Rights and Democracy employees "enduring a witch hunt": PSAC

OTTAWA, Feb. 22 /CNW Telbec/ - Public Service Alliance of Canada national president John Gordon and PSAC Québec Regional Vice-President Jérôme Turcq spoke out today on behalf of PSAC members employed by the Montréal-based International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development (Rights & Democracy).

"The nomination of a new candidate for President announced this morning is only the tip of the iceberg," said Gordon. "The current crisis at Rights & Democracy requires far more than a new President.

"Our members have been subjected to religious profiling and intimidation. The workplace atmosphere is intolerable. The staff are enduring a witch hunt and are, quite frankly, outraged," he added. "This should have been fixed months ago."

A forensic audit by a private firm has also been announced and is supported by Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon. "But the Office of the Auditor-General has done annual audits since Rights & Democracy was created," Gordon said. "And Foreign Affairs completed a five year audit in 2008 - they found nothing wrong and they gave Rights & Democracy a positive assessment."

Rights & Democracy is presently in the midst of a crisis. Almost all staff, including senior managers, signed a letter to Prime Minister Harper and Minister Cannon in January demanding the ouster of the current chair, Aurel Braun, the now-interim president, Jacques Gauthier, and Board member Elliot Tepper - the same three Board members that signed the secret and overly negative evaluation of the late Rémy Beauregard, the former president who died of a heart attack on January 7.

"Since the letter appeared matters have become steadily worse," said Turcq. "Communications staff have been sidelined; communications are now being handled by a private contractor, Prima Communication, and a private investigator has been brought in from a union-busting company specializing in surveillance. Why? No one's saying."

"It's important to keep in mind the bigger picture," concludes Gordon. The crisis at Rights & Democracy is not just an internal matter. The integrity of any human rights organization working in fragile, fractured countries depends on its autonomy to investigate human rights abuses no matter where they occur, without partisan or ideological interference."


For further information: For further information: Alain Cossette, PSAC Communications, (613) 293-9210

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