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Rights and Democracy: Dept. of Office Memos

“Incidents” between Rights and Democracy staff and members of its board over the past 15 months


 

The document I’ve posted below after the jump was one of several that were tabled today at the Foreign Affairs Committee by three former members of Rights and Democracy. The three, Marie-France Cloutier, Razmik Panossian and Charles Vallerand, were fired weeks ago by bailiff’s letter on the order of interim president Jacques Gauthier, a member of the new Rights and Democracy board majority, on the day before the appointment of Gérard Latulippe as the agency’s president. The document lists several “incidents” between members of the Rights and Democracy staff and members of its board over the past 15 months. While this document has been tabled at the Foreign Affairs committee, none of the assertions in it has been proven. It should be considered only a list of allegations made by one aggrieved party in a continuing dispute. — pw

INVENTORY OF INCIDENTS BETWEEN
members of THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS
AND THE STAFF OF RIGHTS AND DEMOCRACY,
BETWEEN February 2009 and January 2010

Note: The incident of the performance evaluation of President Beauregard,
already well documented in the media, is not included in this table.

Date Board member(s) Employee(s) Incident issue
February 2009 Jacques Gauthier Rémy Beauregard

Razmik Panossian

Michael Wodzicki

Nicholas Galletti

Charles Vallerand

Press release on “Operation Cast Lead conducted by Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip. The draft statement quoted from a position of Rights & Democracy already published (in June 2006, under Jean-Louis Roy) calling on both parties to respect the human rights of non-combatants.

Mr. Gauthier, then acting president of the board of directors has asked us to issue instead a statement accusing the Palestinian authorities to be behind this latest escalation of violence.
Rights & Democracy did not issue a statement.

March 2009 Jacques Gauthier Rémy Beauregard

Marie-France Cloutier

Dominic Tremblay

Mr. Gauthier has insistently sought to know the amount of severance package paid to an employee, first by his questions during meetings of the Board of Directors, then the finance committee then by asking Marie-France Cloutier directly. Mr. Beauregard has refused to disclose the amount for two reasons:

1. The board of directors of the Center approves projects, not staff salaries. This is the President’s prerogative pursuant to Article 15.1 of the Act

2. Pay scales can be revealed, but not the exact wages which remain confidential under the federal Privacy Act.

The Office of the Auditor General of Canada noted that the agreement giving rise to a severance payment after resignation was legal, but unusual. The OAG approved the financial statements without reservation.

Wage policy adopted since for non unionized employee state that no premium is paid in cases of voluntary departure.
The Board nevertheless seeks to adopt a bylaw to that effect.

No consensus was reached around the wording submitted by Mr. Beauregard at the June 2009 board meeting.

The board has not addressed this issue since.

Mars 2009 Aurel Braun Razmik Panossian

Michael Wodzicki

Mr. Braun is informed of funding for Al Haq, B’Tselem and Al Mezan during the briefing session given to him on the eve of his first participation to the board. Mr. Braun was visibly angry and very upset. He said how that decision was wrong and what negative consequences it could have if the matter became public.

The funding for these three organizations came from the Urgent Action Fund:

The urgent action fund was established in 2000. Expenses over $5,000 were originally subject to board approval. Following an external evaluation conducted in 2002, the board deemed that given the amounts involved and the need for rapid response, authority over the fund would be delegated to the President of the Centre who would report back to the board. This change occurred in 2003.

The decision to provide funding to Al Haq, Al Mezan and B’Tselem was in line with this procedure.

March 2009 Aurel Braun Rémy Beauregard

Razmik Panossian

Mr. Braun gets adopted a resolution requiring President Beauregard to consult members of the executive committee of the board on all expenditures of the urgent action and the important opportunities funds until this matter it reconsidered at the June meeting of the board. Funding of $ 7,000 to support the visit in Colombia of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people is approved by all members of the Executive Committee, except Mr. Braun, who says has a veto.

Funding is finally granted at the next meeting of the Board of Directors in June 2009.

At its meeting on 7-8 January 2010, the Board adopts a resolution providing for a freeze of the urgent action and the important opportunities funds pending further consideration.

The freezing of the funds forced the management team to support the disaster relief effort to Haiti in January 2010 out of regular budgets.
The board later changed its mind later and approved that the funding come from the urgent action fund.

March 2009 Jacques Gauthier Sylvain Beauchamp,

Senior Advisor,

Partnerships

At meetings of the Board, it is customary to invite employees to meet board members during a buffet style luncheon. In his conversation with Sylvain Beauchamp, Mr. Gauthier indicated that it could be expected that important changes would be made to the orientations of the Centre.
March 2009 Jacques Gauthier Razmik Panossian After each meeting of the Board, it is customary for the management team to join directors for dinner. Mr. Gauthier questioned Razmik Panossian at length about his ethnic origin, religion, migrations from Armenia, to Lebanon, London and then Canada.

Mr. Gauthier later wrote that he had been offended by Razmik’s questions following set of questions on his own origins and the possibility that he or his wife would be Jewish given his great interest in the status of Jerusalem.

March 2009 (and throughout the year, as evidenced by conversations with Cynthia Gervais in October 2009 in particular) Aurel Braun

Jacques Gauthier

Rémy Beauregard

Marie-France Cloutier

The Board was informed by Mr. Beauregard at the meeting in March 2009 of its decision that Rights and Democracy would not participate in any way to the Durban Review Conference, nor to parallel events reserved for civil society organizations even if we had been invited to attend by the civil society unit of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. During a telephone conversation with Secretary of the Board, Ms. Cloutier, Mr. Braun tried to amend the minutes to attribute this decision to himself. She refused.

Mr. Braun insisted after this incident that the deliberations of the Board be recorded, which was done.

Despite assurances given by Mr. Beauregard, Mr. Gauthier and Mr. Braun continued to investigate whether Rights & Democracy had not participated in one way or the other at the conference.

Both have interviewed, each in turn, the director of the Geneva Office of Rights & Democracy, Cynthia Gervais, on the subject. (see incident dated October 2009).

They have refused all offers to meet with the Assistant Program Director, France-Isabelle Langlois, to whom Cynthia Gervais reports.

In his memorandum announcing the postponement of the October board meeting, Mr. Braun continued to believe that Rights & Democracy participated in Durban II, that the intern at the Geneva Office had played an active role in it and that the decision to commission an external evaluation of the Geneva Office at great expense (in his words) was made without consulting with him.

May 2009 Aurel Braun Rémy Beauregard

Razmik Panossian

Charles Vallerand

Michael Wodzicki

The adoption of family law by the Shia Family Law in Afghanistan has raised international outcry and brought a lot of media visibility to Rights and Democracy. Mr. Braun was outraged that we had embarrassed the Minister Cannon in an article in Embassy magazine which suggested that the government knew of the Bill. Mr. Braun insisted that a letter of apology be sent to the Minister.

It was decided not to send a letter, since in fact the journalist had drawn his own conclusions.

The offices of Minister of Foreign Affairs and CIDA, with which we were in constant contact during this period, understood and accepted our position. Our collaboration with our counterparts continued as well as the coordination of messages.

The editorial board of the Embassy Magazine later published a long interview with Mr. Beauregard on our projects in Afghanistan, setting the record straight.

Mr. Beauregard has clarified this matter before the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development at its meeting on May 7, 2009.

June 2009 Board of directors Rémy Beauregard

Marie-France Cloutier

At the meeting of the Board of Directors in March 2009, the first chaired by Mr. Braun, the director Guido Riveros Franck recommends training on rules of governance. Mr. Braun did not recall this discussion and attempted to remove reference made to it in the minutes of the meeting.

A consultant is selected following a recommendation by staff of the Treasury Board and in coordination with the Office of the Privy Council and DFAIT. Mr. Braun considers the cost of this consultant excessive. Mr. Gauthier did not participate in training.

Mr. Braun refused repeatedly to meet with officials of the Privy Council Office, which sought to explain to him the duties and obligations of a Chairman of the Board.

August 2009 Aurel Braun Rémy Beauregard

Charles Vallerand

Mr. Braun expected to approve the Annual Report 2008-09 The established practice since the inception of the Center was that the board’s chair would approve his introductory remarks only.

The report on the organization activities is prepared in close collaboration with the program officers who have intimate knowledge of their achievements.

Mr. Braun took office at the end of the fiscal year 2008-09 and could not have been able to comment on the annual report for the period ending March 31st 2009.

Mr. Beauregard agreed, in an email dated September 10, 2009, to submit to Mr. Braun drafts of the next annual report in advance.

September 2009 Aurel Braun Rémy Beauregard

Marie-France Cloutier

Charles Vallerand

Preparing for an interview with journalist Graeme Hamilton of the National Post for a new article on Phase 1 of the Special Review conducted by DFAIT’s Office of the Inspector General following allegations of mismanagement. Mr. Braun is consulted by telephone on our set of anticipated questions and answers. He considers them to be inaccurate. He said there are serious problems at Rights & Democracy. We cannot hide them from reporters. “Press gets upset when they are in denial.” If we do not talk, he will do and make public the problems within the board. He also mentioned that there was “an alternate view about human rights”.

It was decided to explain as planned to the reporter that his first articles made references to past events, and that administrative controls had since been implemented and the programming of the Centre was successful.

September 2009 Aurel Braun Rémy Beauregard

Razmik Panossian

Nicholas Galletti

Identify human rights experts who will bring new perspectives to the Board of Directors, following a suggestion by Marco Navarro-Genie at the June Board meeting. Telephone consultation with Mr. Braun to identify experts: Charles Taylor (McGill), Andrew Arato (New School in NYC), Gerald Steinberg (Bar Ilan University).

Gerald Steinberg, head of Israel’s NGO Monitor, is not approached contrary to what had been discussed. Other board members are strongly against the idea to invite him.

Decision made by Razmik Panossian, in consultation with the management committee that, given the travel costs to bring Mr. Steinberg to Canada and the short time before the Board meeting in October, it would be better to invite him at the next meeting which would also allow to better plan his visit.

Mr. Taylor and Mr. Arato are not available. We then turn to Frank Chalk (Concordia) who enthusiastically agrees to talk about his latest book on the “Will to Protect”, widely covered in the media at the time.

Mr. Braun was outraged that we had not approached or asked Mr. Steinberg.

October 2009 Aurel Braun

Jacques Gauthier

Brad Farquhar

Marco  Navarro-Génie

Elliott Tepper

Rémy Beauregard

Marie-France Cloutier

Mr. Braun announces postponement of the 22-23 October board meeting 48 hours before it is to take place The board’s international members are insulted that the announcement is made while they are en route to the airport

Cancellation fee of $ 15 000

Cancellation decided by a minority group of 5 members (out of 11) without consultation with the others.

Cited reasons to cancel are as valid reasons to hold the meeting without any delay.

Since the issue of the performance appraisal of the President had not been resolved, there was a risk that the October board meeting would face the same outcome as the previous June meeting.

Minority members can now hope that the two vacancies on the board will be filled to their advantage.

October 2009 Aurel Braun

Jacques Gauthier

Elliott Tepper

Brad Farquhar

Marco  Navarro-Génie

Rémy Beauregard

Marie-France Cloutier

The letter announcing the postponement of the Board meeting of October invokes the Government’s intention to create a new institution to promote democracy in the world. The adoption of the new Five-Year Plan 2010 – 2015 is jeopardized. Mr. Beauregard and the staff have devoted considerable energy to preparing this plan, which had been adopted in the form of a white paper by the board at its June 2009 meeting.

The adoption of the final version of five-year plan at the meeting of October 2009 would have allowed for it to be presented before the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs in October 2009, in support of our request for a consolidated funding.

The preliminary agenda for the Board meeting of January 2010, prepared by Mr. Braun, did not include any discussion on the five-year plan, only a few months away from the new fiscal year.

The item was added to the agenda at the request of Payam Akhavan, but was never discussed following the death of President Beauregard.

October 2009 Aurel Braun et Jacques Gauthier Pierre Robert, international consultant Mr. Robert had planned to interview Mr. Braun and Mr. Gauthier as part of his mandate to evaluate the Geneva office project. Mr. Robert was selected after an international call for tender. The external evaluation had been approved as part of the initial project submitted to Rights & Democracy board of directors in 2006. Cancellation of the Board of Directors meeting to be held in October in Montreal has not allowed Mr. Robert to meet them. He had travelled from Berlin to Montreal for the occasion.

Mr. Braun and Mr. Gauthier finally did a phone interview with him, but did not answer his questions. They instead asked about the Durban II Conference, on the relationship between Rights & Democracy and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, with the Council on Human Rights, or with Ms. Arbor or Ms. Pillay.

In his report, Mr Robert noted the governance issues that he had observed at Rights & Democracy.

October 2009 Aurel Braun et Jacques Gauthier Cynthia Gervais, Director of the Geneva office (non-unionized employee, but not part of the management team) Telephone conversation over an hour with Ms. Gervais, on her motivations, on the origins and coordinates of the intern in the Geneva office. On a few occasions, Mr. Gauthier and other board members tried to visit Ms. Gervais at our Geneva office. For various reasons (illness, travels) such a meeting never took place.

Mr. Beauregard was very uncomfortable with the idea that board members would deal directly with employees. Normally, it is up to the President to respond to their inquiries, to ensure that answers provided are accurate and complete.

Mr. Braun and Mr. Gauthier did manage, through persistence, to question Cynthia Gervais each in turn. They have both asked the same questions on the Durban II Conference, the presence (repeatedly denied) of the office’s intern at the Conference, on the relationships between Rights & Democracy and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and with the Council of Human Rights.

There were also questions on the choice of the external consultant Mr. Robert, the decision to conduct an external evaluation, the role of the Geneva office’s own board of directors – all of which seemed to show a misunderstanding of roles and responsibilities.

They also raised personal issues (history, contact information, skills, future projects, cause of sick leave), which are clearly a violation of the rights of persons concerned.

29 October 2009 Aurel Braun Rémy Beauregard

Razmik Panossian

Nicholas Galletti

Charles Vallerand

Marie-France Cloutier

Appearance before the SCFAID on Rights & Democracy five-year review, and in order to get support for a consolidated funding. Mr. Braun asked that we address the existing issues within Rights and Democracy, especially between the Board and the President.

It was decided to that this was not the appropriate occasion since the purpose of our appearance is to discuss the five-year review, which is positive, and a consolidated funding

On the eve of our appearance, Mr. Braun declined Mr. Beauregard’s invitation to appear with him Jean Guilbeault and Payam Akhavan joined the President, Razmik and Marie-France for the presentation.

Elliott Tepper and Brad Farquhar, who did not announce their presence, showed up at the meeting.

30 October 2009 All Rémy Beauregard

Marie-France Cloutier

A majority of members of the Board agree to convene a meeting of the Executive Committee, after obtaining a legal opinion prepared by the Mercier Leduc law firm confirming the legality of their decision. The Executive Committee is convened to approve the renewal of two international members whose term expires (Sima Samar and Guido Riveros Franck) and to adopt three projects.

This meeting triggered a fiery email exchange between the two opposing factions on the Board.
At its 7-8 January, 2010, the Board challenges the validity of decisions made by the Executive Committee and reviews them one by one.

The mandate of the Mercier Leduc law firm is terminated, considering that there could be a perceived conflict of interest and that the legal opinion was flawed.

The mandate of Sima Samar is extended but not that of Guido Riveros Franck. Sima Samar and  Payam Akhavan then resign.

The three-year project “Sexual Violence in the Demoractic Republic of the Congo” is approved for the current fiscal year, and will again be discussed at the next meeting once new board members have had a chance to read the proposal.

November 2009 Elliott Tepper Nicholas Galletti, Senior Policy Advisor to the President Mr. Tepper visits Nicholas shortly after the opening of Rights & Democracy’s Ottawa offices.. Mr. Tepper has hinted that there could be consequences if the Ottawa office was spreading rumours and helped to publicize the problems of the board of directors.

He also said that there was no possibility of reconciliation between President Beauregard and some members of the Board following the events arising from the June meeting. He said “We have an impasse and the solution will not be pretty.”

January 2010 Board of directors Rémy Beauregard The board adopts a resolution to terminate the contractual agreement with the law firm Mercier Leduc The statutes provide that the Center’s President Rémy Beauregard has full authority to hire consultants.
January 2010 Board of directors Rémy Beauregard Mr. Braun presented at the meeting of the Board of January 7-8, a modified agenda and cut short all discussion on the reasons for the changes proposed by imposing the vote. Mr. Beauregard was not entitled to an explanation of the reasons that motivated Mr. Braun to move the President’s report towards the end of the meeting rather than at the opening as was customary.

Mr. Beauregard did not understand that one could hold an informed Board meeting without members having first heard the report of the President.

January 2010 Aurel Braun

David Matas

Rémy Beauregard Mr. Matas came at the meeting of the board with in hand a 15-page document arguing that that Al Haq, B’Tselem and Al Mezan were toxic and vicious groups making use of the technique of “lawfare” to attack Israel. Mr. Braun did not see fit to limit the speaking time of

Mr. Matas, as he had demanded of other members during the meeting, given the tight schedule.

Mr. Braun did not refrain from insulting Mr. Beauregard, going as far as saying that his undergraduate students would have done better than the staff Rights and Democracy in their research on the three groups.

Mr. Navarro-Génie used a similar insult with Mr. Beauregard in denouncing the decision to hold the executive committee in October 30, 2009.

January 2010 Board of directors Despite the briefing notes, the many questions asked during board meetings or interviews with Cynthia Gervais and Pierre Robert, the board adopted a resolution entrusting Brad Farquhar and David Matas to revise the partnership between Rights & Democracy and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The partnership agreement terminated on March 31, 2009.
January 2010 Brad Farquhar Maxime Longangué, president of the union The day after sending the union had sent its own letter in support of the letter signed by all members of the management committee requesting the postponement of the meeting of the Board of Directors to be held in Montreal on the eve of Mr. Beauregard’s funeral service, Mr. Farquhar left a voice-mail to Maxime and wrote him an email commenting on the action taken by unionized members of the staff and his responsibility as union leader. It is not common for board members to deal directly with employees.

The union filed a grievance against the member of the board of directors Brad Farquhar for his communication of 20 January with the union president, Maxime Longangué.


 

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