Thursday, April 23, 2009

Canadians meeting with Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights and Canadian Civil Society

A group of Canadian civil society organizations including the CLC met with Ms. Kyung- wha Kang, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights for a brief meeting this morning.

We had met the night before to discuss the agenda items for this meeting. There was consensus that we wanted to support the work of the High Commissioner`s office and let her know that we did not agree with our government`s decision to withdraw from the preparatory meetings and the actual conference itself.

Knowing that our time would be brief with the Deputy High Commissioner, we prepared an agenda on issues that we wanted to highlight. Again, there was consensus on the topics which included: introduction of civil society in Canada; role of the High Commissioner in the monitoring and implementation of the DDPA and the DRC Outcome document; post Durban mechanism and the current situation in Canada.

At the meeting, our diverse civil society delegation were able to discuss anti-terrorism legislation and the impact on racialized communities; the impact of political bias and consequent decisions to silence and cut funding of community organizations such as Canadian Arab Federation; and the situation of First Nations, African Canadians, migrants, racialized immigrants and other racialized communities. Our delegation were able to provide specific examples of racism experienced by these communities including the racialization of poverty, impact of discriminatory governmental policies such as the Temporary Foreign Workers Program, and lack of political action on issues of housing, employment, education and access to social services. Lastly, in response to the criticism of the Conference, the Independent Jewish Voices expressed their support for the conference as Jewish people.

The Deputy High Commissioner was receptive to our information and emphasized the importance continuing this work back home. She clearly indicated that her Office would continue to push forward the fight against racism. She noted that it was the NGO`s that pushed for this review conference and that they play an important role in ensuring the DDPA was not forgotten. In closing, we noted that it was important for civil society to work closely with her office to ensure that government`s are accountable for their progress in eliminating racism.

Overall this meeting was a successful in conveying our message that the Canadian government would have received a failing mark under the DDPA or the Conference Review Outcome document. There was still much racism that our government still refuses to address.

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