Who the Tories stand with on human rights

Hunches and goose chases at Rights and Democracy have cost taxpayers $1 million

Who the tories stand with on human rights

AMR Nabil/AP

From 2005 to 2008, Rights and Democracy, the Montreal-based arm’s-length agency created by an act of Parliament in 1988, counted a man named Saad Eddin Ibrahim among its board members. Today we will compare Ibrahim to his successors to measure how completely Rights and Democracy, and with it the human-rights credibility of Stephen Harper’s government, have collapsed.

For most of his career Ibrahim was a sociologist at the American University in Cairo. A long-time critic of Anwar Sadat, he paused to praise Sadat for his peace with Israel. He became, in Christopher Hitchens’s words, “the best of the Egyptian ‘civil society’ dissidents by taking Hosni Mubarak’s sham elections at face value.

Sometimes he ran as a candidate. Other times he polled public opinion or instructed Egyptians in the legal exercise of their voting rights. For his troubles, Ibrahim spent three years in Mubarak’s jails, winning every appeal until George W. Bush secured his release. He has lived in the United States since then.

Last year in the Washington Post, Ibrahim criticized Barack Obama as an inadequate steward of Bush’s pro-democracy record in the Arab world. “Reform activists in Lebanon, Egypt, Kuwait and elsewhere felt empowered to press for greater freedoms during the Bush years. Unfortunately, Bush’s strong support for democracy contrasts sharply with President Obama’s retreat on this critical issue.” On substance, Ibrahim would fit right in with our government’s foreign policy.

But conservatism does not seem to be the quality Harper is looking for. What he is looking for is chaos. So in 2008, the year Ibrahim could have been reappointed to the Rights and Democracy board, the Harper government appointed several others including Elliot Tepper and Jacques Gauthier.

Last week, Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon wrote to the opposition parties telling them he intends to reappoint Gauthier and Tepper for another three-year term. Let’s see what it takes to become a two-term Harper government appointee.

Tepper is a political scientist at Carlton University. Gauthier is a lawyer. Within 14 months of their appointment, five members of the R&D board had written to the federal government to complain that Gauthier and a later appointee, board chairman Aurel Braun, were showing “manifest lack of transparency and violation of procedure” in their treatment of the organization’s then-president, Rémy Beauregard. In October, they wrote Ottawa again, calling the board “dysfunctional” and saying the organization was in “crisis.”

Some board members who objected to Gauthier, Braun and Tepper were replaced in a series of board appointments through 2009. Others resigned in disgust. Beauregard spent eight months trying to get his hands on a job evaluation that Gauthier and Tepper had sent the government, with Braun’s endorsement, and then trying to clear his name. A year ago he died in his sleep after yet another confrontation with his tormenters.

Nearly the entire staff of R&D signed a letter demanding that Braun, Gauthier and Tepper be dismissed. The board responded by appointing Gauthier as interim president, to replace the deceased Beauregard. He sacked three staffers after hiring a private investigator, Claude Sarrazin, to listen while the three were questioned without being told who Sarrazin was. Gauthier contracted Deloitte & Touche to run an audit of Beauregard’s management of the agency. He promised the audit would be publicly released last March. It had still not been released to the public when a copy was leaked to the Globe and Mail last December.

The audit shows, as Graeme Hamilton wrote in the National Post, that poor management at the organization “predated the presidency of Rémy Beauregard” and that he had “introduced changes to better control spending soon after arriving as president in 2008.” In short, “An organization whose annual budget of $11 million is supposed to defend human rights around the world has spent $253,000″—the cost of the untendered Deloitte contract—”to learn that its suspicions about Mr. Beauregard were unfounded.”

How unfounded? Gauthier’s main suspicion when he hired Deloitte, the audit report stated, was that R&D was sending $30,000 a month in clandestine payments to the agency’s Geneva office. Not only did Deloitte find no proof for this explosive accusation, it found no evidence for it. It was fantasy.

But what about the private eye Gauthier hired, at a cost of $91,000 without tender? Aurel Braun has argued elsewhere that the report from Sarrazin’s firm Sirco would show the real dirt. But in a Jan. 4 letter to the Commons foreign affairs committee, R&D president Gérard Latulippe said Sirco turned up nothing worth MPs’ attention. “The present crisis has lasted long enough,” Latulippe wrote plaintively. “The time has come to put it behind us.”

I would like nothing better. But Lawrence Cannon will not let that happen because he wants the architects of this disaster to keep running the wreckage. Jacques Gauthier’s hunches and goose chases cost Canadian taxpayers $1 million last year. One-third of the R&D staff has quit. The organization has said no word of warning or celebration during the astonishing events in Tunisia and Egypt. Saad Eddin Ibrahim still lists his R&D affiliation in his bio. It used to be something to be proud of.


Who the Tories stand with on human rights

  1. This is great, Paul. Know that a lot of people care about this solely because of you. If you hadn't kept poking around, this story would have been dead as of Beauregard's obit.

    On a somewhat related note, I'd love to hear your take on Dan Gardner's Citizen column today (Friday, Feb. 4th). He takes a position opposite to that which this R&D affair seems partly to have lead you; namely, that Stephen Harper is covertly changing the country. Any response?

    • I think PW has the copyright on that take.

    • I'm traveling and just read Dan now. His take does diverge from mine but it's well worth reading and considering.

      • Paul,

        Please show Andrew Coyne your writings on Harper's efforts to change the direction of the country. Apparently, Andrew doesn't think Harper is getting anywhere with regards to steering the country to a more centre-right ideal.

  2. The thought had occurred to me that in times past, we might have heard something from Rights and Democracy about the current events in Egypt.
    However, given the Israeli government's position regarding Mubarak, the nuanced position of the Government of Canada (relative to other democracies) and the current R&D board's orientation on matters related to the Israeli-Palestine conflict, I'm not holding my breath.

  3. It is all part of a secret Neo-Con agenda that aims to destroy Canada. Canadians did not vote for the Conservatives in the last election!

    We need the Liberals to bring back accountability and responsible governement to Canada.

    • Funny, that was the rallying cry that got us the Harper led government in the first place. They were to deliver accountability in the face of mass and deeply rooted Liberal corruption.
      I don't suspect the current Liberals would deliver on that promise any better than the current Conservatives.
      The question is; can we move past the current options?

      P.S. Sorry the NDP and Greens need figure out how to have a voice without the shrill.

  4. This comment was deleted.

    • So do you believe that R&D was better led and directed before Tepper, Gauthier, and Latulippe came on board, or after? And to my knowledge, R&D bears no relationship to human rights commissions (except both use the word "rights" in their titles).

      You might want to ask why Lawrence Cannon not only allows this, but has offered his government's endorsement of it.

    • Talk about fanatical zeal

    • Ezra Levant is not a credible source of information. Check everything he says aginst independent sources before you repeat it, especially if it is a smear of somebody. He has been successfully sued for libel and is embroiled in other libel lawsuits, and anyone who repeats a libel could potentially also be sued.

  5. So what? Its suprisising that the Conservatives don't care wether government institutions function or not? They have no use for the federal government or any of its agencies beyond defence, the courts and foreign affairs-

  6. wow, and September 23, 2010 wasn't that long ago… "Fed up with allegations and accusations of playing favourites with patronage gigs, Prime Minister Stephen Harper is considering a plan to eliminate renewable contracts for government appointments."
    Read more: http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2010/09/23/do

  7. And of course if Gerard Latulipe says theyre is nothing of interest, so of course it must be true? about the sirco report…How come that one wasnt leaked?

  8. 'Last year in the Washington Post, Ibrahim criticized Barack Obama as an inadequate steward of Bush's pro-democracy record in the Arab world… Bush's strong support for democracy contrasts sharply with President Obama's retreat on this critical issue.” On substance, Ibrahim would fit right in with our government's foreign policy.

    But conservatism does not seem to be the quality Harper is looking for. What he is looking for is chaos"

    In fairness it has to be said Obama had little choice but to revert to stability paradigm after the Iraq fiasco; not that i agreed with him either. In that sense O has disappointed a lot of Liberals.

    Why would Harper seek chaos over a principled, consistent human rights policy? It has me stumped. [ not difficult]

    What is the upside of chaos?

    Doesn't this kind of behavour go some way to supporting AC's take on Harper's tenure and not yours[PWs]?

    • Shock Doctrine? Profits can be made by taking advantage of people who are disoriented and fragile after a disaster. Of course it helps if you do not care about human rights in the first place, much less democracy.

  9. If Macleans doesn't nominate PWs for some kind of award for his work on the R&D file, then there is no justice.[ forgive the slight exaggeration]
    We need more, lots more of this kind of journalism in this country.

  10. If Macleans doesn't nominate PWs for some kind of award for his work on the R&D file, then there is no justice.[ forgive the slight exaggeration]
    We need more, lots more of this kind of journalism in this country.

  11. Lawrence Cannon is like the dog on the label of HMV. Waiting to hear his master's voice before he takes a single step. if he was asked by HM to dance naked in the streets he would instantly do it so long as he could hold onto his job. His credibility is like Pinochio

    • That sounds like almost every member of the Government.

  12. This is why it is a good idea to have a registered account.

  13. Thanks, Paul, for mentioning that the Rights and Democracy agency has not said a word about the events in Egypt or Tunisia.

  14. This Harper government only cares about Rights & Democracy – or any federal agency – as far as the political sound-bites and photo-opps they can get out of it. No interest in efficiency or quality of work if it doesn't enhance their agenda. This is a shameful way to "lead" a country.

  15. That's right, bury this embarrassment. The new management appointed by Harper was unable to whitewash their clumsy takeover, and the good record of previous management is threatening to overshadow Harper's agenda.

    I have a better suggestion – let's bury this Harper government!

  16. This comment was deleted.

    • The trouble with democracy is that people don't get their way. Or better put is that for better or worse true democracy is to represent citizens and sometimes that conflicts with our interests. Rightly or wrongly.
      Have a little faith that when the dusts settles that they will elect a pragmatic government.

      • If the Muslim Brotherhood holds sway…….you can say goodbye to Pramatism, and hello to Sharia…..

        Oh…and the Egyptions can most likely say goodbye to the Facebook, Twitter, or other social network accounts.

        Extremists don't like competition……

        • What do you know, from credible sources that is, about the Muslim Brotherhood? Not much, I'm betting, you are just pretending they are the Big Bad Boogeyman.

          • Holly, one simply has to pay attention to know about the Muslim Brotherhood. Watch Al Jazerra, CNN, CBC…read the papers, watch the news…etc..etc…

            The Muslim Brotherhood is a strong supporter of HAMAS and other extremist groups.

            Though…given your comments to date, I'm assuming you sympathize more with them than their potential (jewish) vicitms.

            Tell you what Holly, go rent yourself a Burka and visit the region. If that doesn't clear things up for you………

          • But why can't this revolution be secular? You seem to be saying that military rule is okay for the next couple of hundred years. Have some faith in the people of Egypt to make a democratic secular state a la Turkey.

        • You're an alarmist. I worry about the future of the Eygptian-Israeli peace accord too, but sowing misinformation and suspicion isn't going to help.

  17. So if it's supposedly of no use, then just have the gonads disband/shut down the org entirely. Instead the government plays ongoing little mind-games with the organization to try to destroy it's credibility so that it seems like an unecessary burden.

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