A losing battle

PAUL WELLS: How the late president of Rights and Democracy tried to fight back


A Losing Battle

Last June, Rémy Beauregard, the president of a federal government-funded human rights organization called Rights and Democracy, read aloud to his fellow board members from a long memo he had written. The memo was his response to an evaluation of his job performance written by two members of the federal government-appointed board, Jacques Gauthier and Elliot Tepper. The board’s chairman, Aurel Braun, had sent along his own note endorsing the evaluation, which was highly critical of Beauregard.

Beauregard was responding now, in June, because it had taken three months for him to get his hands on the evaluation. Braun, Gauthier and Tepper had sent it to the federal government without showing it to Beau­regard. They had fought his attempts to get a copy of his own job evaluation for months, incurring hefty legal bills. Finally, Beauregard submitted a request to the Foreign Affairs Department for his personal information under the Privacy Act. Braun, Tepper and Gauthier were shocked when Beauregard showed up with a copy of their handiwork and started reading his response.

Beauregard’s written response to the performance evaluation, obtained by Maclean’s and revealed here for the first time, makes clear the extent to which this extraordinary controversy at Rights and Democracy was about the stance the organization, and by extension the government of Canada, should take with regard to Israel. Beauregard got into trouble with Braun and the others for disbursing grants that seemed to take sides in the Middle East conflict. Paradoxically, the Rights and Democracy board is now predominantly composed of people who have devoted much of their life to an unequivocal position: that no legal challenge to Israel’s human rights record is permissible, because any such challenge is part of a global harassment campaign against Israel’s right to exist.

For the longest time this wholesale transformation at Rights and Democracy seemed like it would escape public attention. Then came the astonishing events of January.

That’s when Rémy Beauregard died in his sleep after another deeply acrimonious meeting of the Rights and Democracy board, at which Braun’s faction for the first time held a voting majority. At that meeting, one member of the board who had been critical of Braun lost a vote to have his mandate renewed. Two more immediately quit in disgust.

Within days, the federal government received a letter signed by almost every member of the Rights and Democracy staff, calling for the removal of Braun, Gauthier and Tepper from the board. The letter was leaked to reporters, forcing the internal dispute into the open. But the three board members remained in place. Matching the staff’s act of defiance with its own, the board met again and appointed Gauthier as interim president. The next day, while most Rights and Democracy employees were attending Beauregard’s funeral in Ottawa, there was a break-in at the Montreal office. Two laptop computers were stolen. Police are still investigating.

After the burglary, Braun, a University of Toronto professor of international relations who was named to the Rights and Democracy board in March 2009, told employees they could not speak publicly about the organization without prior written approval from him. A few days later, Gauthier arrived at the Rights and Democracy office and began questioning employees about their behaviour. He was accompanied by a man he identified as Claude Sarrazin, “a business associate.” It was only by looking on the Internet later that staff members were able to learn Sarrazin is a private investigator who specializes in computer crime. Gauthier told three members of the staff they were suspended with pay until further notice, pending an investigation into their role in the suddenly very public controversy.

But that’s January. Back in June, Beauregard still viewed Braun and his allies on the 13-member board as a minority. Only two members of the board, Gauthier and Tepper, had signed the evaluation, and only Braun had written a memo endorsing it. Another member of the evaluation committee—Donica Pottie, a senior Foreign Affairs bureaucrat who sat on the board as the federal government’s direct representative—“was left out completely,” Beauregard wrote. Three months later Pottie would resign from the Rights and Democracy board altogether. She did not return a reporter’s telephone call for comment and the government has not yet appointed anyone to replace her.

Beauregard went through his colleagues’ criticism of him point by point. Tepper, Gauthier and Braun accused Beauregard of seeking accreditation for Rights and Democracy at the April 2009 World Conference Against Racism. This was the so-called Durban Review Conference, a follow-up in Geneva to the United Nations’ lurid and toxic 2001 Durban conference in South Africa, which had degenerated into a multinational attack on Israel. “This is wrong,” Beauregard wrote. “We never requested accreditation to the Durban Review Conference, nor did we attend the conference as an observer.”

Next, Beauregard’s critics denounced him for a “missed opportunity”: failing to condemn Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, for his virulently anti-Israel speech to the Geneva conference. Beauregard responded: “It would be incongruous to make a statement on an issue in which I, as president, decided that the institution would not be involved.”

But these were relatively minor skirmishes compared to the topic at the heart of the confrontation between Beauregard and Braun. After the January 2009 conflict between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Beauregard had authorized a so-called “Urgent Action” project from discretionary funds to document any human rights violations in Gaza. The grants, $10,000 each, went to three groups in the area: B’Tselem in Israel, Al-Haq in Ramallah in the West Bank, and Al-Mezan in Gaza. The evaluation of Beauregard said Al-Haq’s director general, Shawan Jabarin, “was found to be a senior member of the terrorist group, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, by the Supreme Court of Israel and many other organizations.”

Here, too, Beauregard saw things differently. All three of the recipient organizations “are seen as credible by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the Dutch foreign minister,” he said. Jabarin hadn’t been a member of the PFLP since 1987. Israeli human-rights groups had protested the travel ban on him. Israel’s top court had imposed the ban after a trial in which Jabarin was forbidden, under anti-terrorism laws, to hear or reply to the evidence against him. Liberal foreign affairs critic Bob Rae had met with Al-Haq in Ramallah on March 14, coincidentally only four days after Braun’s appointment to the Rights and Democracy board.

Along with the formal evaluation by Gauthier and Tepper, and Braun’s memo, the government had also received, and returned to Beauregard, another memo by Jacques Gauthier. In many ways this was the most upsetting to Beauregard. It included Gauthier’s claim that “while attending a conference in Cairo in the fall of 2008, Mr. Beauregard met with representatives of Hamas and Hezbollah.”

“This is patently false, and I consider it an attack on my reputation,” Beauregard replied.

“Finally, a section of this memo is the most troubling to me,” Beauregard wrote. During an informal dinner chat in March with a Rights and Democracy employee, Gauthier and the employee had asked about each other’s background. “I was also very surprised,” Gauthier wrote, “to be informed subsequently that there are no Jewish employees in the office of R&D in Montreal.”

This left Beauregard livid. “It is completely unacceptable for a member of the board to inquire about the ethnicity and/or religious affiliation of staff members,” he wrote, “especially for a human rights organization. When the union learns about this and when we know more about how Mr. Gauthier investigated the religious affiliations of our staff, all hell will break loose.”

Maclean’s emailed Braun and Gauthier at 12:14 on the afternoon of Tuesday, Feb. 9, with a list of questions pertaining to the allegations in Beauregard’s document. Each wrote back several hours later, saying it was impossible to reply before that evening’s publication deadline for this issue of the magazine. “The assumptions behind your questions are in large part demonstrably wrong, misleading, incomplete and/or distorted and I caution you against publishing an article based on them,” Gauthier wrote.

Reading Beauregard’s comments, it is not hard to spot a general tone of disbelief at his surreal predicament. He had spent 40 years working in government and non-profit organizations, after all, often in human rights. In 1986 he became the first person to run Ontario’s Office of Francophone Affairs, trying to figure out how to extend services to the province’s French-language minority. His work in that post has made him a nearly heroic figure among Franco-Ontarians. Later he ran the Ontario Human Rights Commission before working on a new constitution for Rwanda and human rights legislation for the Democratic Republic of Congao. He’d seen his share of tough fights.

But he’d never seen anything like this. His antagonists on the board were accusing him—in a secret memo they had fought to keep out of his hands—of failing to “improve the communications and interactions” between his office and the board. In his accompanying memo, Braun wrote that all this was “constructive criticism and it is hoped that it will be viewed in that light by Mr. Beauregard.” Braun had then spent three months trying to ensure Beauregard would not be permitted to view it in any light at all.

That was the June meeting. Donica Pottie, the government representative, resigned from the board in September. Still short of a workable voting majority, Braun cancelled the October board meeting on two days’ notice. Three weeks later, the government appointed two new board members, Michael Van Pelt and David Matas. Van Pelt runs a Christian-oriented think tank. Matas is a former federal Liberal candidate who volunteers as legal counsel with B’nai Brith Canada.

Beauregard realized he was losing allies inside Rights and Democracy. He made a futile attempt to get help from outside. On Nov. 3, he wrote a desperate letter to Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon about the “profound divisions” at Rights and Democracy. “This situation cannot last,” he said. “I would like to meet you as soon as it will be possible for you to discuss this.”

Beauregard had reason to hope Cannon would pay attention. Beauregard and Cannon’s chief of staff, Paul Terrien, had been friends since university. But Cannon never answered Beauregard’s letter. This week he told Maclean’s he does not recall seeing it.

When the board finally met again in January, Matas, who had already served on the board in the 1990s, and Van Pelt showed themselves to be reliable allies of Braun, Gauthier and Tepper. The removal of another board member and the resignations of two more gave Braun an unbeatable majority. And then Rémy Beauregard died. Of course nobody can know whether he would have lived longer in other circumstances. But his death throws more public scrutiny on Rights and Democracy than any of the players expected.

Two public statements published simultaneously in Israel and Canada, days after Beauregard’s death, hint at the broader strategy behind the changes at Rights and Democracy. The first is an op-ed in the National Post signed by Braun and six of his allies on the board. Referring to the grants to Al-Haq, B’Tselem and Al-Mezat, they write that two of the groups “are active in the lawfare movement, which is a strategy of abusing law to achieve military objectives—in this case, to punish Israel for anti-terror operations.”

The same day in the Jerusalem Post, Gerald Steinberg, a political scientist at Bar Ilan university, published an op-ed congratulating the Canadian government for “reversing course” on a policy of abusing human rights and international law “as weapons to demonize Israel.” Steinberg mentioned the board changes at Rights and Democracy, and the federal government’s refusal to renew funding for an interfaith human-rights group called Kairos, as evidence of this trend.

Steinberg runs an organization called NGO Monitor, which diligently chronicles international criticism of Israel’s human rights record and portrays it as an attack against Israel’s right to exist. He is a fellow of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, whose website reads in part: “Israel’s growth and survival are dependent on its winning the war of ideas. The challenges that Israel faces today are not only military. They extend to the United Nations, the mass media, foreign universities, and non-governmental organizations.”

Steinberg’s list of organizations he regards as anti-Israel is long. In one publication he decries CIDA aid to what he calls “extremist political groups” opposed to Israel, among which he counts Médecins du Monde, Oxfam, and the Mennonite Central Committee of Canada. Braun is a friend of Steinberg’s who sought to have him speak last year to the Rights and Democracy board. The board, as it was then composed, declined Braun’s offer. It would perhaps vote differently today.

There is room for a rich and ornery debate over all the issues raised by the Rights and Democracy controversy. Is every criticism of Israel’s human rights record an attack on its right to exist? Does it still make sense to maintain an arm’s-length relationship between a government like Canada’s and a quasi-NGO, funded entirely from federal coffers, like Rights and Democracy? Is this any way to run a human rights shop?

But the government of Stephen Harper has preferred action to debate at every step. It appointed every member of the Rights and Democracy board, including those who supported Beauregard. Indeed, the Harper government appointed Beauregard himself.

But with five board appointments in 2009, the government set out to transform the style and personality of the organization. And in the midst of the astonishing uproar that has followed Beauregard’s death, Foreign Affairs Minister Cannon has stayed mute on the issues at the centre of the controversy. Three months after Beauregard wrote him to complain about Braun’s behaviour, Cannon finally met privately with Braun.

Stephen Harper used to complain that Liberals made policy changes this way: with strategic appointments of people who would take positions more extreme than any government facing a Parliament ever would, and strategic silence when those appointees went about the business of promoting their agendas. It turns out he was doing more than complain. He was learning lessons he would apply when his own time came.


A losing battle

  1. Reasonable people (and I say this as a Liberal, who is a strong supporter of most of Israel's actions) can have legitimate disagreement in areas of policy. What reasonable people can not stand by and idly watch is a person slandered, vilified and discredited based on evidence that can be described as shaky as best or flim-flam at worst. Remy Beauregard deserved better, and the Harper government failed and betrayed him.

    • I've been following this story since Le Devoir first broke it. Somehow, I am still dismayed by what I just read in Wells' piece. All of this, sanctionned by our government?

      I don't recognize my country anymore.

      • The problem is exactly what Mr. Wells alluded to in his article.
        The far left in this country has aligned itself with the Palestinian cause and uses every opportunity to advance it from student organizations like the CFS and unions, to left wing NGOs and liberal religious groups.
        The right is now doing the same thing.

        NO BODY is playing by the old rules and nothing is sacred. This isn't a problem of the left or right, it is institutional.
        Prime Minister Harper didn't start this problem but I agree he isn't fixing it

        • So, are you assuming that R&D is a left wing NGO? I thought one of the main points of PW's coverage to date has been: just cuz some new board members assert something doesn't necessarily make it so. The lesson should be, if you have a case to be made from the right [or left] you don't have the right to run roughshod over process, smear a good man who was apparently just in your way, leave aside attempt to intimidate and gag its staff. In other words, try and prove your case honourably, or just stick to cobbling together blogs that only promote your pov.

  2. Paul, a very fine capstone piece on this saga, although I truly hope that you continue to follow R&D — even if forthcoming events are note quite so stirring — as the longer term outcomes, including the implications for what we fund and how we fund it, are obviously important and deserving of attention.

    A couple questions:

    1) did Braun and Gauthier suggest they would respond if more time was granted, potentially for next week or something?

    2) if memory serves you previously briefly touched on the opportunity for the opposition to vet the most recent appointments. if memory is even better, the coverage suggested that the opposition had at one point raised concerns about a previous potential nominee who was subsequently never appointed but that the more recent appointments were not formally responded to (if at all). I believe Paul Dewar suggested the timelines were too short to properly vet the nominees. Do we have any more details on all of this? I am interested to learn more about the opposition role with R&D given the organization is supposed to be a vessel of Parliament.

    • Obviously I'm no Paul Wells, but the answer to #1 would seem to be: "go away (paraphrased)". Unfortunately.

    • Braun and Gauthier and their associates have felt free to give their version in times and places of their choosing. I doubt they're done. I did have a short correspondence with both men on Monday; the short version is, they're not big fans of my coverage.

      • thanks Paul. Have seen some of their remarks elsewhere (editorials, the Matas piece you annihilated, the Braun appearance on CTV), but wondered if they were going to try to refute you directly on this/answer your questions, eventually. too bad.

        thanks, enjoy the games.

  3. What a collosal waste of taxpayer monies this is. The government should cease funding to all of these Arab or Jewish lobby groups. Let them find their own money, it shouldn't be hard if their causes are so just.

    • Or they could explicitly force R&D to focus it's mandate on projects in Africa, Latin America and South/East Asia in order to avoid the Middle East entirely. Don't know if that's entirely workable, just a suggestion. They could still do important work elsewhere.

    • So you think it would be acceptable for Canada's foreign policy to be determined by the highest bidder with no attempt by an arms length government funded body to create some informed debate. Certainly the Israeli point of view would rise to the top.

      • "Certainly the Israeli point of view would rise to the top."

        "The big nose people … they like-a the money!"
        —Borat Sagdiyev

  4. Thanks for this article. I've been unable to devote much time recently to keeping up, and this summarizes and clarifies the threads I had managed to grab.

  5. I can see why different foreigners that live in this country might have opposing views, but can anyone tell me why I have to pay for these third-world groups to argue their point here. If they care about the issue so much maybe they could go back were they came from, and fight for their respective side from there, and leave us out of it.
    By defunding all NGO's we would have a fairer society on me and people like me who could care less what happens in thirdworld countries.
    I know, I know, hunger, disease, curuption, blah, blah, blah; we have been funding these wastelands for fifty years and they are more of a shit-hole now than when we started.

  6. The government has every right to set policy and direction of these kind of boards, since they are funded by the government.
    It is of course totally unacceptable for the staff to believe that this their role. R & D may have served a useful purpose, but unless it can be shown that it actually provides a real good use of tax payers money they should be terminated together with any other organization that fails such a review.

  7. I'm sure it's been mentioned in one of Paul's posts on this topic, but: who specifically is responsible for the appointments to the R&D board? The PMO? The minister's office at DFAIT? DFAIT itself? Parliament? A Parliamentary committee? Maybe it's obvious or understood, and I can certainly hazard a guess – just by process of likely elimination – but I'd be interested if anyone has confirmation.

    • They're order-in-council appointments, which means, in theory, cabinet decisions. The actual mechanism — including who takes an active interest, in what forum these appointments get decided, etc. — varies widely from case to case.

  8. Mr. Wells I don't know the full details or if it was just a rumor but I recall hearing that there was abuse of expenses in the Rights and Democracy within the last 10 years.

    You mentioned on CTV that Beauregard had taken steps to clean it up. What was the scandal? How was it cleaned up?

    It seems that you might be choosing not to look deep enough into the story. The information on the R&D stolen computers, investigation and suspension of 3 employees seems to be shrugged off as an attack yet another idealogical based attack on these hard working bureaucrats.

    No matter what the stand on any issues that you have with your employer, the decision to break in and steal would have be a move born of desperation. The ramifications of the information stolen would have to exceed the consequences of the crime.

    • since you are alleging that the employees are behind the break in and stolen computers, i am sure that you will be offering us all proof, given you are so reasonable right, BCVoR?

    • To the extent there were substantive questions in that cavalcade of… of… of what we can always count on you to provide, BCVoR ("What was the scandal? How was it cleaned up?"), I answered those questions two weeks ago:


      Do try to keep up.

      • from your article: "They can leak a damning 2007 report on spending practices at R&D all they want; they still can't hide two facts. First, Rémy Beauregard was installed as R&D's president in 2008 precisely to overhaul accountability and oversight. Second, an easy-to-find 2008 report demonstrates that he was succeeding. In other words, the management cleanup at Rights and Democracy began long before these clowns took over."

        Wow you really dug deep and provide significant detail on this scandal and Mr. Beauregard's actions to fix.

        No link to the damming spend practices report that was leaked. Or a journalist interpration in layman terms. I still don't know if there was an expense account scam being run, jail time or punishment for the people at fault

        Try as I might i could not supporting documentation for your allegations that Mr. B in the FIVE-YEAR REVIEW OF RIGHTS & DEMOCRACY (PROGRAMS AND ACTIVITIES) (August 2008)…. that was update Feb 10 , 2010 according to the tag at the bottom.

        The bottom line of this volumious report findings make no mention of the clean-up done:

        findings in next post

      • Finding 7:

        R&D has developed a coherent multi-year strategy. However, the tense work climate has considerably hindered the application of this strategy.

        Finding 8:

        R&D manages various kinds of programs and projects (pilot projects, activities with leveraged funding, etc.) but does not sufficiently distinguish among the management methods each one requires.

        Finding 9:

        R&D's program- and project management follows accountability requirements. However, these principles are not always used rigorously and consistently.

        Finding 10:

        R&D is increasingly moving towards results-based management. However the use of this approach still varies by theme and activity.

        Finding 11:

        R&D's program management is based on best management practices for the sector.

        Finding 12:

        R&D programs still operate in silos, which limits the scope of projects.

      • Finding 1:

        R&D's programming has evolved and its quality has improved over the 2003-2008 period while remaining aligned with the primary mission of R&D as stated in the original Act.

        Finding 2:

        R&D projects and activities generally address the global issues and needs identified by partner countries.

        Finding 3:

        R&D's niche can be described as the interface between human rights and democratic development. However, this interface is often either misunderstood or poorly accepted.

        Finding 4:

        While remaining non-partisan, R&D's programming is making a positive contribution to Canada's role in the area of human rights and support for democratic development on the international scene.

        Finding 5:

        R&D has made notable progress in implementing the recommendations of the 2003 Five-Year Review.

        Finding 6:

        Work on implementing some of the recommendations of the previous five-year review did not begin until 2008.

      • Finding 13:

        R&D programs have achieved tangible results for group of individuals and sometimes at the organizational level. Institutional-level results were less frequent.

        Finding 14:

        Increased funding for DD programming has made it possible to strengthen the structure and management of this thematic area. However, the benefits of the various DD projects remain uneven.

        Finding 15:

        Despite a budget increase, the percentage of the administrative expenditures did not vary significantly and has remained within accepted standards.

        Finding 16:

        While the current financial system enables the monitoring of program and major theme budgets, activity- and project-level financial monitoring is not always possible.

        Finding 17:

        R&D has diversified and expanded its funding sources through the efforts of its former President.

  9. It is amazing that investigative journalists, that are on a crusade with open biases and agendas, say they are shocked that their targets won't fully cooperate with them.

    Is there any explanation or facts that Mr. Braun could provide Mr. Wells that Mr. Wells would not be able to spin into a negative or just ignore?

    This is a situation with the The Press Gallery and PM Harper?

    In both cases Mr. Braun and PM Harper have shown themselves to be more intelligent then the Jerry Springer guest who show up imagining that some good might come out of their appearance. Has anyone walked away from a Michael Moore interview with a good feeling that their part of the story was thoughtfully laid out and would clear up their actions / Point of view?

    While this is faint praise for Mr. Braun and PM Harper, it really casts the aspirations and motivation and fairness for Mr. Well's and the Press Gallery in the Springer/ Michael Moore area of journalism. Is that why Mr. Wells Mom ( or day care provider) made him lunches and sent him off to school so that he could become a gotcha journalist?

    • lol Some of us were wondering if the board might respond…i think they just did. I see they've stuck to their signature style: drive by smear, illogical associations, ludicrous allegation, and the ever popular guilt by association…oh and PW's mom was apparently an enabler in his chosen career as a gotcha journalist…ok i got sucked in, this was satire ,right?

    • "Is there any explanation or facts that Mr. Braun could provide Mr. Wells that Mr. Wells would not be able to spin into a negative or just ignore?"

      After his performance on CTV (and that of Frank Dimant on CBC), I'm pretty sure that the PMO told him to shut up.

    • Love the subtle daycare dig – suggesting Mr. Wells might have had a – gasp – working mother. You guys use the scatter shot insult approach desperately hoping something sticks. I guess if you're a bad aim and not sure who the enemy is, it's to be expected.

  10. What will be interesting to see, is what Cannon is going to do?

    • Cannon will do what Harper tells him to do. I'm more interested in seeing how the Chessmaster-in-Chief will respond. I just don't see him removing Braun and as long as that man stays at the head of R&D, the harassment will continue.

      • I hope you are wrong and they do the right thing, eternal optimistic, I guess….

  11. There're huge ironies here. Board members of an organization mandated with supporting good governance, rights and transparency abroad descending into black-arts ops and character assassinations at home, Soviet-style secret memos, appeals that go unheard, the 'I can't recall' non-denial denials, loyalty tests for apparatchiks … Ironic also as Braun made his academic career analyzing Soviet, Warsaw Pact and Marxist systems.

    Now we await a response from our very own Potemkin Minister, Lawrence Cannon.

  12. Among the many instances of shenanigans found above it's particularly disappointing to see Cannon use the ever-lame "I don't recall" answer as to whether he read Beauregard's letter.

  13. Just more Liberal smear tactics. Liberal supporters have been entrenched in the public service during the Chretien/Martin years. They have no problem acting partisan, and they are difficult to remove. Doing what is right is not always pretty.

    • Fred offers up more Conservative smear tactics…

      • The rarest thing in the world is a Liberal who tells the truth. The president of our local chapter of the Liberal Party is a dis-barred lawyer who was convicted of swindling a number of investors in a business venture he led.

        Of course he claims he was wrongly convicted. (Probably a Conservative smear victim)

        • Wasn't an entire con party in Saskatchewan forced to disband due to corruption? Missed that one huh!

          • My local conservative MLA — and many others — went to jail because the party stole money from taxpayers and used for themselves. Lying cheating Cons (literally).

    • "Mr Beauregard was a life-long bureaucrat, and a close friend of Bob Rae."

      Indeed, one must always be mindful of these 'fellow travelers' and the treasonous company they keep. Who knows, soon troublemakers may be digging up the PMs old speeches. The ones where he said what he really believed.

      Mr. Wells has done an excellent service to his readers. with his determination to follow his nose to the stink. You ought to be thankful, But you don't quite get it, do you?

  14. It's striking that Beauregard's letter to Cannon went unheeded (according to Cannon, unread by him). I can only see three scenarios (suggestions welcome):
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    The Minister was uninterested, and nobody at DFAIT could make him interested, even if they told him that there was potential blowback on this kind of thing (unlikely, IMO: Ministers are alert to blowback);
    The anti-Beauregard appointments having come from PMO and R&D being in PMO's hands, either DFAIT or Cannon himself may have tried to alert PMO, but in vain, either because nothing the Minister of Foreign Affairs says carries any weight whatsoever or because PMO had reasons for appointing the anti-Beauregard board members that outweighed the potential for blowback, at least as interpreted by Cannon;
    The CPC mentality is so profoundly aggressive and adolescent that any contradiction is seen as reason to entrench.

    • What i find both surprising and dispiriting really, is that almost no one outside of the staff at R&D has publically spoken out in Beauregards defense. Where are his friends at DFAIT and elsewhere? The man spent 40years serving this country and seemed a well liked and respected man. Has this bunch of frat boys in the pmo got everyone so cowed? Where are his friends in gov't? Shame on them!

      • Perhaps the Opposition is following this and preparing to grill the Government about it in QP; or maybe the detainee scandal and this R&D scandal would cancel each other out and they'll stick to detainees and MacKay.

        Meanwhile, I wonder if Beauregard's friends and former colleagues aren't staying quiet in part because he's only just died and they don't want to upset his widow by fighting with Braun & Co. over his body Iliad-style.

      • " Where are his friends at DFAIT and elsewhere? "

        You are kidding, right? As if anyone within DFAIT would dare to defy the PMO and go on the record for this. That would amount to career suicide.

        • So there are no Colvins in DFAIT? That's real sad!

          • "So there are no Colvins in DFAIT? That's real sad!"

            If there were any, following what this government did to Colvin, I wouldn't blame them for choosing to keep their mouth shut. This government gives a whole new meaning to vindictiveness.

            I've seen what harassment on the job can do to a person mentally/physically and I don't wish it on my worse enemy.

          • I get what you're saying…but wouldn't you go to bat for a good friend, particularly when you know what a bunch of #$%@#!! these guys are? Someone has to stand up for what's right!

    • Jack I am not so sure that the PM and CPC are not in lockstep with NGO-Monitor on Israel and Palestine.

      This is purely anecdotal, but it used to be the case circa summer 2007 (not sure if it still is or for how long it was) that if you walked along the north side of Wellington street and peered into boardroom one of the lower floors of Langevin, closest to the PMs entrance, there were two decorative pieces clearly visible: a GWB re-election poster and a sign printed with the Israeli. again, it is anecdotal and it does not mean their is not a Palestinian placard elsewhere in the room. but it does given me pause about dismissing your fourth option.

      • I'm unsure as well, but for what I'd consider a more obvious reason:

        Why would Braun have been appointed then reinforced on the board if the PM didn't subscribe to the same views as Braun and NGO Monitor?

    • I vote for #3. Cannon just doesn't strike me as a #4-type.

    • Got to go with #4. It walks, talks and looks like routine CPC political action.

    • I would venture a fifth scenario: The letter was handled like any other of its kind, which means that a "total solution package" must be worked out before the Minister is informed. So DFAIT, PCO and PMO spent weeks trying to figure out what to do with the letter and the overall situation (should the Minister respond, should it be in writing, what's going on with the Board, should the Board be brought in, who screwed up the appointments so badly that we now have this mess, and so on) but since they move very sloooowly, they were constantly overtaken by events and never got a chance to settle on a response to submit to the Minister and the PM.

  15. A government-funded lobby group is an oxymoron. I am hopeful that organizations such as R&D will be among the first cuts in the coming cutbacks budget. Good riddance.

    • I am with you…

    • Uh…Orval? R&D is not a lobby group. It might help to actually read the information for yourself rather than just parroting what you are told.

  16. As far as I understand it, every single board member was appointed by the Conservatives. What exactly do the Liberals have to do with this again?

    • I would venture to guess that each and every employee was hired to their job for life under the previous Liberal regime and would exclusively be Liberal supporters.

      Out of the thousands of CPC financial contributors there will be none that are employees of the R&D and would be a prime target area for the Liberal fundraisers. It might be hard to find them actually donating to the Liberal party as most good Liberals know that funding of Political parties is the taxpayers responsibility.

      • 'I would venture to guess that each and every employee was hired to their job for life under the previous Liberal regime and would exclusively be Liberal supporters."

        I would venture to guess your guesses are about as informed as Braun and associates. In other words paranoid conjecture.

      • You would guess? Since we’re guessing, i’ll guess you’ve no way to substantiate your opinion and that your post is nothing more than wishful thinking. Not everything is a Liberal conspiracy.

    • Mr Beauregard was a life-long bureaucrat, and a close friend of Bob Rae. Harper was being non-partisan in his appointment. Non-partisan is not in the Liberal vocabulary.

      • Whereas the Government of Harper has detained the word "Non-partisan" and subjected it to sadistic torture, leaving it completely twisted and distorted..

  17. “The assumptions behind your questions are in large part demonstrably wrong, misleading, incomplete and/or distorted and I caution you against publishing an article based on them,” Gauthier wrote"

    Oh this is fun and richly ironic. This bunch of clowns can put out op-ed pieces in national newspapers based on what is now pretty much proven wrong, misleading, incomplete and or distorted assumptions. Yet they caution/threaten the very journalist who has done as much as anyone to highlight this!
    If these assumptions are so demostrably wrong…how bout you do some demonstrating Gauthier? Good thing irony isn't fatal, or we might be needing a whole new board.

    • I would have cautioned Gauthier against double-daring Paul Wells to publish anything.

      • Lol, oh,oh…he messed with the wrong man (journalist)… I am looking forward to see what else Paul digs up about these clowns…

    • I'll cheerfully post anything they ever choose to submit to us on this topic, verbatim and without delay, upon receipt. I haven't the faintest interest in gagging them. I maintain the right to think and say what I like about anything they say. But I will roll out the red carpet if they want to say anything. As I did with Matas. As I did with Ezra.

      Gauthier wrote to me, seven hours after I sent the email, saying he hadn't had enough time to respond. Fair enough. That was Monday. It's now Friday. The questions I sent stand.

      • One thing's for sure,regardless of the rights and wrongs of their case aganst R&D and Beauregard. These guys are rank amateurs in the dark arts of spin. The oddest irony of all, is that Braun might even have had a case in the sense that too many rights groups seem unwilling to give Israel the benefit of the doubt, [ i've no reason to think this of R&D] and too willing to except palestinian statements at face value. But you don't make your case, or win any converts to your pov by aiming a blunderbuss at your opponents, and feigning innocense when you harm others who are doing their level best. In other words, process, fairness and honour do matter. If you drag your cause down into the gutter you've forfeited any claim to the high moral ground.

  18. In a fledgling democracry election I was intimately involved in the Democracy Support groups , mostly supported with US tax dollars, were exclusively involved in setting up and monitoring a fair democratic election. They did not provide support to either side in the election.

    Why would the Canadian tax payer funded Rights and Democracy provide financial support to any group that have obvious bias in their stated political objective?

    • It's Elections Canada that provides international election monitoring. R and D is tasked in helping out the democratic process in countries where it is in jeopardy.

    • Where was that? Chile? Mid-seventies, maybe?

      "Why would the Canadian tax payer funded Rights and Democracy provide financial support to any group that have obvious bias in their stated political objective?"

      And what , exactly, is unbiased about any 'stated political objective' anytime?

  19. Beauregard got into trouble with Braun and the others for disbursing grants that seemed to take sides in the Middle East conflict. Paradoxically, the Rights and Democracy board is now predominantly composed of people who have devoted much of their life to an unequivocal position: that no legal challenge to Israel's human rights record is permissible, because any such challenge is part of a global harassment campaign against Israel's right to exist.

    in thinking more about this, does dismissing any challenge of Israel's human rights record, especially by Palestinians or by a Palestinian organization and super-especially by a Palestinian or Palestinian organization following due process (e.g., legal means) not just place Israel beyond questioning but constitute a harassment campaign against Palestine's right to exist.

  20. Good and balanced summation Paul, thanks.

    When described fully and factually in this way, it eliminates the 'complexity' that Braun has ascribed to it. I hadn't made the connection between the unusual 'burglary' and the suspension of three staffers until now.

    In addition to the utterly disgraceful treatment of Beauregard and the obvious 'ornery debate' over the State of Israel and NGOs, there is the equally obvious debate about civil liberties in Canada. Surely there must be a remedy for Gauthier's requirement that employees reveal their religion. Did the Harper government willfully ignore an obvious case of religious discrimination? What does employees' religion have to do with the State of Israel? And, who is next on Harper's 'enemies of the state' agenda?

    • "I hadn't made the connection between the unusual 'burglary' and the suspension of three staffers until now."

      The link became apparent when it was revealed that Gauthier had hired an expert in electronic surveillance.

      • Oh, OK. I sometimes have trouble keeping up.

    • I'm very reluctant to assume I know what that burglary was about. It's an 11-story building, quite busy, with university lecture rooms and a medical clinic, in a pretty scruffy part of downtown Montreal. I simply have no way of knowing whether that burglary was more than a coincidence — they happen, you know, which is why the word exists — and must trust in Montreal's police to investigate.

      • I didn't mean to imply that you had made the connection. But seeing it all put together so thoroughly in one article led me to make the connection between the two. It may very well be nothing more than a coincidence, a convenient one nevertheless.

  21. We have no business tying our politics to those of another country regardless of who it is. This is the entire problem here. We are a country made up of people from all over the world. Any side we pick will be against a fellow citizen. Harper and his type do not understand this. Though they think they are being righteous in doing so. That's the danger in this. Harper apparently knows better than everyone else in Canada. So he thinks. This IS a dictatorship. Even bankers are being rebuked by Harper's attack dogs. It was only last week Harper and his ilk were blasting Hugo Chavez for the same thing. This government is bordering very much on fascism and treason. yell all you want about using fascism to describe this terrible government. I feel quite justified after all the slurs hurled around about commies, socialists, separatists, Taliban sympathizers, etc. We need some media outlet to rehash what happened for Germany to become the way it did back in the 30's and 40's. That message has been lost completely on us.

  22. NGOs who have degenerated into political activism should be summarily terminated and cut off from gov't funding. The beleaguered Canadian taxpayer doesn't need this kind of makework organizations sucking off the public teat for services of little to no value to the Canadian taxpayer. I hope the upcoming March 4th Budget will trim if not kill off most of these dubious NGOs … enough is enough … the Canadian taxpayer wants none of this mischief …!!!

  23. OMG! Some of the new information revealed here is jaw dropping. This government will continue to destroy the reputation of Canada in the International Community as we knew it prior to Harper's minority government. Pathetic and absolutely disgusting behaviour that should be stopped. Unite the left, damn it!

  24. has anyone bothered to check out the work that R & D is actually doing and given credit for…have you checked out their latest 5 year review tabled in the Canadian parliament not long ago? – they were actually praised by the DFAIT evaluators for doing work on many different issues including working at the international level to end the use of rape as a weapon of war and a tool of genocide…they also work in the DR Congo on these issues…isn't that one of the projects that the new majority of the Board nixed or rather put a "moratorium" on as they put it?…that's all the women and girls in the DRC need, a bunch of fat and not so fat white men in suits sitting around pondering whether their problems fit into their new partisan vision for the organization…wonder if they will be consulting the Canadian mining companies on this one!

  25. Kudos to you Mr. Wells, for some great old fashioned investigative journalism! I agree with the other poster here that this is the capstone piece. Harper and company have again demonstrated the tactics and ideology behind their drive to remake Canada.

    Harper's agenda, tactics, and political maneuvering bear an eerie resemblance to another infamous dictator. But with the inevitable twist that history provides in repeating itself, it is the Palestinians, the Arabs, or perhaps the "semitics" that have everything to fear now as an extreme pro-Israeli faction, which represents only a small minority of Jews in Canada, drive the agenda.

    I saw Harper and family sitting in the podium as the Olympic torch runners made their way through the stadium for the lighting of the torch. The first Olympic torch run was in Berlin in 1936.

    I didn't hear anybody BOO Harper, but then I didn't see anybody salute him either. There may be hope yet.

  26. What is puzzling is how everyone is touting this as "fair and balanced" journalism. The fact is that R&D was a profoundly broken organization, and over the years operated little government oversight. An example of that is below. The people delivering the message may not be the right ones but at the very least, let's examine this organization for its value. It may be that the government has no business funding this organization and should become a strictly non-government organization and rely on charitable funding by patrons that believe in the value of the institution, like other advocacy groups in Canada. Clearly, I do not think we should be paying for offices in Switzerland or apartments in France.

    The scandal-ridden Rights and Democracy organization has another controversy to explain: How some $150,000 of Canadian taxpayer money is being spent each year on a Geneva office that isn't even open – and why they are now paying an extravagant $3,000 per month for an apartment in France for its one staffer in Switzerland.
    A FrumForum source from Geneva reports: the office is closed. Plus, one has to wonder – why does Rights and Democracy even have an office in Geneva?

    Read more at:

    As for how the Board is appointed – the Chairman is selected through a full Board comprising of Privy Council, Prime Minister's Office and the Office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and then submitted to Cabinet for approval. This process can and should be examined to determine if it worked.

    The members of the Board are selected by Prime Minister's Office and the Minister's Office.

    • If you read the actual evaluations done by the evaluators hired by the Canadian government, even on Harper's watch, you would retract your statement that the organization was broken. Jason Kenney seemed to rely on its expertise on Burma for example.

      FrumForum is hardly a reliable source!

    • LOL, did VFM just cite the FrumForum piece by Tim Mak?!!?!

      That's just too funny.

  27. "…The Bloc is asking for the organization to be put under trusteeship and temporarily managed by a three-person 'council of elders.' It put forward a proposed list of people it feels would be impartial, including former prime minister Joe Clark and former NDP leader Ed Broadbent…"


    Sounds good to me.

  28. Thanks to Paul Wells for bringing the R&D issue to the forefront and, hopefully, to the attention of a broad section of the Canadian political establishment and the public. It is evident that the constructive and positive contribution of R&D to the debate on human rights and to just solutions in many countries and regions is being undermined and the organisation slandered by the pro-Israeli lobby. The current situation is but another example of the Harper Government's complete and utter collusion with this lobby and its unwillingness to put Canada's interests first. Harper's politicization of the Middle East debate and his attempts to silence those who are critical of Israeli policies and strategies meant to further the dispossession of Palestinians is an afront to our values of social justice, democracy and respect for human rights worldwide.

  29. It is appalling to me how these Likudist Board members on the R & D board think they have the best interests of Israel in mind when they slander such respected human rights organizations as Betselem and dare say that they are Israeli in name only all the while sitting in their Toronto offices and calling themselves human rights defenders who are being attacked (see the gazette piece which quotes Aurel Braun: http://www.montrealgazette.com/life/Rights+centre… is farcical…Sadly these politics only perpetuate conflict and the people of Israel and Palestine deserve better – something that can only be achieved through real negociations based on justice and human rights.

  30. Helping the Palestinians? Against those who "attacks those poor people and commits war crimes such as bombing civilians, dropping white phosphorous bombs in civilian areas, collective punishment as in destroying the hjomes of innocent people" ???

    Do you know thw whole picture?
    You have been fed one sided information from those self-same organizations which then decide that tax dollars should be used to fund more of this biased information.

    If you are truly interested in helping people, including Palestinians, you need to get past the wall of propaganda some of these NGOs are building.

    • "Remnants of an Israeli white phosphorus shell, identified by the marking on the outer casing — M825A1 — have been found in the village of Sheikh Ajilin in western Gaza…."

      "…Hebrew writing on the shell casing reads “exploding smoke” — the term the Israeli army uses for white phosphorus. Doctors who examined the shell said that it appeared to include phosphorus residue.

      Residents said that they suffered burns on their feet when they walked where the shelling had taken place…"


  31. If those NGOs really want to help the Palestinians, they ought to make sure that they are treated well and not turned into human shields, child soldiers or human bombs. by their own regime.. Instead, they focus on providing one-sided. misleading information.

  32. Clearly, there is no lack of human rights issues hat need to be addressed in the Middle East and Africa: mass murder, persecution, abuse and discrimination of women, minorities and gays, poverty, education, health care etc. etc.

    Meanwhile, NGOs focus an inordinate amount of attention and resources on every attempt Israel takes to protect itself from waves of terror, even though it is a democracy iwhere minorities are entitled citizens, with much open debate and a very solid judiciary.

    Does this reflect bias or not?

    Ironically, the many Arabs living in Israel only shudder at the conditions in Arab countries, and fear losing their privileges enjoyed as Israeli citizens.

    If I have to stand in line at airport controls I blame the terrorists, not the airline. Stop the incitement and the world will be a better place.

    • Those NGOs you don't like are the ones focussed on helping the Palestinians; naturally they will criticize any nation which attacks those poor people and commits war crimes such as bombing civilians, dropping white phosphorous bombs in civilian areas, collective punishment as in destroying the hjomes of innocent people… If the state of Israel commits war crimes then every decent person should condemn it for those acts.

  33. "A government-funded lobby group is an oxymoron. I am hopeful that organizations such as R&D will be among the first cuts in the coming cutbacks budget. Good riddance." (Orval)

    On the day after the last WWI soldier has passed away, we must not forget to continue the fight for human rights at home and world-wide. To sit idly by was and will never be acceptable when it comes to defending human rights.

  34. Prior to this story coming out, did anyone on this board in the general public even know that this agency existed? Outside of a vague guess, do we even know now what the mandate of this agency is? Seems to me that this place (which we all pay for) is a make work project with lofty, undefined and unrealized goals that the government bureaucrats and select interest groups exclusively love. Unless there is some great accomplishment which this group has brought us in the last 130 years, why not shut down the place and contribute the surplus to paying down that national debt of ours?

    • Shuttung down R&D doesn't seem to be the government's plan. Cannon will announce a new President on Monday.

  35. once again i am left speechless. what the hell is going on? who is reponsible for our external policies? how are our tax dollars being spent? how come we have a foreign govenment agents dictating to our ngos' policies? i am baffled. i keep thinking that we live in a distorted world where the truth is always spinned as others seem we should see things, not as they truly are. i suggest we start a writing campaign discrediting the board of the R&D and ask that this organisation is reformed or closed. it is not acceptable to be agents for outside governments. i will forward this article to no less than 200 people and will urge each and everyone of them to write letters to the ministry and the organisation in order to ask them to be either dismantled or reformed. thank the lord for the power of the Internet.

  36. Great article Paul. You really did well on this one.

  37. Very impressive article and very valuable points.Thanks for sharing.