Monday, February 01, 2010

Rights and Democracy: the Brauning continues

Never mind a "long march through the institutions": Stephen Harper and his ideological confederates far prefer the blitzkrieg approach.

Independent watchdogs have been muzzled or fired. Government ministers have meddled in the work of arms-length agencies. Respectable charities have been blacklisted with bogus charges of "anti-Semitism." And the International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development has apparently been targeted for outright destruction.

The ICHRDD demolition crew, composed of new Harper appointees to its Board, is pursuing its work with gusto. Later today it will almost certainly be publicly announced that the entire management team at the Centre has been suspended by the Board. This follows a gag order on staff by Board Chair Aurel Braun, after all 47 employees of the Centre, alleging on-going harassment, signed a letter demanding his resignation, and that of two other Board members as well. One of the latter, Jacques Gauthier, is now interim President of the Centre, installed by Braun's Board on January 22.

Haroon Siddiqui and Paul Wells continue to be all over this. Siddiqui has dug around and discovered that a well-publicized flashpoint of the controversy, three grants to alleged "toxic" organizations (actually well-regarded human rights groups working in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza) were not only vetted and approved by Foreign Affairs--one of them, Al Haq, received funding from CIDA!

Thanks to Wells, the involvement of Gerald Steinberg, head of a far-right hasbara organization in Jerusalem called the NGO Monitor, is now coming to light. Wells reports that Steinberg has been a busy bee, writing cranky articles about CIDA as far back as 2004, and celebrating the "new direction" at the ICHRDD in a Jerusalem Post op-ed before the late President, Rémy Beauregard, had even been properly laid to rest. (The op-ed, which defamed former Board chair Ed Broadbent, was vigorously rebutted by Ed on January 26.)

Wells also draws our attention to Steinberg's "I've got names!" submission to the witchhunting Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism. And almost needless to add, he was in the thick of the recent smear-job on KAIROS.

Wells continues to document the steady stream of misinformation emanating from the Braun faction:

So if CIDA was funding Al Haq, and DFAIT was consenting to donations to Al Haq, the about-face at Rights and Democracy had to be driven from somewhere else. Probably somewhere whose initials were PMO. Now, as it defends its actions, the newly-appointed board majority has preferred to refer only in passing to this highly political debate. Braun and his colleagues prefer to frame this as a fight for accountability and oversight (while declining to return most reporters’ calls and issuing gag orders to staff). Here, too, they are on shaky ground. They can leak a damning 2007 report on spending practices at R&D all they want; they still can’t hide two facts. First, Rémy Beauregard was installed as R&D’s president in 2008 precisely to overhaul accountability and oversight. Second, an easy-to-find 2008 report demonstrates that he was succeeding. In other words, the management cleanup at Rights and Democracy began long before these clowns took over.

The abominable treatment of Beauregard by the new arrivals has been well-documented by now. Their conduct was ineptly defended by new Board appointee David Matas (chief counsel to B'nai Brith), and his defence was helpfully made available to the public via far-right activist Ezra Levant.

Brick by brick, the once-proud Centre is being torn down in a concerted effort by ideological vandals. Stay tuned: the end may well be near.

UPDATE: Three senior managers were suspended with pay. I am given to understand that they are the three directors in charge of the Centre's operations, and the authors of this letter of respect that appeared in the Ottawa Citizen last Friday.


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