[Hpn] Ontario retreats on human rights
William C. Tinker
Tue, 22 Apr 2008 14:35:43 -0400
Ontario retreats on human rights
By Eric Dowd
Date Published | Apr. 21, 2008
Toronto - Premier Dalton McGuinty has acknowledged he has mild
concern at China's abuse of human rights as grudgingly as if his teeth were
being extracted and some of his party's former MPPs must be turning over in
The Liberal premier concealed as long as he could his economic
development minister's plan to visit China, and a Chinese leader's plan to
visit him here, while many around the world were protesting against that
country's harsh treatment including murders of demonstrators in Tibet.
McGuinty in both cases was anxious to protect trade and when
opposition parties argued this was no justification for being silent on
abuse, said the province takes its cue from the federal government and, if
it decided it would be inappropriate for his minister to go, he would
Eventually, through a spokesman - McGuinty could not utter such
words - the premier was bold enough to say Ontario, as a longstanding friend
of China, expressed concern at the situation in Tibet and encouraged both
parties to engage in meaningful dialogue, an exercise in avoiding taking
Liberals in the legislature two decades ago would have been
offended, because they fought hard to set up a system through which the
province would speak up regularly against abuse in other countries.
The majority Progressive Conservatives, New Democrats and
Liberals, in an unusual burst of unanimity, declared a province had not only
a right, but a duty to speak against abuse abroad.
This started when New Democrat James Renwick moved the
legislature to find a mechanism through which it could express concern at
political killings, imprisonment, terror and torture overseas.
The MPPs were concerned about Biafra, where so many were killed
it was called genocide; other African countries including South Africa,
where blacks were brutally repressed under apartheid; much of the Soviet
bloc, which allowed little freedom to speak and jailed and killed many who
did; and large parts of Central and South America, where military regimes
tortured and killed.
The MPPs suggested the select committee on the province's
Ombudsman, who investigates complaints against government here, should look
for a mechanism.
This committee of all parties consulted the United Nations,
Amnesty International and other experts and concluded the legislature had an
obligation to speak up and could have some effect, because repressive
governments sometimes listen when more voices are raised.
The committee, because of its experience in investigating
government in Ontario, recommended designating itself to consider abuse
abroad and recommend when and how the legislature should speak up.
But the government was headed by premier William Davis, whose
only interest in far-flung places was sunning at his condo in Florida and
would not protest abuse abroad unless it would win him votes, particularly
of those who had fled Communist-dominated east Europe.
Davis had his party refuse to welcome Soviet trade delegates
sitting watching the legislature, deplored martial law in Poland and the
Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and once rushed back from his cottage, his
supreme sacrifice, to greet a dissident who overcame many obstacles to flee
Davis would not want a committee of the legislature urging
Ontario join a world-wide boycott and stop buying products from South Africa
and it was left to a later Liberal government to answer that call.
Nor would Davis want himself embarrassed by a committee
quibbling with a long procession of bloodthirsty dictators, such as
Indonesia's Suharto, (his full name) to whom he gave warm welcomes.
Davis refused to permit the MPPs' proposal, and a subsequent
resolution by Renwick the Ombudsman committee be given power to speak up, to
come to a vote, denying Ontario politicians the freedom of expression he
argued countries behind the Iron Curtain should allow.
A brave attempt to make Ontario's voice heard on abuse abroad
therefore never came to fruition and premiers of all three parties, New
Democrat Bob Rae, Conservative Mike Harris and McGuinty have since visited
China, one of the most notorious abusers, without making any real attempt to
raise concerns -- Ontario is marching backwards.
William Charles Tinker,Sr.
New Hampshire Homeless
25 Granite Street
Northfield,N.H. 03276-1640 USA
Advocates,activists for disabled,displaced human rights.