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Sunday, July 27, 2014

Heartless on the Hill

Mr. Harper, Call Off CRA's Attack Dogs and Start Treating Taxpayers With Care

An Open Letter to Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada
Dear Stephen,

Please cast your mind back to the summer of 2001. You were the president of the National Citizens' Coalition. I was a lawyer in private practice. The two of us, together with the head of a Canadian think tank, had a conference call. We discussed the idea of setting up a charitable organization that would bring court challenges against laws and government actions that violated citizens' rights.
We all thought something needed to be done. Individual Canadians were being trampled by an ever-growing state.

Maybe the courts could help, we thought. You yourself were fresh from a courtroom victory (Harper v. Canada (Attorney General), 2001 ABQB 558 -- later, unfortunately, overturned) in which the Alberta Court of Queen's Bench struck down federal election spending limits as violations of freedom of expression and freedom of association.

No specific action was decided upon in that conference call, but here we are 13 years later. You are now the Prime Minister of Canada. I am now the litigation director of the Canadian Constitution Foundation (CCF). The CCF is a registered charity that brings court challenges against laws and government actions that violate citizens' rights -- exactly the sort of institution we talked about thirteen years ago.

Read more:

I'm sure you're too busy to pay much attention to what the CCF has been doing, so let me tell you about a recent victory we achieved. We assisted a taxpayer named Irvin Leroux in getting a decision from the BC Supreme Court, holding that Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) owed him a duty of care and breached its duty towards him. This was a precedent-setting ruling: never before had the CRA been told by any court that it had a duty towards individual taxpayers to treat them with care, and not to be negligent towards them. The horror stories I've heard over the past four years, as we've shepherded Mr. Leroux's case through the courts, have convinced me that the CRA treats enormous numbers of taxpayers in a cavalier, irresponsible, bullying manner that brings shame upon the agency and everyone who is supposedly overseeing it.

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