There was a web exclusive editorial on the Globe and Mail website on February 4 titled "Our Afghan detainees deserve Charter protection." Written by Alex Neve of Amnesty International and Jason Gratl of the BC Civil Liberties association it argues that the protections of Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms should apply to all persons which the Canadian government deals with, whether in Canada or not. It is a good argument if one believes in human rights and the treaties and conventions that have been put in place since WWII to prevent a repeat of the Nazi horrors of that era. That anyone would oppose this in mind boggling unless of course they approve of terrorism, torture and other abuses of human rights.
From the acts of most government since the War Crimes trials following WII it is apparent that concern for human rights is entirely situational. Human rights are an issue for governments when they can use them to their benefit, and not an issue if they become inconvenient. The examples are numerous. Human rights become an issue when we wish to find an excuse to conquer Afghanistan. The Taliban are bad, they disrespect women, deny free speech, use cruel punishments and so on. Conquest will rectify this we are told.
This rational, however, is proven a lie by the way that we act in regards to the puppet regime that the US has established in that country. Women are still abused and denied their rights. Such treatment is rationalized by saying that we need the abusers to help us fight the Taliban. In other words we need to condone the abuse of women, of torture, and so on in order to fight against people who abuse women, engage in torture in so on. If there is any clear message that comes from the official logic, it is that we are not in Afghanistan, or probably anywhere else for that matter, to protect people and promote human rights. In fact we have chosen a path that may put us closer to the Nazis than those who died fighting against them.
Recently a reporter in Afghanistan was sentenced to death for the crime of blasphemy after it was alleged that he wrote an article questioning the prophet Muhammad's respect for women's rights. Since the Prime Minister has not ordered our troops to withdraw from the country unless this sentence is nullified and the right of free speech is affirmed by our Afghan allies, which would include the right to criticize and challenge religious beliefs, one can only infer that in practice the government of Canada does not take these rights seriously.
Canada's lack of concern for human rights in its foreign policy is also exemplified by the way that it has handled the case of Asadulla Khalid, Governor of Kandhar. Credible evidence has come to light that Khalid's government engages in torture and that the Governor himself has participated directly in the abuse of prisoners. Furthermore it has come to light that the Harper government has known about this for about a year and has kept the information secret. One has to ask if we are fighting a war against terror and torture, why hasn't Governor Khalid been apprehended as a terrorist and confined like so many Afghans and others, some on less credible evidence? By doing business with people like Khalid the government of Canada becomes an accomplice to some of the very things that it says that it is against, and that it has signed agreements to prevent.
Back in 2006 Ehab Lotayef of Montreal published a piece in the Toronto Star titled "Canada's Mideast Policy should be based on international law." He challenges the practice of policy being based on the interest of lobby groups which turn a blind eye to violations of law when it suits their purpose. His issue primarily is Canadian policy towards Israel, but the premise holds true for all foreign relations. Why isn't all Canadian foreign policy based on international law?
Canada is party to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Geneva Convention, and the International Criminal Court. These are important documents that set the parameters for a fairer and more humane world. Canadians should be asking their MPs and other officials why we do not adhere strictly to these agreements, and why do we ally with and support countries that either refuse to sign them or sign, then ignore them?
Jerry West grew up on a farm in California and is currently Editor and Publisher of THE RECORD newspaper in Gold River, BC. Graduate with Honors and graduate school, UC Berkeley. Member, Phi Beta Kappa. Vietnam veteran and Former Sgt. USMC