Having travelled throughout China for the last two weeks, my jaw dropped when I read the latest United Nations Committee Against Torture report condemning Canada’s human rights violations, in particular, the use of information obtained from countries where torture is routinely used.
This prompted me to visit Amnesty International’s website where I discovered that Canada is also harshly criticized for Quebec’s legislative response to the student protests in Montreal.
I don’t get it? If Canada learns through foreign intelligence that an Al Quaeda attack will take out the United States embassy in Ottawa, we should ignore that warning because the information was obtained through torture?
Similarly, what part of a democratically elected government taking steps to control chaos in the streets, with those arrested accessing a justice system that is one of the finest in the world, enhanced by the protection of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, can be legitimately denounced?
With gross violations of human rights every day around the world, I think both the United Nations and Amnesty International should focus on significant breaches in countries that have long, well-documented instances of false imprisonment, torture, and an absence of legitimate trials.
For example, while I was in China two protesters set themselves on fire in Lhasa Tibet.
China’s response was the mass detention of a reported 600 people, who witnessed the self-immolations. In the last five months there have been 25 others who have set themselves on fire as a final protest against the Chinese government.
Meanwhile, the Chinese government downplays the suicide protesters as terrorists, criminals or mentally unstable.
The proliferation of China’s “black jails”, despite China signing the United Nations Convention on Torture in 1988, certainly deserves greater focus. Recently, Al Jazeera English journalist Melissa Chan was barred from China and the news agency was shut down, no doubt on account of her explicit reporting of the beatings and mental and physical deprivations that take place regularly in private jails across China.
With regards to Amnesty International’s condemnation of Bill 78, there is no doubt that this group does important work, but there are two sides to the debate over the propriety of legislation that requires protestors to advise the Quebec police of their intention to protest eight hours prior to the event, in order that measures can be taken to ensure that John Doe citizen is not unreasonably inconvenienced by mass protests.
Naysayers have characterized this law as outlawing freedom of assembly and free speech when nothing could be further from the truth.
We live in a free and democratic society that may not be perfect, but to throw Canada under the bus for violating human rights is needlessly fractious.