Chair of Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission quits Canadian democracy promotion agency -

Chair of Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission quits Canadian democracy promotion agency


Sima Samar, chair of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission and an honourary officer of the Order of Canada, resigned Thursday from Rights and Democracy, an organization created by Canada’s Parliament in 1988 to promote and protect democracy abroad.

Samar blamed what she described as the undemocratic actions of the organization’s board of directors. Payam Akhavan, a McGill professor of international law, also quit the board.

Tension has been building at the organization for several months, with board members divided along what some members describe as ideological lines. The government appoints most members of the 13-person board. Two recent vacancies were filled by the appointments of David Matas, legal counsel for the conservative Jewish organization B’nai Brith Canada, and Michael Van Pelt, president of the Cardus, a think tank that describes itself as “inspired by … a long tradition of Christian social thought.”

The board also has three international members, including Samar, whose positions are approved by other board members. Yesterday, a majority voted against extending the term of international member Guido Riveros Franck from Bolivia, which triggered the walkouts by Samar and Akhavan. Both, however, say they had deeper and more longstanding problems with the current board of directors and the direction Samar and Akhavan say a slim majority of them want to take the organization.

I have so far spoken on the record with Samar and Akhavan. Others will almost certainly have a different take on what has transpired. The board’s chair, Aurel Braun, a professor of international relations and political science at the University of Toronto, and I have been trying to reach each other by phone since late yesterday afternoon. When we do connect, I will update this story.

UPDATE: Rémy Beauregard, president of Rights and Democracy, passed away last night (Thursday).


Chair of Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission quits Canadian democracy promotion agency

  1. One only gets to resign once, and unless their resignations create sufficient attention and controversy, all that will be achieved is they will be replaced by more people like the Cardus president – pushing for more more religion (but really just so-called judeo-christian religion dressed up to look more inclusive) in government.

  2. Harper demonstrates once again how he can bring about profound change through appointments, budget cuts and administratrive decisions, without needing to change a single law. All it takes to do this is a determined PM with a minority government and clueless opposition leader.

  3. Aurel Braun's chair of that thing? Well, there's a big of the problem, right there.

  4. To Mr. Petrou: It seems there's more to this story than what we're being told. I am refering to "they had deeper and more longstanding problems with the current board of directors." Can this point be elaborated?

    • Sure. I've been holding back a bit on this story as I haven't yet been able to speak with Aurel Braun and would like to be able to present both sides of the story. I have, however, spoken on the record with Payam Akhavan and Sima Samar, and off the record with several other members of the organization. It seems that, of late, differences among board members have escalated to the point that the board is unable to smoothly direct how Rights and Democracy is run. The board meeting on Thursday, after which Remy Beauregard died of a heart attack, was particularly heated. The split among board members is roughly ideological, but I'm cautious not to simplify it. I don't think it's accurate to describe either Akhavan or Samar as left-wing, for example. The recent appointments by the Conservative government of David Matas and Michael Van Pelt was interpreted by some members of the board as part of a strategy to shift the organization's direction to the right.

  5. "One way to change Canada is to destroy the institutions created by your enemies," said Stephen Clarkson, a prominent author and University of Toronto political scientist.

    "You transform them by putting your people in to turn a Liberal institution into a Conservative institution, or maybe even drive it into the ground."


    • The thing though, is that Rights & Democracy was created while the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada was in place…

      • Who made Ed Broadbent the first head.

        I guess there was a time when there was respect across party lines.

  6. An anti – jewish statement by a couple of Muslim racists. Good riddance.