Canada has lost its voice in moral affairs
12 November 2010
The following is an excerpt of a speech delivered Wednesday night in Toronto by Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, an independent organization dedicated to defending human rights around the world:
(...) I have long been an admirer of Canada’s role in the world. Canada created the modern concept of UN peacekeeping. It once stood at the forefront of global efforts to promote human rights, such as the fight against apartheid. When HRW wanted a governmental partner to help create a treaty banning landmines, we came to Ottawa. A Canadian chaired the negotiations to launch the International Criminal Court and he then served as the new court’s first president.
Because of the values that informed its dealings with the world, Canada punched above its weight. It was a nation to be contended with.
It is thus with considerable sadness that I see Canada in recent years shying away from being a strong moral voice on international issues. Like most Western nations, Canada contributes few peacekeepers.
Ottawa seems to have abandoned concepts that it once promoted, such as the responsibility to protect people facing mass atrocities. When HRW sought a governmental partner to lead our recent campaign to ban cluster munitions, we had to go to Norway, instead of Canada.
The Canadian government is the only Western one to let its citizens languish in Guantanamo.
The government tried to cover up and deny allegations that Canadian soldiers surrendered Afghan detainees knowing that would likely be tortured.
The government endorsed a free trade agreement with Colombia even though hundreds of Colombian trade unionists had been murdered with impunity. Once a government that regularly stood with victims of human rights abuse, Canada, these days, mostly stands aside.
For the sake of the many downtrodden and persecuted of the world who once depended on Canada’s assistance, and hope to do so again, HRW wants a return to a Canadian foreign policy built around respect for human rights.
Full article here
See published Op Ed by Kenneth Roth here