Articles

Friday August 31, 2018 The Globe and Mail

A United Nations fact-finding mission on the anguish of the Rohingya minority in Myanmar has put the world on notice. By naming six alleged perpetrators, including the army commander-in chief, and by using the term “intent to commit genocide,” three independent commissioners have effectively challenged the international community to uphold criminal accountability and the rule of global law at a time when respect for the postwar legal order is weakening.

Genocide — the most odious crime ever codified — is a legal, not a descriptive, term. Leaders and institutions are normally wary of the accusation because it incurs serious international obligations. According to the 1948 Genocide Convention, member states must not only attempt to prevent this crime, but also punish perpetrators of it.

The UN report is replete with evidence that constitutes “reasonable grounds” for meeting the legal threshold of genocide. The commissioners document atrocities such as forced deportations, mass killings, the burning of houses and the rape of thousands of women and girls. The Rohingya themselves have documented these events with shocking cellphone videos that will be useful for future prosecutions. Hate speech has incited violence, according to the commissioners, who fault Facebook for allowing incendiary posts. According to Reuters, some of these have included calls for the Rohingya to be shot, burned, and fed to pigs; pornographic anti-Muslim images; and descriptions of the group as “dogs,” maggots” and “rapists.” [more]

Friday June 1, 2018, The Globe and Mail

Should the Jews of Hungary pack their bags? Those with an eye to history might wonder. Last March, in a formal speech commemorating the 170th anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution of 1848, President Viktor Orban said the following:

“They do not fight directly, but by stealth; they are not honourable, but unprincipled; they are not national, but international; they do not believe in work, but speculate with money; they have no homeland, but feel that the whole world is theirs. They are not generous, but vengeful, and always attack the heart – especially if it is red, white and green [the colours of the Hungarian flag].” [more]

Friday April 27, 2018, The Globe and Mail

Multiculturalism with a capital M was born of smart crisis management – of political agility and the characteristic Canadian willingness to compromise in the service of national unity and nation building. The trigger, as you may know, was the Quebec crisis of the 1960s and early 1970s, when the so-called “Quiet Revolution” exploded into nationalism and violence. In 1963, the government of Lester B. Pearson created the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism to recommend means of defusing the issue.

But something unexpected happened. Paul Yuzyk, a new senator from Saskatchewan, spoke up. Canada, he said, was not “bicultural,” but “multicultural.” The commissioners were shrewd enough to understand what Mr. Yuzyk meant: He was saying that a solution for Quebec had to include the rest of Canada, or it wasn’t going to fly. So they agreed to take into account the contribution made by other ethnic groups to the cultural enrichment of Canada – and how to safeguard that contribution. [more]

Friday April 6, 2018, The Globe and Mail

Although ordinarily somnolent, the black dog of unaddressed history will sometimes warn about obscured misdeeds. U.S. President Donald Trump’s nomination of Gina Haspel to head the Central Intelligence Agency has triggered just such a wake-up – for Ms. Haspel’s history with the CIA includes practising torture – a war crime – during George W. Bush’s “war on terror.”

There was sporadic outrage when Ms. Haspel’s nomination was announced: Republican John McCain demanded that she explain the nature of her involvement in the interrogation program. Democrat Ron Wyden said her past makes her “unsuitable to serve as CIA director.” The American Civil Liberties Union called for her CIA records to be declassified. But when the moment of her Senate confirmation arrives this month, only one thing will matter: the decibel rate and the resonance of their dissenting voices. [more]

Friday January 4, 2018, The Globe and Mail

Eugene Ionesco’s comic play, Amédée, featuring a “corpse” in a closet that extends grotesque members during an urbane dinner party, was almost certainly intended to spoof the blindness of the French to their wartime collaboration with the Nazis; but the playwright’s metaphor can be extended to other willful hidings, including one now facing the government of Canada.

Canada’s unexamined role in transferring captured Afghans to notorious prisons where they were certain to be tortured is another stubborn entity that keeps popping out of the cupboard. Both former prime minister Stephen Harper and current PM Justin Trudeau have tried to ignore the unwelcome visitor, but it will not be snubbed. [more]