Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Swinging The Wrecking Ball

The Harper government has killed Rights and Democracy. The decision -- even though it wasn't mentioned in Tuesday's budget -- should come as no surprise. In fact, it's pretty clear that the Harperites had no respect or use for the organization which Brian Mulroney founded in 1988. Former board member Payam Akhavan told the Huffington Post that:

This seems to have been the plan all along: One of the Board members David Matas openly wrote during the crisis [when Harper appointees decreed there would be no support for Palestinian organizations] that Rights and Democracy should be terminated. This decision appears to be motivated by a narrow agenda and is yet another expression of Canada's disengagement and decline on the international stage."

In fact, even though Stephen Harper appears to enjoy the spotlight in Davos and Washington, the truth is that he and his party have little use for international diplomacy. Their management of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Andrew Cohen writes, reveals that they are all about "Small government. Small minds. Small ideas:"

At root the budget reflects a disdain for diplomacy, particularly if it evokes the legacy of Lester Pearson. To the chagrin of the Conservatives, his name adorns the headquarters of the department on Sussex Drive. In response, the Minister has reportedly struck that part of his office address from his business card.

As the budget will foster a diminished Canada at home, without ambition to address income inequity or embrace national projects, it will foster a diminished Canada abroad.

Ed Broadbent, the agency's first president, was blunt in his assessment of the government's management of Rights and Democracy:

For many years, the president and members of the board, as well as staff, worked to produce a human rights and democratic development institution that was respected throughout the world. Regrettably, the most recent appointees as chairperson, and a number of the board members, abandoned completely its mission of independence in pursuing human rights. It took on many biased views, particularly but not restricted to issues of the Middle East, and did untold damage to its reputation and indeed, in my view, contributed to the death of Rémy Beauregard.

But, then -- as the F35 debacle proves -- this government couldn't manage its way out of a wet paper bag. However, they're very good at swinging a wrecking ball.

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