Even as the controversy over the torture of transferred Afghan detainees rages at home, Stephen Harper is jumping on the human rights bandwagon internationally. The prime minister has been preaching human rights to the Chinese in Beijing and Shanghai, and condemning past Liberal governments for having a “values-free foreign policy.” This is astonishing for a leader who advocated that Canada join George W. Bush’s illegal war in Iraq, which resulted in hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians perishing both during and after the U.S.-led invasion.With their record, the fact that the Conservatives nevertheless present themselves under the rubric of being human rights advocates is audacious, a mark of a government willing to say anything, despite that very jarring contrast with their record. They count on Canadians not being able to get past their sloganeering, the Prime Ministerial speechifying that garners such attention on trips abroad. It's pure political calculation, saying one thing publicly, undoing decades of Canadian leadership on human rights issues behind the scenes.
While the Harper government uses the language of human rights to get votes back home, previous governments under Brian Mulroney, Jean Chrétien, and Paul Martin worked privately with Chinese leaders to seek the release of political prisoners, while publicly talking about how the rule of law and human rights would benefit the development of China’s society and economy.
It is equally astonishing for Harper to talk about a values-based foreign policy when he is the sole leader in the western world who has failed to request the return of a citizen from illegal imprisonment at Guantanamo Bay. The detention of Canadian Omar Khadr, held at Guantanamo since his capture as a child soldier, is a gross violation of the Convention of the Rights of the Child, a global human rights treaty championed by former Conservative leader Brian Mulroney. Yet it does not seem to bother the sensitivities of the present Conservative leader. The hypocrisy continues with the cancellation of all funding for Kairos, one of the most active Canadian human rights organizations internationally.
Such hypocrisy should come as no surprise. The same actions are evident at the domestic level. While overdue apologies were given for the trauma suffered by generations of First Nations individuals in residential schools, the hard won agreement to establish fundamental social and economic rights for the same First Nations in the Kelowna Accord was killed by the Harper government. While the prime minister praised the democratic and human rights traditions of India during his recent visit there, back home his government cancelled the Court Challenges Program that helped minorities afford access to the protections of the Charter and cut the equality mandate of Status of Women Canada.
To burnish their newfound values-based foreign policy and garner the Jewish vote in Canada, the Conservatives are now attempting to taint opposition parties with anti-Semitism in their international activities through propaganda flyers filled with distortions of the truth. It is beyond tawdry and despicable that these attacks are aimed even at world renowned Jewish MPs such as Irwin Cotler, who is leading a global fight against the Iranian leader’s genocidal talk against Israel.
Thankfully, those who are true champions of justice recognize when the language of human rights comes from the mouths of imposters only interested in garnering votes.
Tuesday, December 08, 2009
"Imposters only interested in garnering votes"
The "Human Rights Hypocrisy" of the Prime Minister, on full display during his recent foray to China is duly noted, deconstructed and exposed for the unsubstantiated posture it really is by Professor Errol Mendes. Shamefully excerpted in full, it's a good quick read: