Slowly but surely the Harper government is shutting down agencies and silencing the voices of those that disagree with them. After shutting down programs and shutting scientists up, they are now going after charities and interest groups.
First they put new tax rules in place in their omnibus budget bill that reduces the amount Canadians can donate to charities that are considered too politically active and allowing the minister to withhold tax receipts if he or she decides the charity is doing too much political work.
Now the Health Minister has refused funding to 16 of 20 applications made by the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Action Network. The Network’s mandate is to ensure that the human rights of people living with HIV and AIDS are respected and to advocate for laws and policies that “facilitate HIV prevention efforts, as well as care, treatment and support for people living with HIV/AIDS.”
The Harper government has decided that advocating for people living with HIV/AIDS or at risk of developing the disease is too controversial an effort to receive government funding – presumably because of the populations most at risk of contracting the disease. This shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. After all, the same Conservative government spent thousands in taxpayer dollars and years fighting against a safe injection site in Vancouver that has saved lives.
The spokesperson for Minister of Health, Steve Outhouse, told the Globe and Mail that the decision doesn’t mean that non-profits that do advocacy work can’t get federal funding, it just means they can’t get funding for their advocacy work. Of course, deciding what qualifies as advocacy work is up to the government.
The Network, now facing layoffs and program cuts, will serve as a bleak message to other non-profits that work for the benefit of marginalized populations. If any kind of advocacy is deemed too political, and thus ineligible for funding, a multitude of non-profits could be wiped off the map.
If you don’t fit into Stephen Harper’s ideology, you’re going to have to fight that much harder to continue any work you’re doing, and it could be a big loss for our society.
Photo Credit: JoséMa Orsini