OTTAWA - During Question Period Wednesday, NDP Foreign Affairs Critic Hélène Laverdière (Laurier–Ste-Marie) condemned the government’s actions towards the non-partisan Montreal organization Rights & Democracy. Minister John Baird announced on April 2 that the government will close the arms-length organization that was created by unanimous Act of Parliament in 1988.
“Canada is losing its place and its reputation in the area of democracy promotion,” said Laverdière. "The closure of Rights & Democracy is another black eye for Canada.”
In December 2011, Minister Baird told the Foreign Affairs Committee that the Harper government had cancelled plans to establish a democracy promotion institute, as promised in the 2008 Speech from the Throne, and that Rights & Democracy could “play a greater role than it has in the past.” Yet a few short months later, he pulled the plug on Rights & Democracy, leaving Canada with no democracy promotion agency.
“Minister Baird says the functions of Rights & Democracy—an arms-length organization—will be pulled into DFAIT. Yet this is a department that is increasingly politicized by this government,” said Laverdière, who also noted that DFAIT does not have the resources to take on these added responsibilities. “The Conservatives appointed their friends to the Board of Rights & Democracy, who then attacked the integrity of its president and staff.”
Laverdière argued that it was Conservative mismanagement that ruined this once-respected organization. Said Laverdière, “Minister Baird speaks of a ‘clean slate’- but everything about this story is dirty.”