Louise Arbour: Canada has squandered international goodwill

We did not gain any goodwill with the US for our work with the landmine treaty or the International Court and that is what is important to Harper. Of course Harper sometimes acts as if Bush were still in power--maybe he is a better judge of Obama than Obama's media fans. Arbour notes that Canada refused to sign on to a UN declaration on the rights of aboriginal peoples. The tribunals Arbour mentions are applied to losers but when rights are abused by the US as in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo there is no international tribunal. Arbour somehow doesn't mention --at least according to the article--that the US opposes the International Court of Justice with a vengeance while supporting every trial of those without power and who may have offended the US.


Canada has squandered international goodwill: Louise Arbour


By Richard Warnica, Edmonton JournalJune 3, 2009


Louise Arbour, former Supreme Court justice and United Nations high commissioner for human rights, says Canada spent years building a reputation as a global consensus-builder, but is now in danger of losing it all. 'We're not a real presence anymore.'

EDMONTON — One of the world’s leading human-rights experts says Canada has squandered its place as a global leader on international matters.
Louise Arbour, former Supreme Court justice and United Nations high commissioner for human rights, says Canada spent years building a reputation as a global consensus-builder. By spearheading initiatives such as the UN landmine treaty and the International Criminal Court, she said, Canadians earned a wealth of goodwill from other nations.
“There’s a sense (inside the UN and the human-rights community) that we’ve eroded this capital,” she said. “We’re not a real presence anymore.”
Arbour, who will soon take up a post as president and CEO of the Brussels-based International Crisis Group, spoke Wednesday after receiving an honorary doctor of laws from the University of Alberta.
The one-time international prosecutor said she has seen Canada’s international presence fade under the current federal government.
She cited Canada’s vote against a 2007 UN declaration on the rights of aboriginal peoples as symptomatic of the slide.
“If you can’t lead on issues that are hard for you, how can you tell other nations to lead on issues that are hard for them?” she said.
Arbour said that, unlike countries such as Norway or Sweden, Canada isn’t spending as much as it could, or should, to promote development and rights. She also said Canadian diplomats have backed away from advancing the rights agenda in international forums.
But although she was critical of the current government, Arbour, 62, denied rumours she plans to run for political office in Canada. After a career that has taken her from war-crimes prosecutor in the former Yugoslavia to Canadian Supreme Court Justice and top UN human rights watchdog, Arbour said she has already changed her spots more than enough for one lifetime.
In her speech to the graduates Wednesday, Arbour stayed close to her human-rights background.
The Montreal native asked the students to consider their degrees a “mortgage on (their) conscience,” and urged them to engage their future professions “beyond a narrow technical expertise.”
She also spoke critically about the years since 2001, saying too many people have been living in a state of fear — both because of the attacks on Sept. 11, and because of reactions to them, many of which, she said, were misguided.
Speaking after the ceremony, Arbour said the post-9/11 years have taken a toll on the movement toward a single standard for international criminal law. Great strides were taken in that direction in the late 1990s, she said, thanks in part to Canadian leadership on initiatives such as the International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia — for which Arbour served as chief prosecutor — and the adoption of the doctrine of the Responsibility to Protect.
After the invasion of Iraq and the revelations of torture at Abu Ghraib prison and Guantanamo Bay, though, she said, many nations in the developing world have asked pointed questions about why they should be held to a standard to which those in the West don’t seem accountable.
“It will take some time to get over the cynicism,” she said. “They feel, rightly or wrongly, that it’s only about them.”
Edmonton Journal
© Copyright (c) Canwest News Service




Louise Arbour, former Supreme Court justice and United Nations high commissioner for human rights, says Canada spent years building a reputation as a global consensus-builder, but is now in danger of losing it all. 'We're not a real presence anymore.'

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