What State Secrets Can the Canad

What State Secrets Can the Canadian People Not be Trusted to See?

Don Currie, Chair CPS

April 28, 2010


The April 27th ruling of House Speaker Peter Milliken was less a victory for the supremacy of the elected Parliament of Canada than it was for the supremacy of the unelected power of the state?  The Liberals and the NDP are wrong to hail the Milliken decision as a victory for the supremacy of Parliament.  It was nothing of the sort.

Peter Milliken provided all parties in the House of Commons a way to continue to exclude the Canadian people from asserting their supremacy and sovereignty over the state.  The state; the courts, the police, the internal security forces, the military high command, the Bank of Canada, the real instruments of economic and political power, are being protected and will continue to reign supreme and act independently of the oversight of the elected Parliament of the people of Canada.

That is the principle that has been upheld in the Milliken decision.  In effect, state secrets can be revealed to Privy Councilors, all sworn to uphold the supremacy of the state over Parliament and constrained by an oath of secrecy from telling the Canadian people what they may and may not see.

What if what is revealed to the Privy Councilors in the next two weeks, contravenes the constitution, violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, violates international conventions that Canada is signatory to, or reveals secret agreements signed between Canada and other states that have not been reported to and approved by Parliament?  What then?

Privy Councilors can see but not tell.  When Prime Minister Harper said that members of Parliament could not be trusted with state secrets, what he meant was that the Canadian people should not be allowed to see state secrets.  Harper doesn’t fear the opposition.  He fears the people.

If the Liberal and NDP opposition really believe in the Supremacy of Parliament they will refuse to participate in a process that excludes the people from viewing all of the work of the government and the state.  That is the nub of the question.

The NDP through their leader Jack Layton, a Privy Councilor, have agreed to the Milliken process.  By doing so Layton and the NDP have sent a message to the power elites, that when the chips are down they can be counted on to uphold the sovereignty of the capitalist state over the sovereignty and will of the Canadian people.  That is what being a Privy Councilor means.

The capitalist state is an instrument of coercion wielded by one class to suppress other classes.  Under capitalism the state exists to protect the private profit system.  That is its main function.  When the system is threatened, the coercive instruments of the state are used to defend the class privileges of capital and to suppress the people. 

In the 21st Century, it has become the norm for Canadian governments to go to war, without consulting Parliament and without declaring war on an alleged ‚Äúenemy‚ÄĚ. ¬†War is no longer first discussed in Parliament. ¬†War is first decided in the counsels of NATO, under interoperability agreements between Canadian and US armed forces. ¬†War is launched and then after the fact, Parliament is asked to sanction it.

There has never been a public discussion about who has the power to declare war.  There is a strong case that any military aggression that is not sanctioned by Parliament is illegal…or should be…!  If torture has occurred, resulting from an illegal war, it is doubly a crime, first because the war was illegal and secondly because it violates international statutes against the use of torture.

Is that the secret the Harper Government doesn’t want revealed and discussed?  Under what secret agreements was Canada involved in the war in Afghanistan?  Is that the secret that is being covered up and that the Milliken decision will prevent from being revealed?  How did we get into this dirty US-NATO war in the first place?  That is a secret every Canadian has the right to know about.

The NDP if it is consistently democratic and truly believes in the supremacy and sovereignty of the people over Parliament it will refuse to be bound by the rules of a process that will permit it to see state secrets but not tell the Canadian people what they are, even if those secrets are injurious to the welfare of the people.  The NDP is not obliged to do that.  It can refuse to participate in a secret process.

Why have all of the parties in the House greeted the Milliken decision and are willing to form a consensus around a pledge not to reveal state secrets?  What is it that all of the parties in the House of Commons fear?

An uncontrolled and prolonged Parliamentary crisis such as has been simmering in Canada for more than four years, creates political instability, provokes widespread public discussion that begins to question the legitimacy of the power of unelected entities over the state.  There is a growing demand for reasserting the rights of Parliament over unelected power elites.

The assertion that the Prime Minister wields power autocratically is well known.  What is never discussed is on whose behalf?

That is what the Milliken decision invites MP’s not to reveal.  It is an invitation to the Government to show and tell and the opposition to see and not tell.  

If the opposition parties agree to cobble together a majority consensus in the next two weeks, the result will be that the NDP and the Liberals will once again have provided the Harper Government with more time to rally its support base and prepare itself for the next election.  Let there be no mistake.  The Conservatives are the main danger to Parliamentary democracy and it is wrong to say otherwise.

The Harper Government’s contempt for Parliament has been demonstrated on many occasions.  How many more times does it have to happen before this undemocratic government is brought down.  The present affront to Parliament is another occasion not the cause of that contempt.

 All of the parties concerned have indicated that they intend to accept that escape mechanism provided by the Speaker’s ruling and find some type of majority accommodation to keep the Harper Government in power for as long as it seeks to stay there or until it deems it expedient to call an election.   That is a big political mistake, but more importantly it is a betrayal of the principle of the supremacy and sovereignty of the people over the state.

The opposition parties are declaring they have won a victory over the Harper Government.  Nothing is farther from the truth.  Harper will weather this latest crisis and may even live to form another government.  

The Harper Government should have been defeated months ago.  Why has the opposition parties time and again kept it in power?   Just what is it that they fear and seek to protect that causes all opposition parties, the Liberals, the Bloc and the NDP to continue to play this unseemly game?

The main argument is that the people of Canada do not want a federal election.  The opposition parties presume to know what the Canadian people are thinking.  TV commentators presume to know what the Canadian people are thinking.  University professors presume to know what the Canadian people are thinking.  Pollsters presume to know what the Canadian people are thinking.  Think tanks even tell the Canadian people what to think.

Why; because all of these observers only really know what they think and what they want the Canadian people to think.   They all agree that the Canadian people can’t be trusted with state secrets.

Why hasn’t the opposition parties long before now closed ranks and defeated the Harper Government and turned to the people of Canada with a clear appeal to oppose Prime Ministerial rule over the elected rule of Parliament?   For the same reason that Harper resorts to autocratic rule; they don’t trust the people either.

The opposition parties are fearful of a Parliament that acts independently of the economic power that stands outside Parliament but determines the policies of the Government.  That is the hidden hand of corporate power and finance capitalist power merged with the state.  That is the real power in the country and that is the power that needs to be brought under control and ultimately defeated and replaced.

The Canadian people are in the process of understanding that and in time will act on that understanding.