np says:

            Quote from this book defining fascism:

            Emilio Gentile suggests, “A mass movement that combines different classes but is prevalently of the middle classes, which sees itself as having a mission of national regeneration, is in a state of war with its adversaries and seeks a monopoly by using terror, parliamentary tactics, and compromise to create a new regime, destroying democracy.”

            Warren, are you trying to convince me that this is Stephen Harper? Not Stephen Harper: impotent to face the bureaucracy. Or Stephen Harper: New tax rules make difficult for charities to participate in political campaigns. No, you’re going with Harper: Fascist.

            Ok. How is the above definition (in its entirety) applicable to Stephen Harper and his government? If you answer that, then how can you say it any less applicable to any Prime Minister before him?

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      Peter says:

      NP, listen cowboy, how bad does it have to get before you call it for what it is? If you have been following the Harper M.O. he behaves in a most fascist was and uses proven fascist means to destroy and smear.

      Take the RIghts and Democracy travesty that Harper was behind. Perfect subversive tactic…send in your people to create a crisis where no crisis exists, humiliate, accuse and threaten, use underhanded tactics to undermine. Harper was out to destroy Right and Democracy…the attack was so thuggish that the long standing President had a heart attack and died. Ask the man’s wife if she thinks that Harper used fascist tactics.

      Fascism exists in all form and manner.

      Our country, this country, our Canada, has a very high standard towards our freedoms and rights…our democracy…and as Frank McKenna once said about the Liberal Party dealing the Harper gang…They’re dealing with a bunch of thugs in the PMO.

      It’s bad going to worse…

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        Np says:


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          Peter says:

          Great video for what the filmmaker had to work with. Like the band. It’s sound. But predicable. As a reply to my post. Boring. All effect no substance as a response. You have to wake NP. Stephen Harper uses whatever means he can to circumvent our democracy. It speaks well of our democracy that he is hobbled to put off the crap he would really like to…and if he could he would…that is the danger.

          For example Harper has violated and bastardized our Elections Act with ever back room tactic and scheme his lawyers and campaign managers could concoct.

          So Harper is on some sort of lease…good for Canadians…and he will continue to stretch that lead…not for the good of this country and 60% of Canadians that voted otherwise….but for his own personal political gain.

          He is our Republican George W. Bush and Romney…Harper lies to Canadians whenever it suits him, smears and character assassinate loyal working public servants.

          Harper obviously learned well when he was a member of the Northern Foundation, the NCC and the right wing Reform Party…yet now he calls himself a Conservative…

          Harper is much a Conservative as Pierre Trudeau was P.Q.’sd

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            Warren says:

            He was never a member of the Northern Foundation.

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    Ronald O'Dowd says:


    Canada is supposed to be better than that.

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    Torgo says:

    Hmmm, has the Fraser Institute received similar letters? Especially when they got hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Koch Brothers (remember the furor over the Tides Foundation and ‘foreign’ money)?

    Folks on the right should realize that practices like this have a nasty way of coming back to bite you in the ass; you aren’t going to be in power forever.

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    Derek Pearce says:

    Gives new meaning to “Canada’s Action Plan” doesn’t it?

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    Bluegreenblogger says:

    I think that the publication does not have to change very much to comply with the law. Just be a little more careful about how they say what they want to say. Might not be a bad idea to incorporate their publication as a seperate not – for – profit, or charity, so they do not lose everything over some libel suit, or CRA finding. If they do not name names or partys then they can spend up to 10% of their money on political activities. Just remember, there are an awful lot of very consevative charities that would be buying elections lock stock and barrel if partisan politics were allowed them. For that matter, there are a lot of charities of all stripes, and I suspect that there would be a whole slew of phoney charities acting just like PAC’s south of the border if there were not limits to what registered charities could do in politics.

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      Doreen Martens says:

      Canadian Mennonite is, in fact, a separate charity, not an arm of Mennonite Church Canada. It is so precisely because it wants to maintain its independence from the church, which also receives critique in its pages. The article is incorrect on that point.

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    david says:

    Ok we’ll skip Hitler references and fascism. How about Robespierre. Harper does have three more years and who knows… maybe armbands and balconies are in our future. Warren can’t you come with some kind of creative slapp suit to grind the gears a bit?

    we know who pulls the strings
    hiding in the wings
    the little bully from Hogtown
    our wannabe king

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    Greg Renouf says:

    The Mennonites often do cross the line between being a charitable organization and a political one. You may find it interesting to know that they run a similar ‘money laundering’ service to the TIDES Foundation. People donate cash to the Mennonite Church, get tax receipts, and then the money is relayed to the organization they’re donating to. When the CRA was warning the church, it was for good reason…


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