The mini-series How to Become a Tyrant provides extensive historical information about the playbook used by famous mass-murderers Stalin, Mao, Hitler and Pol Pot, and by dictators Idi Amin, Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi, Fidel Castro, and North Korea's hereditary communist monarchs Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-il, and Kim Jong-un. Using archive footage, photographs, and animated scenes, How to Become a Tyrant expounds on the playbook that advises tyrants to seize power, crush rivals, reign through terror, control the truth, rewrite history, replace facts with propaganda, corrupt science, choose a scapegoat, buy loyalty, promote conformity (by persuading people that conformity is unity), and replace God with a new state religion. The tyrant must be a law unto himself, such that he effectively becomes the state. He must then censor what he (the state) deems "offensive." The tyrant must destroy or at least diminish the human connections between people, and undermine the faith that people customarily have in each other; when people mistrust each other they are far more obedient to the state.
As we have entered the third year of our loss of Charter rights and freedoms, initially justified in March of 2020 with "two weeks to flatten the curve," I could not help but notice that some of the lessons of the tyrant's playbook have been applied in Canada.
Not that Prime Minister Trudeau has succeeded in wiping out all public opposition to his rule, the way that Fidel Castro did in Cuba after taking power in 1959. Not that Canadians are as fearful of communicating candidly with each other as Iraqis were from 1979 to 2003 when ruled by Saddam Hussein, whose secret police had eyes and ears everywhere. Not that we in Canada fear imprisonment, torture, or death to nearly the same extent that these have been feared by the people of communist North Korea since 1948. Not that Canadians whose bank accounts were recently frozen have been subjected to the level and intensity of terror that prevailed in the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin, whose regime murdered an estimated 20 million Soviet citizens deemed to be "enemies of the people." Not that Canada's government-funded media are yet controlled to the same extent that German media in the 1930s were required to conform to National Socialist ideology. Not that vaccine-free Canadians are in danger of being expelled from their own country, the way that Asians were expelled from Uganda in 1972 by Idi Amin. Not that God has been replaced with a new Canadian state religion to the same extent that religion was suppressed and persecuted by Mao Zedong and his successors in communist China. Not that our Prime Minister has become a law unto himself to nearly the same extent that Muammar Gaddafi was when he ruled Libya from 1969 to 2011.
Canada in 2022 does not resemble closely any of these historical examples. We had elections only six months ago, deemed by most Canadians to be free and fair, resulting in five different parties being represented in the House of Commons today. While media that are critical of the government receive no taxpayer funding, they are free to proclaim their dissenting messages. Only four pastors, three in Alberta and one in New Brunswick, have been jailed in Canada for peacefully refusing to comply with freedom-violating laws, a small number when compared to how many pastors have been jailed (or worse) by other regimes, past and present. Recent police brutality directed at peaceful protesters in Ottawa resulted only in injuries, not deaths. Most of the Canadian bank accounts that were frozen in February without any court oversight or other restraint on raw federal power have now been unfrozen. Canada's political prisoner Tamara Lich is legally prohibited from peacefully supporting the Freedom Convoy she participated in, and Ms. Lich is even barred from supporting anything related to this peaceful call for the return of our Charter freedoms, but at least she is alive and out of jail.
Most Canadians are still doing quite well when compared to people living under Stalin, Mao, Hitler, Idi Amin, Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi, Fidel Castro and Kim Jong-un, so why worry?
Because no democracy is immune from becoming a brutal dictatorship. Chileans had enjoyed many decades of stable democracy when General Augusto Pinochet seized power in 1973. Germans had the freedoms of speech, religion, association and assembly, and the right to form and vote for different political parties, until they elected Hitler to power in 1933.
Canada in 2022 is displaying ominous signs of repudiating the rule of law, the constitutional safeguard that protects Canadians from the abuse of political power.
The Prime Minister and provincial Premiers have publicly vilified and scapegoated Canadians who legitimately exercise control over their own bodies and decline the new mRNA Covid vaccines (which have not stopped the spread of the virus, contrary to promises made). Without using the words "enemies of the people," politicians now prevent a minority of Canadians from flying on airplanes, without scientific justification for this vicious discrimination. Provincial governments have used vaccine passports to turn some Canadians -- those making a personal medical decision about what will be injected into their own bodies -- into second-class citizens who could no longer access restaurants, movie theatres, gyms, swimming pools, and team sports. Colleges of Physicians and Surgeons corrupt science by aggressively censoring doctors who have dared to question the government's narrative regarding Covid treatments, lockdowns, and the new mRNA Covid vaccines. Challenged by a peaceful protest that inconvenienced some Ottawa residents, Prime Minister Trudeau declared a national emergency, froze the bank accounts of hundreds of Canadians who had donated to a cause disliked by the Prime Minister, and unleashed police brutality on unarmed citizens in Ottawa.
The de facto nationalization of most media; the vilification of an unpopular minority; citizens abused through a fake emergency; the freezing of bank accounts; the jailing of political dissenters. The state that starts to abuse its citizens gets a taste for it. Canada's politicians are likely to escalate this to higher levels.
Lawyer John Carpay is president of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (jccf.ca).
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