time to lead by example

This past weekend, Canadian reporters received a press release which called on a certain government to, among other things, "uphold its human rights commitments by allowing freedom of expression; freedom of the press and freedom of assembly; protecting religious minorities; respecting the rights of prisoners and detainees; and ensuring equal treatment of women and girls." The press release ended with the author urging the government to respect diverse social and political groups, and to "engage these groups in a constructive dialogue that will serve to strengthen the rich fabric" of this particular country. It wouldn't be too much of a stretch to think that the above statement was being directed at the Harper government. On freedom of expression, the Harper government has tried to crack down on any criticism directed at it. Witness the campaign of intimidation being waged against the country's once-vaunted international development NGO community. It has also taken the view that any and all criticism of Israel is antisemitic. Meanwhile, the Harper government's record on press freedom has been abysmal. In fact, it could be described as obstructionist at best. Ministers' offices have been vetting access to information requests, withholding anything and everything it feels could be damaging to its reputation or aspirations for power. At the same time, the use of message control has been taken to new heights. As the Canadian Press reported last week, CIDA members being interviewed by media have had their "personal stories" scripted, while even ambassadors abroad are forced to get approval before uttering a word. On prisoners and detainees the government has reversed the decades-old policy of automatically seeking clemency for Canadian sentenced to death abroad. At the same time, the term "gender equality" is no longer used, while support for this ideal has been cut at home and abroad. Finally, the statement about engaging diverse social and political groups "in a constructive dialogue" is particularly poignant. Since coming to power, the Harper government has gone out of its way to polarize Canadian politics like never before—and the consensus is that they have been extremely successful, with Parliament described as "poisoned" and "broken" in a recent Hill Times article. At the same time this government has largely eschewed non-business consultation of any sort. The target of this press release, however, wasn't the Harper government. In fact, it came from Prime Minister Stephen Harper himself and was directed at Iran. To be sure, one can hardly compare the Harper government to that of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The list of wrongs perpetrated by the Ahmadinejad regime is long, gruesome and truly horrific. Political dissent has been violently snuffed out, women and children stoned to death, religious and ethnic minorities targeted for persecution. It has supported terrorism, called for Israel to be wiped off the map and represents a real threat to global stability and security. But the hypocrisy of Mr. Harper's self-righteous call on Iran to shape up shouldn't be lost on anyone. It certainly won't be lost on the Iranians. If Mr. Harper wants to make a real argument for Iran to mend its ways, perhaps he should start leading by example.

Published: Wednesday, 06/16/2010 12:00 am EDT

This past weekend, Canadian reporters received a press release which called on a certain government to, among other things, "uphold its human rights commitments by allowing freedom of expression; freedom of the press and freedom of assembly; protecting religious minorities; respecting the rights of prisoners and detainees; and ensuring equal treatment of women and girls."

If you are already a subscriber

Subscribe to Embassy

Subscribe to the print and electronic editions and get instant access to Embassy online.


Quick purchase

Purchase this week's edition of Embassy in electronic format (PDF) for $4.00


Sign up for a free trial

For access to the website.



Comments that appear on the site are not the opinion of Embassy. Personal attacks, name-calling, offensive language, and unsubstantiated allegations are not allowed. For more information on our commenting policies, please see our Community Discussion Rules page.

This Week's Issue
policy briefings

July 23, 2014

A record of Canada Vietnam relations