Sunday, December 19, 2010

The trouble with R and D

When the International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development was created in 1989, its goal was precisely that what its name said -- and Brian Mulroney's decision to name Edward Broadbent as its first chair was no accident (although the fact it got up to speed during the Fall 1989 Revolutions in Eastern Europe certainly was) -- and Broadbent's nomination got quick ratification by Parliament.

By its very nature Rights and Democracy or R and D as it's come to be known was intended to be a non-partisan agency of Parliament and its leader an officer of Parliament in the same way the Auditor General, the Chief Electoral Officer and the Information and Privacy Commissioners are -- and as the other Parliamentary offices listed, intended to give independent advice to the executive branch, untainted even by the sometimes narrow interests of the Privy Council's Office.

To see the agency torn apart because some of its board members are Conservative hacks who have consistently denied funding requests to groups who question some of Israel's more hard-line policies in the West Bank and Gaza is quite alarming.   Conducting what some could quite rightly call a "witch hunt" against former board members is also disturbing as are suggestions R and D has "governance issues."   I don't consider stacking the deck to be merely a governance issue but contempt for Parliament itself.

Support of Israel should be a sine qua non, but using an agency of Parliament to promote a distorted agenda that is based on a false premise -- that criticism of Israel automatically should be equated with anti-Semitism -- is unacceptable.   Many people in Israel itself -- Jews! -- regularly criticize the ongoing presence of the Occupied Territories and what comes with it.   Does that make Jews themselves anti-Semitic?   A small number of rabbis outside Israel continue to hold to the position that no Jew has the right to "possess the land" until Moschiach comes.   Does that make them enemies of their own faith?

It is bad enough that those of us Christians who adhere to a "social gospel" view, or something like it, are denounced by the "Christianities" as not being Christian enough, or not their kind of Christian and therefore un-Christian period.   To bring in the controversy that exists within Judaism and use a taxpayer-funded and allegedly non-partisan agency to impose the views of a very narrow view of Christianity and Judaism violates the separation of church and state I thought we have here, what I believe we ought to have as part of the civilized society we call Canada.   Not to mention, the most enthusiastic "pro-Israel" politicians actually have a secret agenda:   the conversion of Jews at the end of the Age, under penalty of eternal damnation.   The Jews need not to be saved because they are already God's Chosen People.

It's going to take the wisdom of Solomon to fix the mess R and D got itself into -- wittingly or not.   The firewall between executive and legislative that statutes require for sui generis agencies of this type must be enforced.  I don't know if Broadbent wants his old job back, but surely there's someone one there in Canada with the kind of gravitas that genders respect from members of all four parties.   Otherwise, we need to de-fund the agency and create a new one that serves the purpose -- which is required to help Canada develop strong positions against those countries that aren't democracies or don't respect human rights:   Belarus, Fiji, Saudi Arabia and Singapore, just to name a few.

Methinks that Sinclair Lewis had a point when he wrote to the effect of "When facism comes to America, it will wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross."

UPDATE (Monday 2010/12/20 9:08 AM EST, 1408 GMT):   Much after I posted this, I realized there is another Parliamentary Officer that is supposed to be hands off but is someone the old Reformers have long wanted to get rid off:   the Official Languages Commissioner.

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