NDP’s silence over the BC Human Rights Commission baffles many


Harinder Mahil (right), former BC Human Rights Commission Chairman. PNG files 

Even as the advance polling has closed and the province is getting ready for a decisive election next Tuesday, the opposition NDP remains non-committal over the BC Human Rights Commission. Not only is the the party platform silent over the issue, its leaders are emphasizing a review or strengthening of human rights laws if elected.

When the Liberals were first elected in BC in 2001, they had disbanded the commission — making B.C. the only province in Canada without such body. What we have today is the BC Human Rights Tribunal that only looks into complaints of discrimination and do nothing in terms of research and education.

The NDP was up in arms against the BC Liberals for doing so and has been continuously attacking the government for disbanding the commission.

When the party issued its platform, there was a wider expectation of a solid commitment over restoration of the commission under the NDP government. With no specific commitment to restore the commission, the platform has only disappointed many progressive supporters of the NDP. The former BC Human Rights Commission Chairman, Harinder Mahil says he is completely surprised.

“The NDP had promised to restore it in previous elections, I don’t know why they are silent this time.”

On being pressed on this issue by the South Asian journalists past week, the NDP leader Adrian Dix only assured that they would review the whole issue. The party President, Moe Sihota on the other hand, tried to rationalize the situation by saying that the platform has committed to strengthen human rights laws and codes at schools and work places.

Ironically, the Federal NDP had recently passed a resolution declaring a slain human rights activist from India, Jaswant Singh Khalra, “a defender of  human rights”.

Khalra was reportedly abducted and eliminated by the Punjab Police in India. He was documenting the cases of those who were extra judicially killed without any fair trial by the police during Sikh militancy. Besides, the party had pleaded against death sentence awarded to a Sikh militant Devinderpal Singh Bhullar in India and raised its voice against the mass murders of the Sikhs in 1984 following the assassination of the Indian Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards.

If the NDP can be so passionate about human rights issues in another country, why its not taking a strong position on the domestic front? There should not be any selective approach towards human rights at all.

It isn’t strange why the NDP remains silent on the issue. It cannot be that the NDP is confused or is being selective out of ignorance. Apparently, the party is trying to attract more centrist and may be the right wing votes to outdo the Liberals and thus mimicking their political rivals. However, this silence reflects very badly on a party that is supposed to be leftist and is expected to respect social justice more than any other established political party in BC.

So much so, the NDP has exposed itself by recruiting candidates who have had questionable views and opinion about other cultures and races.

This shock comes when a former NDP candidate from Kelown-Mission, Dayleen Van Ryswyk  made disparaging remarks about the indigenous peoples and French speaking Canadians. The NDP had her resign instead of showing her the door promptly. As a result she decided to run independently without showing any regrets.

It was later revealed that another party candidate from Burnaby-Lougheed, Jane Shin had made sweeping remarks about Chinese people in the past.

A few years ago, the NDP MLA Harry Lalli had launched an email address that identified him as a Jat MLA. Jat is a term used for dominant peasantry class of Punjab, India. This had infuriated the Dalits or the so called Untouchables in the local South Asian community. Dalits are frequently discriminated against by the, Jats, Brahmins (the priests) and other so called upper caste groups in a caste ridden Indian society. If the NDP really cares about social justice it should be extra careful about the social and political values of its members.

But what can one expect from a party that recently removed socialism from its constitution. At the end of the day, the NDP has proved that in politics, ends are more important than the means. If the NDP really isn’t that then it must prove itself otherwise it will always be seen as any other political group whose aim is to grab power than bringing a real change.

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