Monday, March 22, 2010

Rights and Democracy: everybody's out of step but the Magnificent Seven [Updated]

The late President. The employees. Grant recipients. "Outsiders who willingly propagate convenient fantasies for their own ends."

Yet another op-ed from the Magnificent Seven. Do these people have any notion of how weak and self-serving their by-now stale protestations appear?

That's a rhetorical question.

Once again, the name of former President Rémy Beauregard is dragged through the mud:

Both before and after its compulsory submission of the review to government, the board's evaluation committee (the same three members whose resignation is being demanded) repeatedly offered to meet with the former president to discuss the evaluation. Regrettably, he rejected that option, rejected the review of his leadership, and launched an intensive campaign to overturn it.

It was his right to object, and to counter with his own report. But instead, he turned to his senior managers, and they in turn involved their subordinate staff to combat what the president claimed was a grievous wrong.

Charitably, this can be seen as a misjudgment arising from emotion, one that could have been rectified had outside actors with their own agendas not seized what they saw as a prime propaganda opportunity.
[emphases added]

This is beyond foul. As I have noted before--and indeed, rather than repeat myself on every point, I direct readers' attention to that review of the Magnificent Seven's previous flim-flammery, tiresomely recycled in this new broadside--Beauregard was indeed willing to meet, but the evaluation committee couldn't seem to find a convenient time. In the event, Beauregard never did see his evaluation until he pried it from his tormentors' hands with an Access to Information request. And your tax dollars and mine were used to hire expensive legal help to (unsuccessfully) contest that request.

Nor did "outsider actors" with or without their own agendas even get involved in this mess until Beauregard was dead. Meanwhile the staff were being ethnically profiled by Magnificent Seven member Jacques Gauthier. They complained in an all-but-unanimous letter on January 11 that intimidation and harassment at work were the order of the day. It was at that point that people like myself started to notice this little agency in Montreal and the bizarre goings-on there.

But the disingenuousness continues, without let-up. "There is no credible evidence of any attempt to politically interfere" with the Board, quoth the Seven, but it was the very fact of their appointments in the first place that constituted what many observers consider to be interference. Nor should we be lulled by their oh-so-innocent claims that none of them "had any discernible partisan background," or that there was no "Israel issue" at Rights and Democracy.

As I commented earlier:

Middle East politics...have been foregrounded at ICHRDD for months. The new Board appointees include two active members of B'nai Brith (Braun and David Matas). Jacques Gauthier wrote a PhD thesis defending the annexation of East Jerusalem by Israel. The Board also has a couple of Conservative Party trained seals (failed CPC candidate Brad Farquhar and Marco Navarro-Génie, who did his thesis work at the University of Calgary under Tom Flanagan), and a business-oriented Christian think-tanker, Michael Van Pelt.

And then, once again: "Accountability is the issue that should be the sole rallying point at Rights and Democracy."

Uh-huh. At the Board's meeting this week, the Seven, who have the votes, will be making by-law changes that will concentrate more power in the hands of the President, including unfettered contracting rights without tender. This might provide some retroactive justification, of course, for the recent rash of hirings at Rights and Democracy: private detectives, forensic auditors, outside communications people--even though R&D has a communications section--and a CEO. Four staff members considered all this to be outside established procedures, and brought it to the forensic auditors' attention. The four were promptly handed suspensions.


The Magnificent Seven say they would welcome a public inquiry.
Bring it on.
And in the meantime, let the widow speak.

UPDATE: Conservative shill Senator Linda Frum weighs in--what a remarkable coincidence of timing. And Paul Wells responds.

Here is Linda, and her warmed-over talking points (emphases added):

Anyone who has ever served on a board knows that such inquiries on the part of a board chair and the audit and finance committee are necessary in order to fulfill the duty of “due diligence.” But to the managers of R and D—unaccustomed to any challenge to their authority and hostile to investigations into their pet projects—the board’s interest was deemed “harassment” and requests for “sensitive” information were rejected or stonewalled.

It would be interesting to have her evidence for this. She's only an "outsider with an agenda," after all. Why do I suspect that she's simply channeling Aurel Braun? It's worth pointing out--yet again--that virtually every member of the R&D staff, not solely management, signed a letter complaining of harassment and intimidation.

To this day, management refuses to co-operate fully with an audit being conducted by the respected firm of Deloitte & Touche. Instead, they have launched a self-righteous campaign of media sniping and obfuscation—aided by the disappearance of managerial laptops and computer records.

As noted earlier, four employees who did provide information to the auditors were promptly punished. And the suggestion that staff had anything to do with the theft of laptop computers and records is simply unconscionable.

The sudden death in January of Remy Beauregard has injected an element of sorrow to the situation, but it does not alter a public body’s duty to account for public money. By January 2010, even Beauregard finally came to the conclusion that giving money to Al Haq (and like organizations) was wrong and voted to repudiate it. But the staff he left behind remain resentful of the board’s scrutiny.

Not so. The money was long gone, the "repudiation" but a gesture. Beauregard voted with the majority because, I am reliably informed, he simply wanted peace.

The R and D staff’s anger at the board’s curiosity suggests that something has gone very wrong at R and D.

Or that anger might suggest that there's a serious problem with the Board. Is ethnic profiling a bona fide management technique?

On March 29, Gerard Latulippe, an experienced administrative law and labour lawyer with professional expertise in promoting democratic accountability in the third world (most recently in Haiti), will take over as Rights and Democracy’s new president.

What--no mention of his opposition to gay rights and his Islamophobia? Is he really a suitable President for an organization whose mandate is to promote human rights? What about a little "democratic accountability" right here at home?

He has the tough task of reforming an agency gone rogue long ago.

What utter rot. As has been pointed out almost from the start, R&D had been subject to annual audits and a five-year audit by Foreign Affairs--and passed with flying colours. Did Frum's informants fail to mention that?

Yes, some of the staff are complaining anonymously to the press. But the complaints do not prove them right. On the contrary, their complaints prove how very deep the problems go.

Oh, indeed they do, Linda, indeed they do.

So much for déjà vu all over again. Now Paul:

Elsewhere in today’s news, the Braun Seven majority on the board of Rights and Democracy has published another in their series of occasional op-eds wondering why the world is so mean to them. “We call upon Parliament to hold public hearings so that facts can replace fantasies, and we can move ahead,” they write.

Here’s a fact: after first confirming he would appear tomorrow before the foreign-affairs committee of Parliament, Braun has now sent word that he’s too busy to show up.

Well, read the whole article for yourselves. And pay careful attention to this:

A month ago they hired Deloitte to do an audit of the company’s books over a carefully-selected date span. “Results will be made public as soon as possible after the report is accepted by the board of directors,” Gauthier said in the press release sent out by a communications firm he hired without tender outside the target period of the Deloitte audit.

Excellent. Good. Fine. Great. The Deloitte audit was going to take three weeks. That was four weeks ago. When will Braun and Gauthier table the audit — along with the terms of reference and the details of the consulting contracts Gauthier has entered into, on Rights and Democracy’s behalf, since February?

Since nobody has anything to hide.

Ouch. That's gotta leave a mark.

[H/t Ti-Guy]

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