Liberals accused of cutting off human rights law debate

The Review

The Liberal government’s decision to prematurely close off debate on a proposed law to
overhaul Ontario’s Human Rights Code has angered defenders of the system who say
the province is trying to restrict public input on the changes.

The Liberals were planning to use their majority in the legislature to invoke closure on
the controversial legislation, angering activist groups and the opposition parties, who
wanted at least another month of public hearings.

The move means public hearings currently underway will end two weeks early Thursday
and force a final vote on the bill, which the province says is designed to reduce a
growing backlog of cases and address long-standing inefficiencies in the 40-year-old
system.

If passed, the legislation would allow complainants to go directly to the Human Rights
Tribunal and make the Ontario Human Rights Commission more of an educator on
human rights issues.

It would also create of a Human Rights Legal Support Centre aimed at providing free law
services to complainants.

Critics called cutting the hearings off unfair to those who have yet to have their voices
heard, and warned the issue would haunt the Liberals in next year’s provincial election.

“This is anti-democratic,” said Mohamed Boudjenane of the Canadian Arab Federation.
“This is an insult for the most vulnerable people in this province.”

Premier Dalton McGuinty said he is eager to see the bill passed because complaints
currently take five to 10 years to work through the human rights system.

“It’s simply unacceptable,” McGuinty said.

The human-rights community is divided on the proposed changes and needs more time
to debate the merits of the proposed law, said New Democrat Peter Kormos.

“This is a very substantial change … The community is very much split around it,” he
said. “For the attorney general to suggest that somehow a debate is irrelevant is a
blemish on his office.”

Arab groups say Tories refuse to meet with them

From CBC.ca

Some of Canada’s largest Arab organizations say they are being frozen out by the
Conservative government.

Although the Tories have run an active outreach campaign to several ethnic
communities — including the Hindu, Sikh, and Chinese communities — Arab groups say
the party appears to have made a decision to write off the Arab vote.

Both Prime Minister Stephen Harper — who earlier angered some Arabs over his
support for Israel during the Israeli/Hezbollah conflict — and Foreign Minister Peter
MacKay have headlined fundraisers for Israeli causes in the past month.

As well, a number of Conservative MPs have visited the Middle East on tours sponsored
by the Canada-Israel Committee. Justice Minister Vic Toews has gone on one of the
trips. Other visitors included Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day and Fisheries and
Oceans Minister Loyola Hearn.

Jason Kenney, who is parliamentary secretary to the prime minister and the party’s point
man for ethnic outreach, did not return calls to CBC News on the subject.

“We don’t do partisanship here. We would like to work with all parties,” said Mazen
Chouaib, executive director of the National Council on Canada-Arab Relations. “But
unfortunately, the Conservatives have refused dealing with us, and we’re facing great
challenges dealing with these guys.”

Chouaib will be in Jordan this week, trying to organize an all-party visit there for
members of Parliament. But he said he doubts the Tories will show up.
“I think the chances are pretty slim,” he said.

Mohamed Boudjenane, executive director of the Canadian Arab Federation, said his
organization has also been ignored by the Tories.

“So far, this government clearly refused to meet with us,” said Boudjenane, whose
umbrella group of more than 40 organizations has represented Canada’s Arab
community since 1967.

“So we keep calling them; we keep sending them letters. But if we don’t get any
response or reaction, we can’t do it by ourselves.”

Attorney General Appoints Commissioners To The Ontario Human Rights Commission

TORONTO, Nov. 8 /CNW Group/ – The McGuinty government is strengthening the
Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) and enhancing its role in promoting
human rights by appointing seven new commissioners, Attorney General Michael
Bryant announced today.

“This diverse and distinguished group of commissioners has strong
expertise in human rights issues,” said Bryant. “These seven individuals have
the knowledge and breadth of experience that will allow them to make a
significant contribution to the OHRC and Ontario.”

“Our new commissioners have the qualifications we need to help build a
stronger human rights system that deals effectively with discrimination at
both the individual and systemic level, acts in the public interest and
promotes respect for human rights,” said Barbara Hall, Chief Commissioner of
the OHRC. “I look forward to working with them to protect and promote the
rights of every citizen in Ontario.”

The seven new commissioners are:

Patrick Case, director of the University of Guelph’s Human Rights and
Equity Office, which drafts policy and advises the university community on
human rights issues. He is immediate past chair of the Canadian Race Relations
Foundation, as well as immediate past co-chair of the Equality Rights Panel of
the Court Challenges Program of Canada.

Ruth Goba, a women’s program coordinator and staff lawyer at the Centre
for Equality Rights in Accommodation, where she represents clients in housing
matters under the Ontario Human Rights Code. Previously, she was an instructor
on disability issues at Ryerson University, and a law associate for Scott &
Oleskiw, representing clients before the OHRC and the Human Rights Tribunal of
Ontario.

Kamala-Jean Gopie, who spent eight years as a member of the Immigration
and Refugee Board of Canada, and 30 years as a teacher and education officer.
She is a past president of the Urban Alliance on Race Relations, and past
member of the Anti-racism and Multicultural Educators’ Network of Ontario.
Gopie is currently a member of the Board of Trustees for the United Way of
Greater Toronto.

Raja Khouri, a human rights advocate and organizational and community
development consultant. He is a member of the Hate Crimes Community Working
Group, and a past national president of the Canadian Arab Federation and past
president of the Canadian Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, Toronto chapter.

Alana Klein, a senior policy analyst for the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, where
she researches, analyzes and advises on issues related to HIV/AIDS and human rights.
A lawyer, she was previously an adjunct lecturer and associate-in-law at Columbia
University, and a law clerk for former Supreme Court Justice Louise Arbour.

Maggie Wente, an associate lawyer at Olthuis Kleer Townshend Barristers
and Solicitors. She represents First Nations and band councils, and her
practice includes providing legal advice on land claims, self-government
negotiations, commercial litigation and corporate law. She is a former labour
relations officer for the Ontario Nurses Association, and her community work
includes serving as a board director and secretary for Aboriginal Legal
Services of Toronto.

Albert Wiggan, Harry Jerome Award-winning community leader and
entrepreneur. He speaks at high schools about learning disabilities and has
also spoken publicly in support of literacy. Wiggan is a community activist
who has received service awards for advising and assisting those in need in
the community.

Canadian Arab Federation condemns Beit Hanoun Massacre; demands government call for international investigation

The Israeli Occupying Forces (IOF) have committed an appalling act of mass murder in the town of Beit Hanoun today, one day after they redeployed around it. At dawn, the IOF fired eleven artillery shells on six homes in the town killing 18 civilians; seven of whom are children and six of whom are women. 53 others were wounded; of whom 25 are children and 12 are women. It is also worth mentioning that sixteen of the victims are from one family; the Al Athamneh family. With this, the number of Palestinians who have been killed since the commencement of the IOF operation in Beit Hanoun on 1 November 2006 has reached 77.

CAF strongly condemns this outrageous crime and stresses that it is but another example of the continued excessive use of force and the targeting of civilians and civilian objects that is carried out by IOF. Moreover, CAF stresses that this brutality is directed without the observance of the principles of discrimination, proportionality or military necessity. This crime again illustrates the extent to which the IOF disregards the prohibition by international humanitarian law (IHL) of targeting civilians and civilian objects and the obligation to protect them.

CAF emphasizes that the state of silence on the part of the international community, including the government of Canada, when such crimes have occurred in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) in the past, has only encouraged the IOF to show even more disregard to its obligations as enshrined in IHL and civilian life, as manifested in this crime.

CAF emphasizes that the IOF’s conduct in Beit Hanoun today constitutes a war crime according to the provisions of IHL and, as such, warns of Israeli attempts to manipulate the international community and public to avoid accountability. Hence, CAF calls on:

1. The Canadian government to condmen the murder of Palestinian civilians and request the UN Security Council to convene an emergency session to look into the situation in OPT, and dispatch an investigation commission on the IOF crimes since the start of its military operations in Beit Hanoun;

2. The UN General Assembly to uphold its legal and moral responsibilities and take effective action to ensure protection for the Palestinian people in OPT;

3. The Human Rights Council to dispatch a team to inspect this massacre and the breaches by IOF of human rights and IHL; to dispatch the relevant special procedures to the OPT to investigate the recent human rights violations without delay;

4. The High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention, to condemn this crime and to undertake effective action to end the IOF’s violations of Palestinian civilians’ human rights; to provide effective protection for this population; and to call for an emergency meeting of the High Contracting Parties to the Convention to look into the mechanisms of full implementation of the Convention in OPT;

5. The United Nations’ High Commissioner for Human Rights to end its silence and take actions towards ending the gross violations of human rights in OPT;

6. Canadian and international human rights organizations to condemn this crime, investigate it fully, and also call upon the international community to fulfill its obligations.

CONTACT:

Khaled Mouammar
National President
Email: benwalid@rogers.com
Tel.: 416-879-6766

CAF calls upon the Canadian government to strongly condemn the abuse of Human Rights by Israel

The Israeli killing of an innocent woman and the shooting at a Church in Palestine shows once again Israel’s lack of respect for human life and religious sanctuary.

“The silence from the Harper government when Israel commits a crime against Palestinian civilians is deafening.

The government is clearly hypocritical and imbalanced in its politics and position in the Middle East. By continually refusing to recognize, acknowledge and deal with the Palestinian Authority, our government is giving its tacit approval for Israel to rampage and destroy Palestine and its people”, says Khaled Mouammar, CAF National President.

CAF urges the Canadian government to defend Human Rights and to put an end to the inhumane treatment and abuse of the Palestinian population by Israel.

CONTACT:

Khaled Mouammar
National President
Email: benwalid@rogers.com
Tel.: 416-879-6766