When Steven Harper, Prime Minister of Canada, stood in front of a crowd in Winnipeg Manitoba to announce his government's commitment to pay the annual operating costs for a proposed Human Rights Museum it proved that a politician's hypocrisy really does know no bounds. It also proves that there's not much justice in the world, otherwise he would have strangled on his tongue when he said it will honour Canadian values.
I have to wonder which side of his face he's talking out of when he says things like that. Is it the one that says it wants to prevent homosexuals from having the right to marry? Or how about the one that says it want to protect the people's freedom of religion by allowing them to refuse to serve homosexuals in the workplace, including government offices, forbid them employment in a place of business, or the one that wants to teach in schools that homosexuality should be illegal?
Maybe it's the one who wants keep people in jail for as long as possible with no proof that they've done anything wrong, deny them access to the supposed evidence that had them imprisoned in the first place, and presumes they are guilty until proven innocent. How about the one who wanted desperately to keep anti-terrorist laws in place without holding the five-year review the bill called for?
Aside from our frontline troops in Afghanistan, when was the last time a Canadian citizen was under direct threat from a terrorist? Well I guess you never know when you're going to have an Indian uprising do you? According to the Defence Ministry some native groups are as dangerous, if not more so, then groups like Hezbolah and the Tamil Tigers.
You never know when you're going to need extraordinary powers to round up all those pesky Natives wanting their land claims respected before somebody builds condominiums or a garbage dump on them. Of course this is same government that has reneged on almost every agreement signed by the previous one with the First Nations peoples that would have seen a redressing of past human rights infringements against them.
Of course Steven Harper's government describes stealing children from parents and shipping them off to boarding school to be trained as servants and janitors for white people as "education". I wonder what they call the practice of forbidding them to speak their language or practice their own religion when they were in these schools? How about the sexual, physical and emotional abuse so many of these children had inflicted on them – life experience.
Mr. Harper said that this new museum will have exhibits showing where Canada has failed the test on human rights. Is he referring to the head tax we imposed on Chinese immigrants? Will that include the Royal Canadian Legion forbidding to this day to allow orthodox Jewish people and Sikhs from wearing head covering inside a Legion hall? Or what about Canada refusing to allow Jewish refugees into our country who were fleeing Hitler in the thirties? Will a list of the names of people we sent back to Germany to the ovens be included in the Holocaust memorial part of the new Human Rights Museum?
How about our continued support of policies that encourage trade with countries like China where anybody who speaks out against the government is considered a traitor and thrown in jail? How about spending the lives of Canadian soldiers to prop up a regime in Afghanistan that denies civil rights to its people as much as the Taliban did? Are these going to be listed as mistakes we've made when it comes to defending Human Rights around the world and at home?
Then again maybe Steven Harper has a different concept of how Human Rights are defined. He seems very intent on undermining the Supreme Court of Canada these days, saying things like that courts shouldn't be making the laws or interfering in the running of the country.
When last I checked it was the still the House of Parliament that had the power to enact laws. The problem is that they have to abide by the Charter of Rights and Liberties. In other words a government can't pass a law discriminating against someone or denying them any of the rights that are set out in our constitution without having a very good reason. If they do, the courts will strike it down.
Any American civics student could tell Steven Harper about the theory of checks and balances that was written into the American Constitution. Like in the States it’s the responsibility of the judiciary branch to ensure that the Constitution of the country is adhered to, even by the government.
Human Rights are not something that can be turned off and on as they are convenient or inconvenient, which is what makes them so important. The true test of a nation is not whether they are willing to give rights to the respectable majority, but how far they are willing to extend those same rights to every type of minority.
We cannot have one law for one people and another law for other people in the same country or we lose any semblance of moral authority. How can Steven Harper chide another country's Human Rights record when he is so willing to deny them to his own people?
As Steven Harper was making the announcement of funding for the Human Rights Museum, his government's lawyers were seeking to have a motion thrown out of court that would prohibit Canadian troops from handing detainees captured in Afghanistan over to the Afghan government who routinely torture and mistreat any prisoners of war. According to Canadian law we never turn over a prisoner who runs the risk of facing either the death penalty or cruel and unusual punishment.
In the past when this type of situation has arisen the Canadian courts have ruled that the Charter of Right and Freedoms applies and that actions have to be governed accordingly. So it makes me wonder why Steven Harper's government wants to change that and deny people held under Canadian law the rights that have been guaranteed them in the past?
Canada's record is no better or worse than most so called Western democracies when it comes to Human Rights, but when we instituted the Charter of Rights and Freedoms we went a long way in amending our past errors. Steven Harper, the first Prime Minister to actively work against the Charter, standing up and stating that this new Museum of Human Rights will be representative of Canadian values is even more hypocritical than normal for a politician.
I really wonder how he keeps track of which face he's talking out of, because calling him two faced is an understatement. Not since Ravana, the ten-headed demon lord of Indian history, has a person presented more faces to the public at one time.