Thursday, April 01, 2010

Rights and Democracy: Braun comes to Ottawa

Going by Kady O'Malley's liveblogging, it seems that nothing much came out of the long-awaited appearance of
embattled Rights and Democracy Board chair Aurel Braun at the parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee today. He was accompanied by fellow Board members Jacques Gauthier, David Matas and Brad Farquhar, but not by the documents that the Committee had earlier requested.

Here, anyway, are a few lowlights for your delectation:

First, it seems that Farquhar suggested that a recently-signed collective agreement at the agency exchanged a better deal for the employees in return for them signing the infamous letter that helped bring the antics of the Rights and Democracy Board to public attention. I can promise readers more information on this in a while.

Secondly, despite indignant comments in op-eds that the fuss at R&D has nothing to do with the Middle East, the visitors kept talking about it, and at some length. Braun claimed that R&D staff were trying to "delegitimize a fellow democracy," and he actually tried to read a decision of the Supreme Court of Israel into the record. For his part, Matas attacked former R&D president Warren Allmand for allegedly being anti-Israel, and at another point went into a long peroration about Israel's right to exist. On two occasions he suggested that Committee members read his books.

The visitors did serve up some scrumptious irony. Braun, who has taken a ham-fisted, uncritically pro-Israel stance ever since he was appointed, accused R&D staff of "dogmatism." And Gauthier, who has insisted all along that the real issue at the agency is financial accountability, was forced to admit that he had recently granted a number of untendered contracts over the past few weeks, contrary to R&D rules (@12:18).

Hmm. Fellow Board member Marco Navarro-Génie exploded into the columns of the National Post earlier this week, referring to the Committee meetings as a "gong show." It was a remarkable rant, and Board members today shuffled their feet a little when the matter came up. But judging from today's performance by the "contestants," he might well have been right after all.

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