Issue 209: U.N. Discrimination Investigator Focuses on Canada, Ignores China, Sudan, Iran

News:  Ms. Gay McDougall, the U.N.’s chief monitor of discrimination against minority groups, and a leading defender of the 2001 Durban conference, just wrapped up a 10-day investigation of Canada by accusing it of failures and “significant and persistent problems.” She has never investigated any of the countries listed by Freedom House as the world’s worst abusers: not China, Cuba, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Belarus, Burma, Chinese-ruled Tibet, South Ossetia in Georgia, Chechnya in Russia, or Zimbabwe.

Analysis: While it’s perfectly legitimate to hold free societies accountable, the reality is that immigrants of every color and creed rightly seek out Canada as a haven of tolerance, equality and opportunity. UN Watch launched a protest against this U.N. official’s skewed set of priorities: picking on the most tolerant countries like Canada — possibly as U.N. payback for Ottawa being the first of 10 Western governments to pull out of the world body’s ill-fated Durban II conference — while she consistently turns a blind eye to the world’s worst abusers. Our action sparked more than a dozen news articles, columns, and editorials across Canada that cited UN Watch’s protest — including in the Ottawa CitizenMontreal Gazette, and Calgary Herald. TheNational Post’s editorial is a powerful piece worth reading — please see below.

In a related development, the U.N. human rights office is also investigating the United States as a country of singular concern. The “special rapporteur on the right to adequate housing” has decided to conduct her next investigation in the U.S., particularly in New York City. Writing in the Opinio Juris blog, Professor Julian Ku of Hofstra Law School notes that the U.N. monitor “is going to spend her time on a country which is unlikely to be in the top ten places with lack of adequate housing, and which in any event, is not a party to any of the treaties which form her mandate.” But the anti-Western voting blocs that control the U.N. Human Rights Council — and appoint its experts — will no doubt be very pleased.


The wrong target

The National Post, Editorial Page, October 19, 2009

Gay McDougall is like a cop obsessed with ticketing jaywalkers, while all around her murders, rapes and muggings are being committed on the street she patrols.

The United Nations’ Independent Expert on minority issues has been on the job for four years. Much of that time she has spent investigating the way humane, pluralistic, industrialized democracies handle their racial and cultural minorities, while foregoing similar inspections of truly abusive regimes. At present, she is busy crisscrossing Canada for 10 days grilling government officials about possible racism in this country — as if this country’s situation were worth worrying about in a world beset by the likes of Iran, Congo and Guinea.

Since Ms. McDougall is free to pick the countries she examines, we feel compelled to ask: Can she truly not think of a more deserving subject for her enquiry? Is there no better use of her time and those of the federal, provincial and local officials she will pester during her stay?

Undoubtedly, scattered examples of minority maltreatment can be found in any country, if one looks hard enough and uses a loose enough definition of discrimination. In 2007, for instance, the UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination told Ottawa to stop using the term “visible minorities” on census forms and other government documents. The phrase, according to the committee, had the potential to be “racially insensitive,” and might lead to “direct or indirect” forms of discrimination based on skin colour.

Oh, the humanity.

While UN rights nabobs are obsessing over the bureaucratese found on our federal government’s forms, there is –as pointed out by Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch in Geneva — no one who “will speak for the two million black African migrants persecuted in Libya, the ethnic minorities oppressed in Tibet or the women subjugated in Saudi Arabia.”

No doubt, political correctness is partly to blame for Ms. McDougall’s visit this month. Having, during her four years in office, examined Dominican Republic, Guyana, Ethiopia and Kazakhstan, she undoubtedly feels the need to balance those nations off with France, Greece, Hungary and now Canada so to avoid the impression she is picking only on developing nations.

But what is truly missing from Ms. McDougall’s travel schedule is a trip to any of the world’s vilest regimes such as Syria, Saudi Arabia, Cuba, China, North Korea, Burma or Chad. Together, millions of people have been murdered by the 21 governments that Freedom House judges are the most repressive in the world, many simply for their minority status alone. Millions more have been imprisoned and tortured. Yet not one of these countries has been the subject of one of her inspections, nor are any scheduled to be.

We cannot avoid the impression that Ms. McDougall and the UN human right apparatus as a whole are simply afraid to put truly repressive states under the microscope. Instead they justify their salaries and expense accounts by poring over the workings of liberal democracies for the teensiest infractions.

According to the latest census (2006), more than 16% of Canadians identify themselves as visible minorities. In Markham, Ont., and Richmond, B.C., (65%), Brampton, Ont. (57%), Burnaby, B.C. (55%) and Vancouver (51%), they make up a majority of residents. In Toronto, they are almost a majority (47%). Do any of these places witness the pogroms, massacres or wholesale repression that are common in sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Asia?

The very question seems ridiculous. And yet here we are, subjecting ourselves to a tut-tutting UN official, as if we were a banana republic in need of advice from Turtle Bay.

Ms. McDougall will undoubtedly find lots to reprimand regarding Canada’s handling of its First Peoples. Too many of our Aboriginals live in remote, squalid communities and in the poorest neighbourhoods of our largest cities. But as we have long argued, this is as much the fault of Canada’s overgenerous native welfare system and paternalist federal laws, both of which Aboriginals themselves resist changing.

We hope the UN’s minority inspector enjoys her time here. (She is not venturing beyond the four-star hotels and salons of Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa and Vancouver.) But we urge her next time to pick a country truly in need of a rights rebuke.

If she dares.

© 2009 The National Post Company.

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