Copeland: Does Canada need an independent organization to promote rights and democracy abroad?

By: /
9 April, 2012
By: Daryl Copeland

Former diplomat; research fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute

Until last week, Canada had an independent organization – with a parliamentary charter – to promote democracy and human rights around the world.

Their web site now features this message:
We are aware of the intention to bring forward legislation repealing Rights & Democracy’s statute and we will act accordingly. We will not comment on the decision. We will respect it. If so directed by the Board, we will proceed with a timely and organized wind down of our operations. Our staff will be treated fairly and respectfully.

In recent years, this organization has seen more than its share of trouble, in no small part, it appears, as a result of political interference in its management and direction.

When Rights and Democracy was still kown as the Canadian Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development, it played an important role globally in support of its mandate. In those days, now long past, Canada was an active and engaged internationalist, known for its creativity, generosity and diplomatic determination to support development, the environment, good governance and peace-keeping.

Now, Rights and Democracy is gone, and countless Canada-based international NGOs are losing their funding.

Now, Canada leads with the sword.

DFAIT, CIDA, the CBC and RCI were all savagely whacked in the recent budget. This can only be understood as part of a concerted attempt to break with the past and rebrand Canada as (neo)Conservative and militaristic.

The damage to this country`s image and reputation will be real and lasting.

Before you click away, we’d like to ask you for a favour … 

Journalism in Canada has suffered a devastating decline over the last two decades. Dozens of newspapers and outlets have shuttered. Remaining newsrooms are smaller. Nowhere is this erosion more acute than in the coverage of foreign policy and international news. It’s expensive, and Canadians, oceans away from most international upheavals, pay the outside world comparatively little attention.

At Open Canada, we believe this must change. If anything, the pandemic has taught us we can’t afford to ignore the changing world. What’s more, we believe, most Canadians don’t want to. Many of us, after all, come from somewhere else and have connections that reach around the world.

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