human rights begin at home

Todd Hardy did a passable job representing his constituents in China this week. Hardy condemned human rights abuses in that country.

Todd Hardy did a passable job representing his constituents in China this week.

Hardy condemned human rights abuses in that country.

And he urged Premier Dennis Fentie to block shipments of Yukon tungsten bound for China unless it improves its human rights record.

Sounds good.

But Hardy can’t champion the rights of the Chinese and then suspend those same rights for his own constituents in Whitehorse.

And yet he has.

Since late 2006, 17 people have been forcibly evicted from their homes in Whitehorse under the territory’s Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods legislation. Some of them in Hardy’s neighbourhood.

Hardy’s been stone silent about this.

In fact, he had a hand in their evictions.

Hardy pushed for this law. He helped draft the document, which Canadian civil rights experts have called “Draconian.”

The loosely worded legislation allows government agents to spy on residents and evict them either through a court-issued community safety order or by “informal action,” which means simply asking a landlord to take action immediately.

Getting landlords to do the dirty work circumvents the territory’s one-month notice rule, permitting a tenant to be evicted within five days, even in the dead of winter.

Remember, these people have not been found guilty of anything. They haven’t even been charged with a crime.

They will not go to court. They simply lose their accommodation.

There’s no way for evictees to fight the order, unless they sue the government — something that most of these people, society’s most marginal citizens, lack the resources to do.

The evictees have no right to see the evidence gathered against them unless they go to court.

And the so-called SCAN law may violate the Constitution.

The NWT rejected the law after criticism from its human rights commission and the BC Civil Liberties Association.

“There are problems with having a proceeding where you’re very adversely affected and you haven’t been heard,” Winnipeg defence lawyer Josh Weinstein said in an interview shortly after the Yukon law came into effect.

The BC Civil Liberties Association’s Murray Mollard condemned the law, calling it flawed and “breathtaking in terms of its power.”

It also promotes vigilantism, he said.

And, according to Toronto defence lawyer Clayton Ruby, it may violate Section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Hardy supports this law, even while chastising the Chinese.

Which just shows it’s easy to champion the rights of faceless people who live halfway around the planet.

It makes a fellow look righteous. Better yet, there’s no local political downside.

But, it’s much harder to champion human rights when those being abused live on the fringe of your own community —when they’re people society suspects might be addicts, prostitutes, bootleggers or drug pushers.

Standing up for them comes at a political price. Hardy isn’t willing to pay it.

The Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods law demonstrates Hardy is willing to suspend human rights when it suits him.

To clean up the city, he’s willing to have government agents force suspected troublemakers out of their apartments.

China does it to make way for Olympic stadiums — to modernize and improve Beijing.

In the end, there’s little difference.

You either respect human rights. Or you don’t. (RM)