Wednesday, April 4, 2012

What price human rights?

The decision this week by the ruling Conservatives to abolish the International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development -- also known by the shorthand "Rights and Democracy" -- isn't so much about cutbacks to so-called "unnecessary services" as it is a victory for a right wing regime that has a very narrow view of what rights and democracy actually consist of.    The end was quite inevitable when the Cons while in their minority stacked the committee with hacks that ensured that several major human rights issues -- not the least of which is the Palestinian situation -- would get shoved aside.   Indeed, it was the fact that some NGOs who were pro-Palestinian (and therefore in PMS' view, "anti-Israel) were denied funding that pushed the situation to a head.

The reason why the Centre was created in the first place was to provide independent policy advice.   For that reason, the agency was put under the purview of Parliament, not the PMO.   It's the same reason why the Auditor General, the Chief Electoral Officer, and the Commissioners for Official Languages, Information and Privacy are also Parliamentary and not executive agencies.   While these offices technically file their reports with the House of Commons committee which handles their "envelope" (i.e. appropriation), they are in a long sense also advising the government on how to do things better.

If an agency is full of your own hacks, then it really can't be independent.   If the ham sandwiches actually manage to get a brain and say what's on their minds, then of course you would fire them.   It's the same reason why "clemency" boards in the States just rubber stamp death warrants 99% of the time, they don't want to displease their bloodthirsty governor who gave them their meal tickets.

It is entirely normal to put in your own people, that after all is one of the privileges of having patronage.   That may be fine for such things as the Parole Board, but a grouping that is supposed to be independent should be able to retain that independence.   Specifically, if there is a governing board, then the opposition parties ought to be consulted so there is a balance as well as a wide variety of viewpoints.

Ed Broadbent, the founding president of the agency, made it clear in his interview on Radio One's As It Happens last night that a functional agency was allowed to become dysfunctional.    And with the demise of Rights and Democracy has also ended one of the few voices that actually represented the views of all Canadians for freedom and legitimate elections.

But I guess we can leave that all to the Carter Center.    Or Amnesty International.   Or the Red Cross.

1 comment:

Carole said...

Nice post. You might like this post about not being perfect.