Friday, March 26, 2010

Friday human rights and wrongs

A few tidbits to nibble at:
  • The Harper government is closing three Canadian Human Rights Commission offices, in Toronto, Halifax and Vancouver. 70% of all complaints received by the Commission have been submitted through those regional offices.

    The Public Service Alliance of Canada is spot on:

    "When the Conservatives took power in 2006, one of their first moves was to abolish the Court Challenges Program and close Status of Women Canada offices across the country," [PSAC President John] Gordon said. "Women's groups were denied government funding if they engaged in research or advocacy work, and equality-seeking groups lost the ability to fund Charter of Rights challenges. The government has also cancelled funding to notable NGOs such as KAIROS, and appointed ultra-conservative partisan board members to Rights & Democracy - manufacturing a massive crisis within the organization. The closure of CHRC offices is another example of this outrageous trend."

    Canadians living in British Columbia, Ontario and the Atlantic provinces will no longer have access to walk-in or telephone services at a CHRC office even remotely close to where they live. The urban centres where the CHRC offices are being closed represent a high percentage of racialized people. In fact, 60 per cent of all racialized people in Canada live in Vancouver, Toronto and Halifax.

    (In case anyone is unfamiliar with the term "racialized," it means "assigned to a 'racial' category." While "race" is a construct, the practical consequences of invoking it, as we know, can be dire.)

    Now the Cons will be able to say that Canada has grown more inclusive under their wise governance--"See? Human rights complaints have dropped significantly!"

    One thing you can say about the Harper agenda: it isn't "hidden," these days, if it ever was.

  • Niqab nuttiness continues apace in la belle province. Quebec lawmakers are going to liberate those women, and the heck with what the women themselves say they want. It's for their own good, dontcha see, to refuse government services to them unless they give up their silly religious garb.

    Odd resonances there. Women under the Taliban were confined to the home, but allowed outside if they wore a concealing garment. Quebec niqabi, if the current xenophobic trend continues, will be confined to the home unless they don't wear a concealing garment. And in true Orwellian fashion, this sort of thing is called "pluralism" by solicitous Quebec intellectuals.

  • Almost four years ago, the Canadian Jewish Congress attempted to rid the schools of a book about Palestinian and Israeli children, called Three Wishes.

    Now the folks at B'nai Brith, fresh from defending A*n C*ulter's right to freedom of speech, is trying to throw another book on the bonfire, The Shepherd's Granddaughter.

    Here's a pretty sympathetic review of the book, about a Palestinian girl growing up in the occupied West Bank, who wants to escape her traditional role and become a shepherd like her grandfather.

    Every student who has read The Shepherd's Granddaughter has come back to tell me that they are suddenly viewing the Israeli-Palestinian situation differently. As one student said, "It made me stop and see there might be more sides than just one." Maybe there are three sides - one for each side and then one for the truth that no one can see.

    But we know that in Canada there can be only one side when it comes to the Middle East, even if it takes endless censorship, heavy-handed government action, human wrecking balls and a parliamentary coalition to enforce it.
Have a good weekend everyone.

[H/t BCL]

More information on the closures of CHRC offices. I find this odd:

In a brief interview on Friday, [CHRC Sectretary-General Karen] Mosher described how an analysis of the CHRC's three priorities -- complaint resolution, discrimination prevention, and research -- led to the conclusion that they should close the branch offices.

In their place will be two regional headquarters focused on discrimination prevention, in Montreal and Edmonton.

Without regional offices to take complaints--where more than two-thirds of them have been lodged in the past--what kind of "discrimination prevention" is Mosher talking about? In any case, both she and Justice Minister Rob Nicholson are firm that the re-organization was a CHRC decision, not a government one.

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