Matthews: Does Canada need an independent organization to promote rights and democracy abroad?
Executive Director, Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies
I believe the answer is yes, especially considering how thinly spread out our diplomats are abroad and that few people in government are specialists in democratic development and human rights. As a country with a unique track record of employing federalism to overcome linguistic differences peacefully and in a democratic manner, I believe Canada can bring its domestic experiences to help other countries in need.
In addition, an independent organization can play an important role to speak out and raise awareness on certain developments at important junctures of history when our government becomes risk averse or sees issues through too much of a partisan lens. I can think of no better example of when Ed Broadbent, as President of Rights and Democracy, traveled to Rwanda in 1992 to investigate human rights violations. Upon his return home he warned the Canadian Government about the direction Rwanda was spiraling towards. Did anybody in the diplomatic corps or within CIDA raise the alarm bells a full year and a half before the genocide was unleashed? No.