Human Rights Working Group

During the past year, several successful educational events were sponsored by the Human Rights Working Group on campus. On Feb. 14 “Refugee Health: International and Canadian Perspectives” was held in the Medical Science Auditorium, in collaboration with the University of Toronto International Health Program. Speakers included Ezat Mossallanejad ( Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture),Morton Beiser (Joint Centre for Research on Immigration and Settlement),Shelina Musaji(Doctors Without Borders),and Amina Sherazee(Lawyers against the War). About a hundred people attended. On 18 April, in collaboration with the Muslim Canadian Congress,we hosted MPSvend Robinson at the Innis Town Hall. Five hundred people heard his speech, “Peace in Palestine: My visit to the West Bank.”

Numerous letters were written on Science for Peace letterhead. The list includes Amnesty International urgent action appeals against imminent executions in Singapore (three), Egypt, Ohio, Texas, New Mexico, Georgia, Missouri, and Maryland (suspension while the case is to be studied was just achieved); letters expressing concern about human rights violations and the safety of threatened persons in Chiapas (president of Chiapas Human Rights Commission), Colombia (trade unionists and need to dismantle paramilitaries plus their links to the military); Tunisia, China (arbitrary arrest of four workers at a peaceful demonstration), Palestine (fear of torture); Nepal (torture, including torture of some 16 students reportedly “disappeared”); Israel (dismay at reported human rights violations by its defence forces, call for international observers to be allowed into the Occupied Territories, respect for journalists and medical personnel, end to blocking medical services to wounded Palestinians and to harassment of local and international human rights monitoring groups).

In October, we wrote to Prime Minister Chr├ętien demanding that Canada withdraw all support from the bombing of Afghanistan, stop being complicit in the face of US refusal to rule out use of nuclear weapons, and devote our resources to providing humanitarian aid and to bringing terrorists to justice through international legal mechanisms.

In November, letters were sent to the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Health, Environment, and Culture at the time of the World Trade Organization meeting in Qatar. We protested the lack of consultation with civil society organizations, and we urged them to keep public services off the corporate auction table and to reject expansion of the General Agreement on Trades and Services (GATS). Rather than expanding corporate and investor rights without corresponding responsibilities, and in view of the concomitant growing gap between rich and poor, we argued that Canada must choose a fair trade agenda as the basis of common security. We stressed the need to preserve essential governmental protective powers and our right to our own culture as integral to human rights. Bland reassurances were received in reply.