By encouraging Canadian athletes competing in Vancouver to rank among the best in the world, we celebrate a certain idea of what this country stands for, we project the image of a strong, diverse nation committed to the pursuit of its ideals. .
Meanwhile, across the country, the confirmation of Gérard Latulippe as president of Rights and Democracy and the dismissal of the organization’s three leaders accelerate the debacle surrounding Rights and Democracy, threatening another equally important facet. what many consider to be the very nature of Canada: a model offered to the rest of the world of an inclusive society in which freedoms are respected and diversity celebrated.
A real role
Make no mistake about it: Rights & Democracy is not some obscure government office where bureaucrats roam the world to attend unnecessary conferences.
On the contrary, Rights & Democracy is probably the first and only Canadian institution to take on a true international role, thanks to 20 years of dynamic and creative action. It is an integral part of a certain conception of Canada which has made the country one of the main contributors to United Nations peacekeeping operations, a key player in the negotiations relating to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, and the engine that led to the conclusion of the Ottawa Convention banning anti-personnel mines.
Despite the fact that it is not among the ranks of the great powers, Canada has succeeded in accomplishing all of this because of the credibility it enjoys and that has been built over several years by a small group of Canadian institutions in in which Rights & Democracy occupies a significant place.
The dirty laundry of Rights and Democracy washed in public, marked by the tragic death of Rémy Beauregard, has become an incident whose visibility has extended far beyond our borders and has had repercussions in particular in Israel, Ireland and Afghanistan.
A government tool
Until now, Rights & Democracy was considered to reflect the strength of the Canadian model of human rights protection and democratic governance. The funds that the organization receives from the government allow it to develop ambitious programs in scope and duration, of a scale that NGOs can only dream of.
While exerting uniquely Canadian influence at no political cost to Canada’s foreign affairs, the organization could enter into collaborations with entities usually suspicious of the ultimate motives of government agencies, as it was perceived as an entity independent of the state. .
What we will now remember from recent events is that Rights & Democracy is not an independent body, but rather a tool allowing the government in power to pursue specific foreign policy objectives.
While CIDA was already keen to develop similar policies, the creation of Rights & Democracy was justified by stressing the need for an independent organization headquartered in Canada to open up new channels to disseminate the Canadian model of human rights protection and democracy. For a financial investment that reports to about 0.003 percent of CIDA’s budget, this was a very, very good deal.
We cannot imagine that an institution like Rights and Democracy could play a useful role without benefiting from a certain level of autonomy, real and perceived, in relation to the political line of action of the federal government. Otherwise, it could just as easily become a simple CIDA program. As the judiciary illustrates well, the idea of a government-funded entity though isolated from political interference is commonplace.
Regain bipartisan support
How can we save this unique component of Canada’s arsenal which contributes to greater respect for human rights and the principles of democracy in the world? We would be wrong to believe that one can easily convince the international community by undertaking a superficial make-up operation.
Regardless of the alleged wrongs, the political storm resulting from this affair has deprived this council of the credibility necessary to sustain the organization. The entire Board of Directors should be replaced by members who enjoy bipartisan support, thus paving the way for the appointment of a new president who can restore Rights & Democracy’s reputation and, in so doing, its rationale. ‘to be.
Canada has invested over twenty years to build a unique institution. We seem to be doing everything today to empty it of its content and leave an empty shell with no real use.