Some democracies fear their own people. Is Canada one of them?
Intolerant governments across the globe are "slowly crushing" activist and advocacy groups that play an essential role in the development of democracy, the Huffington Post reports that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Saturday.
Clinton's statement resonates this week in Canada, where security forces arrested some 900 peaceful demonstrators at the G-20 Summit. There were reports of police brutality by many credible sources. The Vancouver Observer will be talking with some of the journalists who were among those arrested, journalists representing the UK Guardian and the Globe and Mail. Their reports of police terrorizing teenage girls, as young as 14, who were peacefully partaking in the party-like atmosphere outside the detention pens in Toronto last Saturday would shock me no matter where it happened, but the fact that this took place in Canada is particularly shocking. Clinton's statement places the G-20 security overload in a chilling analysis of a world crack-down on dissent. Her statements leave me wondering what will remain of democracy internationally in light of this. Huffington Post reports:
She cited a broad range of countries where "the walls are closing in" on civic organizations such as unions, religious groups, rights advocates and other nongovernmental organizations that press for social change and shine a light on governments' shortcomings.
Among those she named were Zimbabwe, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Cuba, Egypt, Iran, Venezuela, China and Russia.
"Some of the countries engaging in these behaviors still claim to be democracies," Clinton said at an international conference on the promotion of democracy and human rights. "Democracies don't fear their own people. They recognize that citizens must be free to come together, to advocate and agitate."
Before an audience of several hundred senior government officials, Clinton recalled Winston Churchill's warning 60 years ago at Fulton, Mo., that an iron curtain was descending across Europe. She noted that with the collapse of the Soviet Union, that curtain no longer remains.
"But we must be wary of the steel vice in which governments around the world are slowly crushing civil society and the human spirit," she said. Social activists, Clinton said, are being harassed, censored, cut off from funding, arrested, prosecuted or killed.