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Shutting Down Rights and Democracy in Canada

Shutting Down Rights and Democracy in Canada

Earlier this week, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird announced that the Canadian government is scrapping Rights and Democracy as part of its cost cutting measures.  At first glance, the announcement seems to be a fit with the Harper government’s actions and policies, which have included:

But, alas, the Harper government wasn’t truly announcing that their government does not support human rights and democracy. Instead, they were announcing the closure of the International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development, also known as Rights and Democracy.

Rights and Democracy was founded in 1988 by the Mulroney government with a mission to “support the universal values of human rights and the promotion of democratic institutions and practices around the world”.  But the agency has run into a lot of troubles in the past few years, including resignations, staff revolt, suspensions, break-ins, forensic audits and the President of the agency dying of a heart attack shortly after a contentious board meeting.

A short note on Rights and Democracy’s website publicizes its statement following the announcement:

We are aware of the intention to bring forward legislation repealing Rights & Democracy’s statute and we will act accordingly. We will not comment on the decision. We will respect it. If so directed by the Board, we will proceed with a timely and organized wind down of our operations. Our staff will be treated fairly and respectfully.

Minister Baird indicated that the function carried out by Rights and Democracy would be moved to the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.  NDP foreign affairs critic Hélène Laverdière, however, says that the department cannot replace the expertise found in this independent body. Liberal foreign affairs critic Dominic LeBlanc told the CBC:

This Conservative government has tried to use Rights and Democracy to advance its own ideological agenda. When that failed, they drove the organization into trouble and then killed it off as a ‘cost-cutting’ measure.

Liberal MP Carolyn Bennet told the Globe and Mail that this is in line with the Conservative government’s previous cuts of funding to the Canadian Council for International Cooperation and KAIROS.

Given the troubles at the agency, the decision to cut it may very well have been a good one. But with this government’s track record in partisan funding cuts and attacks on democratic process in this country, the motives for the decision certainly appear to be about more than simply saving money and putting a troubled organization out of its misery.

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Photo credit: scazon on flickr

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91 comments

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1:05AM PDT on Apr 7, 2012

Everyone should send a letter to harper. Stating our displeasure with his policies!

12:52AM PDT on Apr 7, 2012

Now there country is in shambles. We supported mercenary invaders from outside the country to overthrow someones leader who was loved by most of his people. There was no joblessness there the wages were high and the country beautiful..how oppressive...LOL. now it looks like shit. People are dead or homeless or unemployed. They didn't play ball with the u.s. that was why they were punished!

12:44AM PDT on Apr 7, 2012

We shouldn't have bombed Libya for the u.s.a. and killed innocent people this happened on harper's watch and we shouldn't have let that happen. Makes me ashamed as a Canadian that we are adopting u.s. war values. Makes me sick!

12:38AM PDT on Apr 7, 2012

Harper is a menus. He is a bush/ Obama lacky. He craps on freedom and democracy. He needs to go!

4:02PM PDT on Apr 6, 2012

Well from the last few comments and on the other Canadian thread, it appears as a whole Canadians are rather impresses with Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird by scrapping Rights and Democracy as part of its cost cutting measures. I truly felt saddened by the plight of the apparent situation that was painted here yesterday, but now I'm only interested in the plight of the baby seals that are still clubbed to death after so many decades of protesting from the international community.

3:13PM PDT on Apr 6, 2012

@ Stefanie D.
Honestly I do agree with you on the niqab issue. Canada is a welcoming land so I see no evil on removing this for citizenship and other official ceremonies. I think to live in harmony compromise is necessary unlike the one way deal that we usually see around here. I think people who come here also has to put their part and cooperate from BOTH sides. I am married to a Canadian and I'm a resident and as such I like what Canadians have achieved as a society and I wouldn't like that to be lost or faded away.
The host land should not submit 100% to foreign values and those who are being welcomed should embrace some of the Canadian values without necessarily losing their identity since it's the land that is providing for them. That's how you achieve harmony by reaching a MIDDLE GROUND.
Now, this is a very delicate subject because sometimes when you open the door to things like this you might be opening the door to other kind of problems that might actually step on rights and democracy so it's an issue that has to be approached with extreme care and thought.

1:50PM PDT on Apr 6, 2012

RE: CONCEALMENT (Niqab)
Nothing wrong with banning culture of foreign lands that are in fact ANTITHETICAL to Canadian values... that could threaten to DEVALUE if not DISMANTLE Canadian values...
It makes sense MANY non-Canadian values are hostile to Canadian values, and should be considered CONTRABAND, and thus CONFISCATED or CONTROLLED or MODERATED so as NOT to ENCOURAGE CONCEALMENT, SECRECY, OPPRESSION, and NON-OPENNESS or DECEPTION of Individual Identities. Verifiable Identities of course must be FULLY accessible by ALL PEER member citizens, not just the select few (cultural elitism).
It is a FACT some FOREIGN cultures see DECEPTION as a VIRTUE used to overcome those who are DIFFERENT, to make others like us SUBMIT to THEIR values, foreign to ours. And such means is a OPENLY part of their culture.

1:22PM PDT on Apr 6, 2012

Thanks for posting Annie U.
I still have a lot to digest before commenting. So far it is not good!

9:54PM PDT on Apr 5, 2012

Hang him by his balls before it's too late.

9:18PM PDT on Apr 5, 2012

the title says it best, perhaps

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