Blame Canada: U.N. rights chief “alarmed” over Canadian law, but silent on China, Iran & Saudi Arabia

GENEVA, June 17 – Canada will be put in the company of some of the world’s worst abusers of human rights tomorrow when the UN’s highest human rights official expresses “alarm” over Quebec’s new law on demonstrations during her opening address to a meeting of the 47-nation UN Human Rights Council, revealed the Geneva-based monitoring group UN Watch, which obtained an advance copy of her speech. Other states on the UN watchlist include Syria, Pakistan and Zimbabwe.

“Moves to restrict freedom of assembly continue to alarm me, as is the case in the province of Quebec in Canada in the context of students’ protests,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay will say tomorrow, according to her draft speech.

The rights czar reserves her sharpest language for Canada. While Pillay cites only two other countries in the world for restrictions on freedom of assembly—expressing “concern” about Russia, and “deep concern” for Eritrea—only Canada provokes her far stronger “alarm.”

Some human right experts questioned Pillay’s failure to mention the mass disruptions which escalated into bottle-throwing and other forms violence occasioned by several of the protests, questioning her decision to spotlight a country widely considered one of the world’s most free and democratic.

“While Canada is certainly fair game for criticism,” said Hillel Neuer, the Montreal-born lawyer who directs UN Watch, “for Pillay to divert the world’s attention to what in a global context is an absolutely marginal case—a law already under before the chief justice of the Quebec Superior Court, and less demanding than the Geneva laws regulating the human rights rallies we hold in front of her own building—is simply absurd.”

“Indeed a veteran Tibet activist expressed shock today that the UN commissioner’s speech, ostensibly about situations requiring the world’s attention, spends time on Canada while saying nothing about China, a dictatorship that systematically represses and brutalizes Buddhist monks and millions more,” said Neuer. “When a prosecutor goes after jaywalkers while allowing rapists and murderers to roam free, that’s not only illogical, but immoral.”

“She just needs to keep things in proportion. Quebec’s Bill 78 was adopted by an elected democracy and will now be scrutinized by a series of independent courts applying the world’s finest machinery for reviewing legislation according to constitutional human rights guarantees—a process that’s already underway.”

“Meanwhile, most of the world’s worst abuses—like those Pillay fails to cite in the police states of Belarus and Cuba, and in the misogynistic regimes of Iran and Saudi Arabia—are devoid of any scrutiny. Those are the ones that desperately require the UN’s attention.”

“The Canadian activists who presumably put her up to this are misguided, and the UN commissioner is making a big mistake by sending the message that countries that have blots on their system—if indeed the Quebec law is even a blot—are worse than countries where the blot is the system.”

15 Responses to “Blame Canada: U.N. rights chief “alarmed” over Canadian law, but silent on China, Iran & Saudi Arabia”

  • “Quebec’s Bill 78 was adopted by an elected democracy and will now be scrutinized by a series of independent courts applying the world’s finest machinery for reviewing legislation according to constitutional human rights guarantees—a process that’s already underway.”

    What a load of codswallop.

  • As a Montrealer, I find it sadly ironic that the astute and reasoned observations are coming from U.N. Watch (via Hillel Neuer) rather than the mouth of the “the United Nations’ highest human rights official”. I for one am “alarmed” at how Navi Pillay — a person who really ought to know better — is being so “alarmist” about an emergency (and temporary) measure that was necessitated by ever-escalating student-triggered destruction, thuggery and other forms of civil disobedience and intimidation. Montreal is much calmer and actually more democratic now that it has been brought back from the brink of lawlessness and mob rule. Thank you, U.N. Watch, for aiming for balance so as to tell the TRUE story.

  • The U.N is on our backs because we’Re the only one who might listen. It shows how useless and powerless the U.N is. It knows there’s no point in criticizing China, they have most countries by the economic balls! Their word is no where as important as the prophet’s, so forget helping the women in the middle east.

    Bill 78 isn’t being used much. And it hasn’t changed anything. There are still many protests going on in Montreal and elsewhere in Quebec, protesters aren’t being jailed an silenced. It is a blot, but nothing more. People are overreacting and The U.N. finally has someone to accused that might care.

  • Like most countries,Québec and Canada are not immune to out of touch paper shufflers who are elected to serve its people.
    The student demonstration is no longer about just tuition fees. Young people today speak their minds about the abuses and wastefulness and even corruption of its elected officials and gevernments. We should not critize them but rather support their efforts to bring to light the issues that concern us all and to force (way overdue)changes. Its for the good of future generations. I support peaceful solutions,however bill 78 was an aggressive law to silence and restain protesters. Even temporary laws have a way of becoming permanent and very difficult to abolish.

  • As a Montrealer, I find it great the the whole world sees how stupid our government is and some of us don’t.

    Thanks to Quebecor media and Power corp…

  • Montreal isn’t much calmer. Since the law passed we saw much more people in the street, with much more police intervention against protesters. The protest are peaceful, always were peaceful, except for some kids who decided to brake windows. On the other side, police is now allowed to use violence against actual people, and a lot of people including myself have been hurt, even if we never did any violence in our life against the police, people, or buildings. There is an alarming situation considering our rights and freedom of expression and assembly in Quebec. There is a reason to protest against it. I’ve been walking the street for a while now, I know what is happening inside the protests, and law 78 isn’t justified at all.

  • So Canada is counted among the most noturious Human Rights abusers.

    If there was ever a reason for Canada to leave the UN out right….this is it.

    The UN has fallen away from it’s reason to exsist and has been co-opted by despots, social activist zealots and bureaucratic empire builders.

    Enough already, Canada can do more good in the world WITHOUT the UN!

  • Sabrina Ostrowski


    I am writing to you today to express my concern regarding Mrs. Pillay’s recent remarks regarding the human rights situation in Canada. As a student in the city of Montreal, I can confidently say that the only right that has been impeded on is CAUSED by protestors: the right to security. I am a business student in McGill’s Desautels Faculty of Management and I am in support of the tuition hike, consequently against the strike. This opinion, however, seems not to be accepted by those protesting in the streets.

    Firstly, it is important to realize that the vast majority of Quebec citizens are AGAINST the strike, and this circa-70% figure keeps growing day by day. This situation is a case of a very vocal minority, which has been generalized to the whole Quebec population. Most of us are in support of the actions taken by our government, as it is acting towards the benefit of all, not just those that have been vocal.

    As a student at McGill – one of the multiple institutions against the strike — I have had my fair share of incidents to deal with. I have been called a “capitalist pig,” solely due to my area of study. I have been stopped from going to class by protestors. I have been thrown glass bottles at. My campus and city have been disfigured, all because I refuse to cave under the protestors’ incessant pressure. And some of my fellow colleagues cannot graduate because these protestors refused to accept that some of us value our education enough to want to go to class and write our final exams.

    These students claim their opinions are not being respected, however they themselves fail to respect others’ diverging opinions. Cars have been burnt, metros have been smoke-bombed, Molotov cocktails have been thrown. All of these criminal acts were committed by this group of individuals who claim that their rights are being restricted. Keep in mind these incidents all occurred prior to the implementation of Bill 78.

    Montreal citizens are all affected by the current situation in Montreal, whether they support the opinions of those protesting or not, whether they are touched by increased tuition, or not. Protestors claim they are being oppressed by the government of Quebec, however they are the ones oppressing our peaceful citizens. The temporary new law that has been implemented by the government of Quebec acts only to remedy the chaos of this otherwise peaceful city. Students have been allowed to protest for the past 100 days, regardless of the law. There are simply added precautions that have been implemented in order to minimize their effect on all Montrealers.

    Talks of dictatorship are what have however blown things out of the water for me. Our government was elected in the utmost democratic manner; both Canada and Quebec have been – and still are – role models of democracy in the world we live in today. The role of our prime minister is to act towards the wellbeing of our citizens, and he has done only that. The situation in Quebec is no longer an issue regarding tuition hikes. It has now become a movement against the government; a movement which is absurd and without basis, which at its roots is a result of this mind-blowing anarchy.

    Bill 78 would never have been implemented if these unhappy students had been civilized in their media of expression. I am fully in support of the youth standing up for its beliefs, however if they want to be heard and supported, there are better ways to go about it. This new bill in no way restricts individuals’ right of assembly, it simply redefines it, temporarily. These protests have caused millions of dollars of damage to our beautiful and historical city. Innocent citizens have had their property ruined, and in the end, the cost of these protests is higher than the initial increase in tuition would have been.

    Before placing our people-centered nation on a Human Rights Watch List, I would hope that this issue was analyzed from more than one perspective, as the one featured in the recent claims is utterly biased. Fellow citizens of our world are being silenced by real dictatorships. I would hope efforts and resources be directed towards them as they are truly suffering, and Montrealers are solely dealing with unfounded student angst against an effective government.


    Sabrina Ostrowski
    Montreal, Canada

  • Ms Ostrowski,

    You seem to be mixing a lot of different elements, and therefore, to be unable to distinguish the student movement from different isolated groups who are using the protests to do their own little things. The movement isn’t a student movement anymore. You obviously never attended any of those protest yourself, because you would never generalize on the protesters the way you just did. Of all the 30 nights I’ve been walking, I never saw any burning car, any Molotov cocktail. No proof has been shown to link the metro act to actual student organization, or civilian organization, and I, as a citizen of Montreal never felt oppressed by any protester, even those who break bank windows. Even those guys are conscious enough not to attack people.

    On the other side, mass arrest on random citizens are an aggression by the police on random citizen. How do you justify that? How do you justify the violent police repression of protesters who haven’t done anything illegal? How do you justify political profiling and the unjustified detention of protesters by the police based only on how people looks?

    How do you call 200 000 people marching peacefully in the street? A bunch of anarchists? You can’t be serious about that, like you can’t be serious when you say 70% of the population are against the protests. Can you give your sources about that? 200 000 people marching peacefully in the street, I call it democracy. Has I call democracy student organisation who vote to strike against the government, something the liberal government decided not to recognize.

    I walk almost every night in Montreal. We see people get out of their home to greet us as we pass. We see shop owner bang on pot and pans to support us. If there is 200 000 people in the street one day, you can’t expect all of them to be the one in the street the next day, and the next, and the next…

    The new law the government passed is unconstitutional, and didn’t change anything, except to give the police new powers against a protest movement the government is trying to make disappear without talking to the student and its own population.

    You are right, the protest affect everybody, but it is because a whole lot of people it affects are in the street protesting! I’m sorry people threw a bottle at you, but it doesn’t justify illegal laws in response. You can’t fight crime with illegal activities. The government is going too far. People are against it, we saw it in partial elections couple of days ago.

    Let me remember you he was elected with only 26% of the population behind him. He is far from having the majority of the population behind him.

  • Monique St-Onge Montreal Quebec Canada

    Dear Ms. Pillay,

    I totally disagree with you.

    You have not been well instructed of the facts and what really happened and or is happening in this province.

    Ceci est une exagération et une perversion des faits incroyable.

    Cette loi a été mise en place après que des actes de violence ont été commis lors des manifestations étudiantes sur les biens propriétés et immeubles des résidents et après des demandes incessantes du gouvernement et des medias auprès des étudiants de cesser ou de ne pas encourager ces actes.

    Les dirigeants, porte paroles de ces groupes ont refusé.

    Il fallait une loi pour nous protéger contre l’escalade de la violence.

    De plus cette loi est beaucoup moins sévère qu’à Genève même, New York, Paris, Londres etc. En quoi pouvons-nous être comparé à la Syrie, au Pakistan etc.

    C’est ignoble et d’une ignorance des faits inacceptable de votre part.

    I hope Ms. Pillay you could be better instructed before repeating such incongruities.

    Monique St-Onge
    Montreal Quebec Canada

  • Can anyone tell me what Pillay and/or the UN had to say about South Africa’s “Protection of State Information” Bill?

    I suspect that this might be a good way to show bias at this body.

  • Greeting,

    I am not a good writer as the above posters, so i will keep it short, clean and direct.

    Please come live in downtown Montreal for a week.
    Please read the polls about the tuition fees hike and population support for Bill 78.
    Please have a chat with the silent majority.
    Please compare the anti-protest law in Geneva with the Law 78.
    Please show more care to Syria, China, North Korea, and Russia.
    Please get informed.

    When you have done all these…
    Please apologize to all Canadians who cherish democracy.

    Thank you.

  • Dear Mr Tremblay,

    How dare you tell such a lie? I live in downtown Montreal, I have seen Molotov cocktail thrown to police and citizens. I have not seen burning cars, but many vandalized cars. I have seen St-Denis/Maisonneuve in fire. The 4 students arrested for Metro smoke bombs, 2 of them have a big red square on their chest. All of above can be found in any newspapers. How dare you tell such a lie?

    When protesters break windows, throw rocks, golf balls, pool balls and hammer, yes.. a hammer to police officers, I call this violence… Police officers are Quebec citizens protected under criminal laws too, what makes you believe that protesters have more human rights over a police officer? What makes you believe that hurting a police officer, or block a major bridge, or a major highway should not get you arrested? Is it just because you are protesting ‘pacifically’?

    Yes, 66% of Quebecers approve the tuition hike, more than half approve the law 78. You can read that from any newspaper. Please get informed.

    Yes, MAYBE this government is elected by 26% of population, but remember, we did NOT have an army carrying machine guns to stop you from the election office. No one ever tried to stop you from voting. If you decide to not vote, it means that you have forfeited your right to speak. Let’s not forget that the Liberals have a MAJORITY government and that’s what we call Democracy. Not a minority horde of barbarians walking down the street, knocking on the pans and pots.

    Democracy is not a tool, nor a privilege to the reds. If the law 78 is violating the charter of right and freedom. So is law 101, please give the English students a chance to be educated in English. Stop violating the right and freedom of English students.


  • Human Rights issues should be commented on and delt with independent of ALL other considerations. Pointing fingers at others does not solve problems of our Human Rights violations, that the world is looking at, and only shows our lack of sincerity and committment in solving ours.

  • Le probleme ne sont pas nos lois canadiennes et provinciales.
    Nous avons un systeme judiciaire qui en général protége bien les citoyens. D’autres états comme la russie, la chine, la tunisie, la lybie, l’arabie saoudite, l’autorité palestinniene, l’Iran, ces dictatures et bien d’autres qui siègent aux diverses commissions de l’ONU ne veulent pas protéger leur citoyens et veulent démontrer par tous les moyens que même les démocraties ne tolerent pas les manifestations sans donner les raisons et en dénoncant une partie dans le conflit. c’est toujours le jeu de ces commissions de l’ONU. Je demande que l’on arrete de financer ces institutions qui ne font rien pour éviter la faim et les génocides de masse partout sur terre. Ces représentants de l’islam radical qui mettent à la tête de la commission des droits de l’homme un personnage tel que kadafi ou assad n’ont aucun jugement et sont guidés par l’appât du gain seulement.

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