The United Nations’ slow slide into irrelevance seemed to pick up speed last week after two representatives criticized Canada for Quebec’s handling of its student protests.
Maini Kiai, a UN special rapporteur, and Navi Pillay, UN high commissioner for human rights, called Quebec’s Bill 78 “particular harsh” and “alarming,” respectively.
In fact, in presenting his annual report to the UN Human Rights Council last Thursday, Kiai put Canada in the same category as Algeria, Belarus, Ethiopia, Jordan and Russia.
Let’s see. Belarus had protesters immediately loaded onto police buses in 2011 for simply applauding during a demonstration against the rule of President Alexander Lukashenko. That eventually led to the government banning assemblies and gatherings altogether. And this is after Lukashenko’s government imposed a violent crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations in 2006 after elections were marred with fraud and harassment.
And Russia recently imposed extremely heavy fines on protesters deemed lawbreakers and police have been reported to search the homes of activists in an attempt to dilute protests.
If those countries are in the same category as Canada, then Bill 78 must be undemocratic and heavy-handed, right?
Hardly. Bill 78, which is being challenged in Quebec Superior Court, requires organizers of gatherings of more than 50 people to provide eight hours’ notice of the itinerary and length of the event.
With months of protests over tuition hikes using up valuable police resources, hurting businesses and shutting down streets in Montreal, it hardly seems unreasonable to give police a heads up. It’s not like cops are shutting down protests or pepper-spraying and batoning activists for no reason.
Granted, there has been violence. But videos of such clashes clearly show the instigators are the demonstrators and more often than not, bring the violence on themselves. If the protests are peaceful, and for the most part they have been, the police are also peaceful. No big deal.
Of course, that’s not how the UN sees it. The agency is already showing itself to be a lame duck when it comes to taking meaningful stands against repressive regimes around the world, usually settling for tough talk — if that.
These latest comments from UN representatives are just further evidence the international agency is truly in a world of its own — and not in the way it wants to be.
We Say editorials represent the viewpoint of The Daily News and are written by editor Robert Koopmans, city editor Tracy Gilchrist, news editor Mike Cornell or associate news editors Dan Spark and Mark Rogers.