Defending human rights when they most need it

Posted: March 13, 2009 in Uncategorized

The hardest time to defend human rights is when they are under attack. This is one of those times.

The debris from the September 11, 2001 attacks on Washington and New York still has not settled. It provided American imperialism with the springboard for two bloody wars and fueled a wave of fear and hatred that has yet to subside. Under the guise of fighting terrorism, governments around the world enacted draconian laws that undermined hard won civil rights. Self-styled proponents of human liberty participated in the most heinous crimes against individuals and nations.

The carnage continues on the battle field while eager warriors at home seek to undermine further our rights and freedoms in Canada.

War is the ultimate assault on human rights. For that reason. Peace Alliance Winnipeg held a public forum in Winnipeg on March 7, 2009 entitled Defending Human Rights in a Post-9/11 World. We assembled a diverse panel of activists and asked them to reflect on their experiences and discuss between themselves and with the audience the best ways to defend human rights in the current environment.

The Panel

Lesley Hughes: Lesley is a well-known journalist and broadcaster with a long history of community activism in Winnipeg. A recipient of the YMCA-YWCA Woman of Distinction award, Leslie is author of We Chose Canada, a columnist for Canadian Dimension magazine and host of Alert Radio. Lesley became embroiled in controversy during the 2008 election, slandered as antisemitic and dropped from the Liberal slate of candidates over an article she wrote in 2002 on the possible origins of the 9/11 attacks. I`ve written about this issue elsewhere in my blog, so I won`t recount the issues here. It had been planned that Lesley would moderate the panel. Upon reflection, it made more sense for her to be a full participant. Suffice to say, Lesley`s experiences qualify her uniquely to address the topic.

Colleen Simard: Colleen is a columnist for the Winnipeg Free Press and founder and publisher of Urban NDN – a newspaper she founded in 2008 that offers a fresh journalistic voice from, for and about Aboriginal people in Winnipeg. She doesn`t regard herself as an activist, but I do. Anyone who starts up a community newspaper to give voice to her community`s concerns is as activist as it gets.

Michael Welch: Michael is a peace activist who has shown leadership in organizing support in Winnipeg for American war resisters who are fighting deportation to the United States. He is active in Citizens Concerned About Deep Integration and Peace Alliance Winnipeg and is the local chapter contact for the Council of Canadians.

Shahina Siddiqui: Shahina is Executive Director of the Islamic Social Services Association – Canada, and a frequent commentator on Islamic and human rights issues in Canada and the United States. She sits on the Advisory Board of CAIR-CAN, the Canadian branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, and principal author of Women Friendly Mosques and Community Centers: Working Together to Reclaim Our Heritage. I think of all the presenters, Shahina touched me the most when she said that before 9/11 she was a Canadian; after it she became part of “the other.“

Anthony Hall: Anthony is founding co-ordinator and professor of Globalization Studies at the University of Lethbridge and author of The American Empire and the Fourth World, which Naomi Klein has described as “an overflowing tool box, filled with little-known stories, legal arguments, and fresh ideas that, if used properly, could change the world.”

The forum was well attended; about 100 people came out. As well, it was well supported by 15 organizations who sponsored it. An extra special acknowledgment must go out to the University of Winnipeg Students Association, which provided its excellent facilities at no cost.

For those who missed it, I shot some video — about 2 hours worth — neatly parceled it into the 10 minute segments that You Tube restricts you to. I`ve posted the first 6 segments below so you can access the presentations. If you want to know more, go to You Tube for the final six installments that contain the discussion.

Introductions – Glenn Michalchuk

Michael Welch

Lesley Hughes

Colleen Simard

Shahina Siddiqui

Anthony J. Hall

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