No, it’s not April 1st, no FTB has not turned into the Onion and yes, you did read the headline correctly. Stephen Harper is to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Yes, that Stephen Harper. The Prime Minister responsible for Canada’s unprecedented shift of focus from peacekeeping to full-on militarization. The man whose administration ruined Canada’s reputation internationally and even got us kicked off the UN Security Council.

This is the same Stephen Harper who clearly isn’t interested in bringing any sort of peace or justice to the homefront, either. He’s set out to augment our prison population by increasing sentences for small drug offenses, re-criminalizing sex work and criminalizing acts of dissent like wearing a mask at a protest.

Clearly there are many reasons why he should not win or even be considered for a prize of peace. But, to be fair, let’s look at the reasons for the nomination, in this case put forward by B’nai Brith:

“Moral clarity has been lost across much of the world, with terror, hatred and antisemitism filling the void,” B’nai Brith Canada CEO Frank Dimant said in the organization’s press release, “throughout, there has been one leader which has demonstrated international leadership and a clear understanding of the differences between those who would seek to do evil, and their victims. More than any other individual, he has consistently spoken out with resolve regarding the safety of people under threat — such as opposing Russian aggression and annexation of Ukrainian territory — and has worked to ensure that other world leaders truly understand threat of Islamic terrorism facing us today. ”

If you read between the lines, it’s pretty clear  “the differences between those who seek to do evil, and their victims” refers to Harper’s unwavering support of Israel’s humanitarian crisis-inducing assault on Gaza. Now even if your blinders are so thick that you feel this attack is justified, arguing that support for and encouragement of a military action makes someone a man of peace takes a logical leap much greater than the Canadian North, which, by the way, Harper is also trying to militarize.

The same goes for Russia and Ukraine. Even if you think someone is on the right side of a conflict, being on any side instead of working for a solution should automatically disqualify you from winning a peace prize.

War is not peace. Orwell’s 1984 was meant as a warning, not a guide.

So, while Harper clearly shouldn’t win, stranger things have happened. Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize before he had a chance to do anything. At least it was for the hope of peace in his campaign speeches and not for his drones.

Unless Harper does a complete about-face on most of his policies real soon, I think it’s important that we let the Nobel people know that Harper is in no way a man of peace and completely undeserving of this award. Looks like others feel the same way. There’s already a petition asking the Nobel committee to reject Harper’s nomination.

This is great, but maybe we should go one step further and think of our own Canadian nominees for the prize. It shouldn’t be that hard to find someone more deserving of a peace prize than Harper. If you have any suggestions, please leave them in the comments, or, at the very least, sign the petition.

We shouldn’t let our national embarrassment of a warmongering Prime Minister be celebrated as a man of peace. Even the very suggestion of such an accolade needs to be stopped and quickly.

It seem appropriate that just as the scientific community was gathering on parliament hill (the Death of Evidence Rally) to denounce the flat earth society that is trying to separate fact from policy in our government, a judge in Ottawa was questioning, in a roundabout way, the dearth of evidence that mandatory minimum sentences lead to lower crime rates or “safer streets” (to use the transparently political title of C-10, the omnibus crime bill passed by the Harper government during the last session of Parliament.)

Justice Paul Bellefontaine ruled last week that a man who had offered to sell a gun to an undercover police officer in a sting operation would not receive the minimum sentence of three years required by the criminal code, in accordance with the amendments to sentencing rules made by the Harper government in pursuit of their dumb on crime agenda. The man was not in possession of the weapon and probably couldn’t have delivered on his promise.

He was not alone in denouncing the provisions as being contrary to section 12 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, protecting against cruel and unusual punishment. In February another judge refused to impose a similarly draconian sentence on a extraordinarily boneheaded man who happened to be posing with a loaded gun in front of a webcam when police burst in on the scene looking for another suspect. It now seems certain that if either one of these cases were to make it to the highest court in the land the Supreme Court Justices would have no choice but to uphold these lower court judges in finding the new sentencing rules unconstitutional.

But the issue of treating criminals harshly is just the tip of the iceberg, legally speaking. The other problems this misconceived law creates are much broader in their implications, some of which have been addressed in these cases. Judge Anne Molloy declared that the discretion of judges was threatened by the Harper “law and order” agenda.

A huge role of common law judges traditionally has been to decide on the punishment, especially in cases where juries decide the guilt or innocence of a defendant in a criminal trial. Mandatory minimum sentences undermine this important judicial function while at the same time eroding the separation of powers between judiciary and legislative by tying the hands of judges.

Finally, there is the problem of there being a complete lack of empirical evidence for the deterrence argument to support the Harper policy of throwing the book at anyone who is found guilty of so much as a misdemeanour offense. As a matter of fact, most of the evidence seems to indicate that locking people up for any length of time leads to higher rates of recidivism (i.e. career criminals).

As Judge Malloy eloquently put it in her judgement, everyone wants to protect the general public from crime and prevent criminals from carrying out their nefarious schemes. “However, there is no tangible evidence that imposing a mandatory minimum does anything to actually accomplish that objective.”

Photo courtesy of Lorenzo Blangiardi via Flickr