[Hpn] Ontario retreats on human rights

William C. Tinker wtinker@verizon.net
Tue, 22 Apr 2008 14:35:43 -0400


http://www.northernlife.ca/News/Columns/Archive/Dowd/04-22-08-human.asp

      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 
their graves.

            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 
consider it.

            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 
sides.

            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 
Soviet rule.

            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.
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