Thursday, June 05, 2008

Canada : Getting around our own principles

From "A History of Hypocrisy" by Regan Boychuk, in the Literary Review of Canada :

"In the 1980s, Canada was instrumental in creating and supporting the UN Working Group on Involuntary Disappearances, and in 2007 the Canadian delegate to the UN Human Rights Council reaffirmed that those responsible for enforced disappearances should not go unpunished. Nonetheless, as Human Rights Watch reported in 2006, Canada also worked aggressively to dilute key provisions of an international treaty on forced disappearances:

"To their disgrace, the United States and Russia strongly opposed the [treaty] effort, not least because each had begun using forced disappearances itself …
Canada contributed to this shameful opposition, not because it is known to forcibly “disappear” people, but apparently because Prime Minister Martin, eager to improve relations with the United States that had been strained under his predecessor, decided to run interference for one of his neighbor’s unsavory practices."
Despite the efforts of the U.S. and Canada, the text of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance—modelled after the UN Convention against Torture—was approved by the General Assembly in December 2006. Seventy-two countries have since signed it, neither the U.S. nor Canada among them. "

Mr. Boychuk then cites the 74 CIA flights made through Canada since 9/11 and Foreign Affairs department spokesman Rodney Moore's 2006 statement that "whether any particular rendition is lawful would depend on the facts of each individual case".

A depressingly familiar Canadian refrain, this public purporting to support progressive principles on the international stage while working secretly behind the scenes to prop up regressive American interests conflated with our own. More recent examples include our non-commitment commitment to Kyoto and our backroom watering down of the provisions against the use and manufacture of clusterbombs.

Professor Barry Cooper, friend to PM Harper, Senior Fellow at The Fraser Institute, and creator of a slush fund at the University of Calgary which accepted monies from Alberta oil and gas companies to help finance Tim Ball and his anti-Kyoto Friends of Science group, doesn't much care for Mr. Boychuk's essay on Canadian complicity in the history of torture.
After dismissing it as "smug, and wholly predictable, anti-Americanism", Prof. Cooper complains, "In contrast, one might consider the [ancient] Greeks" - no, I'm not kidding! - and complains that instead:
"Mr. Boychuk accepts the sentimental definition of the United Nations, namely inflicting severe pain or suffering."

Yes, do let's look at something entirely else instead, Prof. Cooper.
If we do not accept that we have been complicit and blind to that complicity, we will never learn how to stand on our own principles.

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