Rights & Democracy Canada 2010 -2012

Written by  //  April 6, 2012  //  Rights & Social justice  //  1 Comment

Rights and Democracy 

And now, the sad end of the story
(Toronto Star editorial): By shutting down Rights & Democracy, Stephen Harper’s government is being mean-minded, and hurting our image abroad
As the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group has just warned, this will “suppress honest and expert voices” in what was a respected, non-partisan Canadian voice for human rights. It confirms that the Harper government has little time for those who do not share its narrow ideology. And it eats away, just a little bit more, at our credibility in the world.

5 April
Promoting democracy without bombs
Canada’s troubled R&D once did the vital work of supporting reform movements in places like Burma, Kate Heartfield writes
(Ottawa Citizen) The interpersonal and ideological clashes at R&D are better known than the work it did. Whether or not you think something was broken at R&D before the Conservatives started messing with it, it’s hard to argue that the Conservative bull-in-a-china-shop approach was successful. It got so acrimonious that people on both sides have called for the office to be replaced.
In the 2008 speech from the throne, the government promised that “a new, non-partisan democracy promotion agency will also be established to support the peaceful transition to democracy in repressive countries and help emerging democracies build strong institutions.”
An advisory panel produced a report in 2009 on the creation of a Canadian Democracy Promotion Agency.
Then everybody stopped talking about it.
Supporting democracy movements – especially in places like Burma, where those movements are strong – is cheap. Rights and Democracy cost the federal government about $9 million in 2011.
… People can disagree about whether R&D did it well, but the question now seems to be whether it should be done at all.
Should Canada have someone doing the kind of work R&D was doing in Afghanistan, organizing workshops and conferences to help Afghan women lobby for less misogynistic family law?
Should it support the civil-society organizations trying to assemble the nuts and bolts of democracy in fragile states, occupied with such noble and prosaic tasks as making sure all citizens have ID?
It’s possible that the closing of R&D is just an administrative decision, that the government really thinks taxpayer-funded organizations with specific mandates are not the way to champion human rights. Except it recently created a $5-million office of religious freedom, so there goes that theory.
The theory that fits the facts is that there is no strategy, that it’s all political tactics.

3 April
Paul Wells: Rights and Democracy — Qui veut noyer son chien…
(Maclean’s) There’s no reason to believe three years’ worth of relentless negative coverage led to the Harper government’s decision, announced today, to shut down Rights and Democracy. No negative coverage preceded the government’s decision, announced last Thursday, to shut down the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy; Katimavik; the National Council on Welfare; and the First Nations Statistics Institute. It’s reasonable to suspect that if nobody at the PMO had taken an interest in Rights and Democracy in 2008, it would have run much as before — that is, as a beacon of hope for oppressed millions around the world — until it would have been dumped last week for the crime of having been created while Joe Clark was a minister of the Crown.
Canada still has no organized democracy-promotion effort, despite a 2008 campaign promise and throne speech commitment. It has lately preferred more robust techniques for promoting democracy, such as jet fighters. Oops. I can’t help thinking that if the government of Stephen Harper had paid less attention to a $50,000 grant, and more to a $25 billion procurement contract, it would stand less shamed and disgraced than it does today.

2011

Ex-staffers of troubled rights agency back Paul Dewar for NDP leader
(Globe&Mail) Paul Dewar’s bid to lead the federal NDP has been endorsed by 10 former staffers at a trouble-plagued centre for international human rights.
As the NDP’s foreign affairs critic, Mr. Dewar strongly condemned the Harper government’s allegedly partisan appointments to the arm’s-length Rights & Democracy, which triggered a crisis at the Montreal-based agency last year.
April 15
A widow’s long wait for justice
Suzanne Trépanier
(Toronto Star) As Canadians consider the election of a new government, I want to share my experiences with the current one over the last year.
Since my husband’s death, I have been trying to clear his name. The hundreds of thousands of dollars spent by Gauthier on investigations, reports and lawyers while he was interim president for two months after Rémy’s death have revealed no wrongdoing whatsoever on the part of my husband and his management team. The House of Commons standing committee on foreign affairs recommended that an apology be issued to Rémy’s family and asked for the “reconstitution” of the board with a new chair.
And yet the year has passed and neither the government nor the board of directors has issued an apology. Rémy’s secret evaluation has not been retracted. And rather than reconstitute Rights & Democracy’s board, the government reappointed Gauthier and Tepper to a new three-year term in February.
1 April
Harper government set to appoint prominent Tory’s niece to agency board
(Globe & Mail) The Harper government is set to appoint the niece of a former Conservative premier to the board of Rights and Democracy — an arms-length agency struggling to restore an image battered by accusations of patronage and partisanship.
She is listed as an expert in civil litigation and property law. Her resume does not include any mention of international experience, other than an undergraduate exchange to France a decade ago. [emphasis added]

2010

Paul Wells: The dismantling of Canadian democracy promotion, brick by brick
In the Globe, a former staffer at Rights and Democracy and a former staffer at the Forum of Federations note the state of Canadian democracy promotion:

The Canadian International Development Agency’s Office of Democratic Governance, which channelled much of Canada’s democracy funding, was disbanded. The Department of Foreign Affairs’ Democracy Unit was folded into the Francophonie and Commonwealth division.
The Democracy Council, a forum for discussion and collaboration among Canadian democracy promotion agencies, disappeared despite interest from both government and non-government actors to see it expand.
The Parliamentary Centre’s Sudan and Haiti programs were “de-prioritized.” And our former organizations, Rights & Democracy and the Forum of Federations, have been rendered impotent by partisan and ideological board appointments and de-funding respectively.
And what of the new agency that was to make Canada a world leader in democracy promotion? Some say it was the victim of the disaster imposed on Rights & Democracy by its board; others cite the focus on austerity sweeping Ottawa. Either way, it has been put on the “back burner”.
One of the reasons stated for establishing this new agency was that many Canadian democracy experts were working for American agencies, instead of employing their talents on Canada’s behalf. Far from repatriating our home-grown expertise, we are in the process of exporting whatever is left.


20 December
Scandalous non-scandal over audit
That lack of scandal in the audit, in fact, might be the real scandal, because it suggests Canadians have been paying hundreds of thousands for one side of this tedious fight to dig for dirt, unsuccessfully, against the other. It suggests the staff revolt against the new board wasn’t about money after all.
Democracy does demand accountability. That’s why Canadians — even Canadians who don’t particularly care about Rights & Democracy — should be incensed.
16 December
Rights and Democracy: Rest in peace, Rémy Beauregard
By Paul Wells
(Malean’s)… But Deloitte is a professional organization unlikely to tailor its findings to fit those theories and fascinations, so its audit eventually became the public’s best bet for testing the validity of the Braun claque’s claims. It has been obvious to me for many months that this best explained R&D’s reluctance to release the audit.
Today the audit was released — not through a formal process, but because somebody leaked it to the Globe‘s Daniel Leblanc. You can
read it here. (Well, the main narrative of the audit, anyway. Thousands of pages of annexes, including lengthy email correspondences, time sheets and so on, remain unreleased.)
It shows what Beauregard’s defenders have long asserted: that the agency was run without scandal, and without unusually lax management, even before his arrival; that he was taking clear steps to improve its management; and that specific claims against him and his staff from Gauthier and others hold no water. In short, that Rémy Beauregard died while fighting back against an unfounded witch hunt perpetrated by scoundrels who today stand unmasked and humiliated. The government of Canada under Stephen Harper and his minister Lawrence Cannon today continues to support those scoundrels, to its shame and ours as citizens.

26 November
Rights & Democracy Watch: Well, it’s a start.
As Former Colleague Wells reports, the on-again-off-again forensic audit enthusiasts on the foreign affairs committee have, indeed, taken up the banner of transparency and accountability on behalf of the suddenly circumspect Rights and Democracy board of directors.
19 November

The twilight struggle of transparency and accountability
2 July
Rights and Democracy Watch:
So, whatever happened to that Deloitte audit?
(CBC) Turns out that it still isn’t finished — in fact, as far as the helpful, if somewhat hand-tied R&D communications staff knows, the audit itself may well still be in progress. They haven’t yet received a copy of the final report, at least.
21 June

Government rights group spent $500K on outside help: documents
(National Post) … their commitment to the responsible spending of money intended for developing countries has resulted in more than $500,000 being paid to Montreal lawyers, auditors, private investigators and public-relations professionals in the first three months of this year. And the redaction of board minutes obtained by the National Post through an access-to-information request suggests their transparency has its limits.
18 June
and answer was there none: Rights and Democracy Watch: The favour of a reply is requested
17 June
Committee calls for the firing of Harper-appointed board of Rights and Democracy

“After an exhaustive study in the crisis at Rights and Democracy, we came to the conclusion that the board had to be held accountable for the mess they created,” said New Democrat Foreign Affairs Critic Paul Dewar who initiated the committee’s study on Rights and Democracy. “This is an important step to ensure the return of accountability and balance to the organization.”
The Committee calls for:
* The removal of the Board’s evaluation of Rémy Beauregard from all files;
* An apology from the Board to Mr. Beauregard’s family for damaging his reputation; and,
* The reconstitution of the Board, with a new chair.
5 May
Former staff file suit against rights group
(National Post) Three senior managers fired last March by the federally funded agency Rights and Democracy filed suit yesterday for a combined $1.4-million in damages, claiming they were victims of a political purge.
15 April

Who’s up for a little Rights and Democracy? – Liveblogging Gerard Latulippe at Foreign Affairs
(CBC) … it should be a fascinating outing, as newly appointed R&D president Gerard Latulippe is slated to field questions on the current state of unrest.
Paul Wells:
Rights and Democracy: Meet the new boss
A few notes before the Foreign Affairs committee meets today to hear from Gérard Latulippe, the new president of Rights and Democracy appointed by the Braun/Gauthier faction of the board and rubber-stamped by the hapless salaryman who sits in the office normally reserved for foreign ministers, Lawrence Cannon. And it gets better!
14 April

Droits et Démocratie – Les dirigeants reçoivent la monnaie de leur pièce
(Le Devoir) Les têtes dirigeantes de Droits et Démocratie ont goûté à leur propre médecine hier. Après avoir accusé l’ancien président de l’organisme, Rémy Beauregard, de mauvaise gestion et ses employés, de s’être laissés acheter, ils ont eux-mêmes été accusés de s’être graissé la patte en utilisant les fonds de l’organisme fédéral.
C’était au tour hier de la veuve de M. Beauregard, Suzanne Trépanier, de comparaître en comité parlementaire, de même que Payam Akhavan, un ancien membre du conseil d’administration non aligné avec les autres dirigeants, ainsi que deux anciens présidents, Ed Broadbent et Warren Allmand.
30 March
Marco Navarro-Genie:
The Rights & Democracy gong show arrives in Ottawa
So the combined opposition in Ottawa has forced Parliament to waste its time and taxpayer money holding hearings on Rights and Democracy. It will be a real gong show, a kangaroo court, to try and then convict good Canadian citizens whose only crime is to do their duty to look out for Canadian taxpayers. Get your tickets now, folks. The show opens Tuesday morning.
Paul Wells:
Rights and Democracy: Dept. of Office Memos
The document posted below was one of several that were tabled today at the Foreign Affairs Committee by three former members of Rights and Democracy. The three, Marie-France Cloutier, Razmik Panossian and Charles Vallerand, were fired weeks ago by bailiff’s letter on the order of interim president Jacques Gauthier. The document lists several “incidents” between members of the Rights and Democracy staff and members of its board over the past 15 months. While this document has been tabled at the Foreign Affairs committee, none of the assertions in it has been proven. It should be considered only a list of allegations made by one aggrieved party in a continuing dispute.
22 March

Rights & Democracy chair snubs committee
Opposition MPs are crying foul after the chair of Rights & Democracy announced he was pulling out of a scheduled appearance before a parliamentary committee looking into internal turmoil at the federal human rights agency.
In contrast to this letter published in the National Post and signed by the very same Mr. Braun.
Aurel Braun, Jacques Gauthier, Elliot Tepper, David Matas, Marco Navarro-Genie, Michael Van Pelt and Brad Farquhar:
We welcome public hearings on Rights and Democracy
As members of the board of directors, we must once again state the obvious: there is no right-wing agenda imposed on this autonomous organization; and it is not all about Israel. There is, however, an internal revolt against accountability, and there is interference and exploitation by outsiders who willingly propagate convenient fantasies for their own ends.
12 March
SIMA SAMAR:
‘The destruction of a great Canadian institution’
The dispute at Rights and Democracy has damaged Canada’s image
I was distressed by their recent op-ed (“Rights and Democracy dispute is not about the Mideast,” Gazette, Feb. 25), in which they continue to make false accusations against the late president Rémy Beauregard and his committed staff. Since, in death, he can no longer defend his honour, and because of his great contributions to women’s rights in Afghanistan, I feel compelled to share my views about how this once excellent institution has been destroyed under a divisive leadership.
Paul Wells at Maclean’s offers a scathing guide (Rights and Democracy: Loyalty and Competence) to the political maze at the centre of which sits/stands? the appointment of the new president.
26 February
David Matas:
The Rights and Democracy twist
The presence or absence of Jewish employees at the agency means nothing on its own – but apparent prejudicial attitudes against them are a legitimate concern for its directors
23 February

Human rights group choice disputed
Tories playing politics at troubled agency, Ignatieff says
22 February

Minister Cannon Statement on the International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development (Rights & Democracy)
“I am pleased that an exceptionally qualified candidate, Mr. Gerard Latulippe, is willing to take on the job of President of Rights and Democracy. As required under the legislation, we are now consulting the Opposition Leaders on the candidacy of Mr. Latulippe for the position.
17 February
Gerald Caplan:
What every office needs to succeed in Harper’s Canada
The Harper government’s torrid love affair with the self-proclaimed leaders of Canadian Jewry is about to reach a new plateau. Rumors circulating throughout Ottawa indicate that a pointed observation made by one of the government’s star appointees has prompted a new initiative to augment Harper’s existing strategies to woo Jewish votes. Note that the Globe & Mail thought it necessary to say that the article was intended as satire.
11 February

Droits et démocratie – Le président a été jugé trop critique envers Israël

Rémy Beauregard, ancien président de Droits et démocratie, n’a pas emporté dans sa tombe toutes les informations permettant de décoder la crise qui secoue l’organisme fédéral. Un mémo de son cru, révélé pour la première fois aujourd’hui, démontre qu’on l’accusait, lui et ses employés de Montréal, d’être trop critiques envers Israël et de ne pas avoir de sensibilités juives.
9 February
Jeffrey Simpson:
What a tangled web PM weaves in promoting democracy abroad
The crisis at Rights & Democracy, the Montreal-based human-rights group funded by Ottawa, reflects two wider problems associated with the Harper government.
The first is the unconditional support the government gives not just Israel – support that all Canadian parties correctly offer – but with a certain view of Israel held by right-wing parties in that country that form the current Israeli government. [
CBC reports: An attack on Israel is an attack on Canada? So says the PM, according to Peter Kent]
The second is a long-standing lack of focus in Canada’s promotion of democracy and human rights abroad, a problem that predated the Harper government but has persisted.
7 February
Siddiqui:
PM’s Gang of Seven provides a glimpse of Reform politics
His allies on its board hound its president, Remy Beauregard, for months. On Jan. 7, they vote to repudiate three small grants to NGOs monitoring human rights violations by both Israel and the Palestinians. He subsequently dies of a heart attack. The staff signs a petition demanding that the chair and two board executives resign. The three hire a private investigator. There’s a Watergate-style break-in at the centre and two laptops are stolen. Three managers are suspended. There’s a chorus of criticism by Beauregard’s family, by four former board presidents, by about 100 academics and by 52 NGOs from the U.S., Europe and Israel.
28 January

Haroon Siddiqui : Harper remains silent on rights agency fiasco
Only a handful of non-Canadians, such as Nelson Mandela, have been bestowed the Order of Canada. Last year, Dr. Sima Samar of Afghanistan was so honoured, for defending human rights, especially women’s rights – the same values that are at the core of Canada’s Afghan mission.
So it’s highly embarrassing that she has resigned in protest from the board of Canada’s leading human rights agency, Rights and Democracy. She quit over what she felt were the autocratic and ideological ways of its Stephen Harper appointees, especially the chair, Aurel Braun, professor of political science at the U of T.
23 January

A board divided
Rights group’s president forced to defend his own rights before his death
During his long career in the public service, Remy Beauregard built a reputation protecting the rights of others, from Franco-Ontarians seeking services in their language to African children endangered by war. But for the last year of his life, it was a struggle to defend his own rights that consumed Mr. Beauregard.

As always we can count on Ezra Levant for a cool, even-handed appraisal of any topic with the remotest connection to Israel: What is this “Rights & Democracy” NGO that Michael Ignatieff supports?
R&D is out of control, financially. And its mandate has been twisted. The Cold War is over, but the need for support for democracy has never been greater – in the Arab world, in Latin America, in China and even in Russia itself. Only a bigoted, rotten organization would focus its venom on Israel, and give its money to the U.N.’s perverted human rights apparatus.
19 January
Agnès Gruda:
Droits et Démocratie dans la tourmente
La crise qui secoue l’organisme Droits et Démocratie, qui a son siège à Montréal, a éclaté au grand jour au mois de janvier, après la mort soudaine de son président, Rémy Beauregard. Mais les tensions y couvaient depuis longtemps. Depuis, en fait, l’arrivée au conseil de nouveaux administrateurs proches de la droite conservatrice. Le ministre Lawrence Cannon doit annoncer ces jours-ci ce qu’il compte faire de ce dossier explosif. En attendant, voici le récit d’une prise de contrôle.
15 January
Probe sought in death of rights head: Remy Beauregard
In an open letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper published yesterday in Le Devoir, Ed Broadbent, Warren Allmand, Jean-Louis Roy and Jean-Paul Hubert said quick government action is needed to preserve the integrity of the 22-year-old organization.
4 February

Rights centre’s chairman rebukes critics for ‘smears’
In an interview with The Gazette, Aurel Braun lashed back at critics – including opposition members of Parliament, former presidents of the group and members of the centre’s staff – who contend Braun and other board members recently appointed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government are ruthlessly forcing a Conservative agenda on the organization, which is intended to operate at arm’s length from the government.
1 February

3 Rights & Democracy staffers suspended
Three senior managers at a government-funded rights agency have been suspended with pay after declaring their lack of confidence in three Conservative appointees to their organization’s board of directors.
27 January

Rights agency ‘out of control’: president
Internal conflict roils over organization’s direction
The Montreal-based organization has been embroiled in turmoil following the resignation of two of the agency’s board members this month and the release of a letter by the organization’s staff members.
Both groups accused Gauthier and two other board members of a pattern of harassment against the former president of Rights & Democracy, Rémy Beauregard, and of pushing a narrow neo-conservative agenda.

January 2010
There is, of course, no mention on the R&D website of the incredible turmoil of the months since Rémy Beauregard’s sudden – and tragic – death.
Like many others, we are appalled by what we have learned from some industrious journalists such as Paul Wells, about the events that preceded and followed the President’s death, the antics of the Harper-appointed Chairman and members of the Board (excluding those who have resigned in disgust) in the apparent interest of embracing an all-for-Israel policy. We can only hope that, before it is too late, the organization’s leadership will find their compass and return to the inclusive, even-handed actions that imbued Rights & Democracy in the past.

One Comment on "Rights & Democracy Canada 2010 -2012"

  1. Darlene March 20, 2010 at 12:49 pm · Reply

    Diana, your reports are great reading, and I have learned a lot from you. Being politically challenged, I was pleased to see your writings about the Canadian Constitution. I was angry enough to post my comments on, our Canadian Constitution, which to me, has been decimated. Our Civil Rights and Liberties, have been taken away from, our Canadian people. Democracy and Freedom are, null and void. The feeling I have is, broken promises, corruption, greed and deceit, is what really governs this country. Canada has, regressed back thirty years. Other country’s, do not view Canada as, the good country it once was. Our people have no faith in our government, we are losing, pride of country. Every Canadian, has the right to good government, and we are not getting good government.

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