Do All Canadians have the Same Rights?: Letter to Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, Issued Jointly by Maple Sandbox and the Isaac Brock Society

In light of the Canadian Government’s ongoing IGA negotiations with the US, Maple Sandbox and the Isaac Brock Society today issued a joint letter to the Hon. James Flaherty, MInister of Finance, demanding an answer to one simple question, which to date he has not answered.  Do all Canadians have the same rights?  The letter is reproduced below.  As well, you can download a PDF of the letter here.

It has also been released to media outlets with the following message:

“Do all Canadians have the same rights? For two years, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has refused to answer that simple question while he negotiates with a foreign government trying to financially terrorize Canadian citizens, residents and financial institutions.

Now Isaac Brock Society and Maple Sandbox have put that simple question to Minister Flaherty in the attached Open Letter.

We hope you will bring this to the attention of Canadians and Mr. Flaherty. Perhaps you will be more successful at getting an answer from Minister of Finance than we have been.”

“OPEN LETTER TO CANADIAN FINANCE MINISTER JIM FLAHERTY

November 25, 2013

The Honourable James Flaherty, P.C. M.P

RE: FATCA: Canadian Rights vs. Foreign Demands

Dear Minister,

We write to you today asking a simple question: Do all Canadians have the same rights under Canada’s laws and our Charter of Rights and Freedoms?

Your government is quietly negotiating a new tax information sharing agreement with the United States that we fear will remove those rights from Canadians whom the U.S. wants to claim as their own.  We would like your assurance that no such removal is being contemplated.

There are at least a million people in this group, with another two or three million family members who will be affected by any agreement with the U.S. that compromises their rights.

We are law-abiding, responsible, tax-paying Canadian citizens and residents, many of us here for decades or our entire lives.  We live from Atlantic to Pacific to Arctic.  We have studied, worked, retired, earned an income, owned homes, raised Canadian-born families, volunteered, voted, participated in our communities, donated to Canadian charities, saved, invested, planned for our children’s education, their and our own disabilities and our retirement and diligently paid our federal, provincial and municipal taxes.

But now we are suffering as a foreign government tries to financially terrorize us.  There have been many sleepless nights. Marriages have been strained.  Health and careers have been affected.  Some have even contemplated suicide.

Our Canadian citizenship certificates describe us as:  “… entitled to all of the rights and privileges and bears all the responsibilities, obligations and duties of a Canadian citizen.”  We have met our obligations, and we now respectfully ask you, and the government of Canada, to meet your obligations to us.

As you are fully aware, the U.S. Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) demands Canadian banks, credit unions and other financial institutions provide information to U.S. Internal Revenue Service – either directly or through the Canadian government – on our accounts with them.

This is a nightmare for us, and it should be for your government.  Those accounts are often held with Canadian-born spouses and children.  Those assets were earned, saved, invested and taxed entirely in Canada. Income was reported to Canada Revenue Agency and taxes paid.  If we refuse to provide consent for transmission of our information to a foreign government, FATCA expects our banks to declare us “recalcitrant” and close our accounts.

FATCA violates Canadian banking, privacy and human rights laws and Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  Yet, under foreign threats, Canadian banks and financial institutions may violate those rights – possibly with help from your government through the imposition of an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA).

Mr. Flaherty, you yourself wrote “Canada is not a tax haven.  People do not flock to Canada to avoid paying taxes.” You called FATCA “unwarranted” and “extraterritorial.”  You insisted FATCA would “turn Canadian banks into extensions of the IRS and would raise significant privacy concerns for Canadians.”

Nevertheless, your officials are negotiating in secret with American officials for a “solution both countries will find agreeable.”  There should be no negotiating fundamental Canadian rights.  It should be clear.  Canadian laws and the Charter protect all Canadian citizens and residents.  Anything less makes us second class Canadians and surrenders Canada’s sovereignty to a foreign power.

So, again, the question is simple.  Do Canadian citizens and residents born in United States or with some bizarre past U.S. connection have the same rights as all other Canadians?

We implore you to answer now.  This nightmare has dragged on too long.

This letter is the collaborative effort of Canadians across Canada – most are active participants in the Isaac Brock Society and Maple Sandbox blogs.  Many do not want their names revealed now because of an impending betrayal of their financial privacy rights by their government and by their banks.  They fear the unprincipled predatory financial attack by the U.S. helped by that Canadian betrayal.

Lynne Swanson, maplesandbox at gmail dot com

Administrator, Maple Sandbox

Peter W. Dunn, petros at isaacbrocksociety dot ca

Administrator, Isaac Brock Society”

14 thoughts on “Do All Canadians have the Same Rights?: Letter to Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, Issued Jointly by Maple Sandbox and the Isaac Brock Society

  1. I just sent this to Flaherty with copies to Shoom, Hsu, Brison, Cotler, Rankin, Nash and May.

    We are still waiting for a reply to our Simple Question (November 25) on FATCA. Do all Canadians have the same rights under Canada’s laws and our Charter of Rights and Freedoms?

    Real politicians don’t answer questions. Real leaders do. Which are you?

  2. I called the Minister’s office again today–over six weeks since we sent our Open Letter to Minister Flaherty. They referred me to another government line.

    I then spoke with someone in Communications. She said their records show the letter was received and a “Policy Officer is working on it.”

    She could not advise when we might receive a response.

    I think we have an answer as to whether we have the same rights as all other Canadians. If the answer was yes, we should have had a quick reply.

    I advised them I would be posting their non-response at Maple Sandbox and I expected it would also be posted at Isaac Brock Society. Could someone else post it there please.

  3. Hang in there WhiteKat. All is not lost. At least they know that there is considerable dedicated Canadian pushback and resistance.

    This also comes at a bad time for the Minister of Finance, since the issue of PRPPs is coming up again http://www.canadianbusiness.com/economy/lost-in-the-execution/ . It is another one of Flaherty’s priorities, but of course suffersfrom the same fatal flaws that the other registered savings like the TFSA, RESP, and RDSP do – exposed to the extraterritorial tax laws of the US applied in Canada – and deemed to be taxable ‘foreign trusts’ and thus not only useless to > 1 million in Canada, but even worse, actively creating a ‘taxable foreign trust’ headache for those forced to enroll. If the provinces make workplace PRPPs mandatory – as Quebec apparently wishes, then that overnight creates a US taxable ‘foreign trust’ issue for all those Canadians who are also framed as ‘US taxable persons’ ‘abroad’.

  4. Blaze, you warm with your fire! I greatly admire your ability to articulate the issues in your correspondence and in your interaction with Flaherty’s office.

  5. @Blaze,

    Hugs for everything you have done. Unfortunately, I think you have your answer, and its not the one you want. At least you have your oath of allegiance to fall back on. Sorry to sound so pessimistic. I feel at the end of my rope with this.

  6. James Flaherty should get the above transcript of the telephone call. He can then refute your conclusion if he dares.

    I, too, come to the same conclusion. Why the run-around? Why can’t Canada . just . say . NO, all Canadians have the same rights.

    (The staff member will not soon forget the conversation that just took place with you, Lynne! He or she probably wonders the same thing we do, but of course cannot express such a thing.)

  7. I just had a conversation with Minister Flaherty’s office. Here’s a synposis:

    I identified myself, my city and the Open Letter sent on behalf
    of Maple Sandbox and Isaac Brock Society about FATCA.

    BLAZE: I’m calling to see when a response might be expected to that letter.

    STAFF: You should be getting a response shortly.

    BLAZE: The question is really a very, very simple question. The question is do all Canadian citizens and residents have the same rights under Canada’s laws and Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The answer is also simple. The answer is either yes or no.

    We keep getting these messages from Minister Flaherty that he is negotiating our rights with the Americans. We are being kept in the dark about that. We don’t know what’s going to be happening. I’m speaking for Canadians from Atlantic to Pacific to Arctic and we are at a total loss to understand why fundamental Canadian rights are being negotiated with a foreign government.

    I can understand that negotiations have to go on about FATCA, but what I don’t understand is why the government isn’t saying “We will negotiate with you, but the bottom line is we are not selling out the rights of our citizens and our residents to a foreign government for anything.”

    I’ve asked Minister Flahterty repeatedly to answer that question for the last two years. I’ve said we need a simple statement from the Minister that Canadian banks must adhere to Canadian laws and Canadian laws won’t be changed to accommodate a foreign government.

    The fact that he won’t reply to that is very alarming to me and is very alarming to thousands or hundreds of thousands of people across the country.

    STAFF: We’ve received your e-mail of November 25. It’s with the Minister of Finance. You should be getting a response soon.

    BLAZE: When will that be? Soon should not be a difficult word to understand, but Minister Flaherty has been saying for over a year that negotiations will be concluding soon or in the near future. It’s now been 13 months since he said that and 27 months since he said he was cautiously optimistic that Canada would receive a complete exemption from FATCA in the near future.

    Even the word soon doesn’t seem to have any meaning any more.

    STAFF: I understand your frustration at the uncertainty involved with the negotiation process, but I can’t speed it up personally.

    The best result now is for the Minister to respond to your letter. If they are no further in the negotiations, then that will be his response.

    LYNNE: So, then are we to assume that it is OK for Canadian rights under the Charter of Rights, under Canada’s banking laws, human rights code and privacy laws to be negotiated with a foreign government.

    That is the message that is being given to up to one million Canadian citizens that it’s OK to negotiate on our fundamental basic rights with a foreign government.

    STAFF: I can’t speak to that right now. You will have to wait for the Minister to respond to your enquiry soon.

    LYNNE: How soon will soon be? Will it be another 27 months?

    STAFF: I can’t speed up the process. It’s with the Finance Office right now. There’s nothing I can do at my end to expedite the process.

    BLAZE: Is there anyone that I can speak with who can explain to me why fundamental Canadian rights and Canadian laws are being negotiated with a foreign government? Would Canada be doing this if China or India or Mexico or Iran were making these demands? I don’t think we would. We would say “Of course, Canadian citizens born in those countries have the same rights as all other Canadian citizens.”

    But the government is not prepared to say that to Canadian citizens born in the United States.

    STAFF: Since your question is for Minister Flaherty, you should wait for him to respond to your question.

    BLAZE: I’m going to be really clear about the message I’m getting from this. The message I’m getting from this is “No, all Canadians do not have the same rights.” The fact the government will not make a simple statement saying “Yes all Canadians do have the same rights” tells me no, in fact, we don’t.

    For 27 months we have been treated as second class citizens in the country we have called home. In my case for 44 years. Some people are caught up in this nightmare simply because they were born in United States because it was the nearest hospital for their mothers to give birth 80 years ago.

    The government will not come out and say “We will protect our citizens and we will ensure that they have rights of all other Canadian citizens.” The refusal of the government to do that tells us that we are, in fact, second class Canadian citizens just because of where we were born.

    STAFF: I don’t think there’s anything else I can do to help you except to tell you that a response is coming. I can’t expedite it on my end, but I can tell you it has been received and you will get a response from Minister Flaherty.

    BLAZE: I hope it’s more than we’ve gotten over the past 27 months because that really hasn’t told us anything.

    STAFF Yes, it should be. The work is ongoing with FATCA and you will get a response.

    BLAZE: But, will we be told we have the same rights as all other Canadian citizens and residents?

    STAFF: I’m not sure what the response will be.

    BLAZE: Then you’ve just answered my question. The answer is no, all Canadians do not have the same rights. For something that basic, there shouldn’t be any question about whether all Canadian citizens and residents have the same rights.

    You have just answered my question and so has Minister Flaherty’s silence on this issue over the past 27 months.

    STAFF: I’m not speaking for Minister Flaherty and you will hear from him.

    BLAZE: I would like you to communicate that to Minister Flaherty. His silence on this for 27 months has answered our question. The fact our rights are being negotiated with a foreign government has answered our question.

    STAFF: I will communicate that to him.

    BLAZE: Thank you.

    STAFF: You’re welcome.

    I will wait another week and then phone again if we don’t have a reply.

  8. Great, thanks! And my others are now out of moderation as well — but very buried.

    Glad for the article and that our comments are getting through.

  9. I’ve just left this comment (and others in reply to comments already there) at CBC News: Canadian banks to be compelled to share clients’ info with U.S..

    calgary411

    “OPEN LETTER TO CANADIAN FINANCE MINISTER JIM FLAHERTY

    November 25, 2012

    The Honourable James Flaherty, P.C. M.P

    RE: FATCA: Canadian Rights vs. Foreign Demands

    Dear Minister,

    We write to you today asking a simple question: Do all Canadians have the same rights under Canada’s laws and our Charter of Rights and Freedoms?

    Your government is quietly negotiating a new tax information sharing agreement with the United States that we fear will remove those rights from Canadians whom the U.S. wants to claim as their own. We would like your assurance that no such removal is being contemplated.

    There are at least a million people in this group, with another two or three million family members who will be affected by any agreement with the U.S. that compromises their rights.

    The whole letter is at isaacbrocksociety dot ca.

    Still in moderation.

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