OTTAWA, June 26 /CNW Telbec/ - Canada is not living up to its reputation
as a defender of human rights and a leader in international justice. This
according to a panel of human rights advocates - including torture survivor
Maher Arar, former Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy, and Aboriginal
rights activist Ellen Gabriel - convened by the newly-created Canadian Centre
for International Justice (CCIJ). CCIJ is calling on the Canadian government
not to back away from its previous role as a strong supporter of the
International Criminal Court, and to prosecute war criminals living in Canada.
"Canada cannot have it both ways: it can either choose to be complacent
about the rolling back of human rights, or it can choose the path that most
Canadians are proud of -- an emphasis on the prevention of war crimes and
torture through justice, and respect for human rights," said Maher Arar, a
Syrian-born Canadian who was tortured in Syria after being falsely accused of
having ties to terrorism. "The world needs leadership from Canada."
"Canada was a leader in the development of international justice
mechanisms like the International Criminal Court," said Dr. Lloyd Axworthy,
President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Winnipeg and one of the
architects of the 'human security' approach to global issues. "We need strong
continued support for these mechanisms, and we also now need investigations
and prosecutions in countries like Canada for torture and other crimes. We
look at Sudan, Colombia, Myanmar-and many other countries-and we know that
human rights abuses have not gone away. Justice can help to break the cycle."
The Government of Canada estimates that hundreds of war criminals and
major human rights abusers live in Canada. While Canada passed new war crimes
legislation in 2000, this law has been used only once in the eight years
since, in a case involving a former Rwandan militia who allegedly carried out
torture, sexual violence and other atrocities in the genocide of 1994.
According to Jayne Stoyles, Executive Director of the Canadian Centre for
International Justice, "Justice is also critical in the healing processes of
survivors. It is estimated that up to one in three refugees to Canada has
experienced torture or war trauma, and the psychological impact makes it very
difficult to get on with their lives, support their families and participate
in their communities."
"Torture and other atrocities are not some distant reality of no
relevance to Canada," added Ellen Gabriel, President of Quebec Native Women
and Member of the Board of Directors of the Native Women's Association of
Canada. "In addition to the experiences of newcomers to Canada, Prime Minister
Harper's recent apology to indigenous Canadians acknowledged the
inter-generational damage that resulted from the torture and other abuses in
residential schools, and from the general policy of assimilation. The apology
and other forms of justice are critical to the healing processes of survivors
in this context as well."
The panel was convened today to mark the United Nations International Day
in Support of Survivors of Torture. The Canadian Centre for International
Justice works with survivors of genocide, torture and other atrocities to seek
redress and bring perpetrators to justice. Please visit our web site at:
For further information:
For further information: Jayne Stoyles, (613) 614-4292,