ct 22, 2007 03:07 PM
OTTAWA - Louise Arbour, the Canadian who leads the United Nations on human rights, attacked the Harper government today for failing to maintain Canada's stature as a champion of individual rights and freedoms in the world.
The former Supreme Court of Canada justice said Canadians think of themselves as a beacon for human rights and a respected international peacekeeper butPrime Minister Stephen Harper's government is undermining that legacy by lack of action.
"Canada has to work very hard to maintain what historically has been the perception internationally, that it's a consensus builder and that it's a valid interlocutor to all," Arbour said after a speech to a conference on human rights today.
"I think that space has to be reclaimed," she told reporters.
"Canadians still have an image of themselves that is now pretty dated, that is not reflective of the contemporary position and role that Canada can, and should, play internationally," said Arbour, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Earlier, shetold an audience ofrights advocates that she was profoundly disappointedby a recent decision by the Harper government not to join other nations in approving a UN declaration upholding the human, land and resource rights of the world's indigenous people.
Canada joined with the United States, New Zealand and Australia in opposing the non-binding declaration adopted by the UN General Assembly.
Canada argued that the broad wording of the resolution conflicted with the Canadian Constitution on some points.
Asked how the world views Canadians, she told the media,"There is a sense that Canada is moving away from its total commitment to multilateralism and is now, I think, advancing other forms of either national or regional alliances."
Justice Minister Rob Nicholson attended the speech but declined comment afterwards.