Wednesday, December 10, 2008

December 2008 Book Club Selection, The Rights Revolution, Michael Ignatieff

Canada a world leader on human rights in various ways

With Michael Ignatieff poised to be the next leader of the Liberal party -- even if merely by default -- his ideas are about to become of greater consequence to the country than ever before.

Fortunately, the man who would be Opposition Leader -- and, if he and his party have their way, Prime Minister -- has plenty of ideas, and has published plenty of books to back them up.

Perhaps one of the most relevant -- if a person were forced to choose -- are some of his ideas on human rights. While some of his prior ideas have proven to be very controversial -- such as musings often mischaracterized as support for torture -- Ignatieff is a man who understands the concept.

In 2000, Ignatieff gave the inaugural Vincent Massey lecture on the topic of human rights. That lecture has since been published in the form of a book.

In the book, Ignatieff notes the importance of rights speech in Canadian society and explains how this focus on individual and group rights in Canada has led the country into a key position of leadership in regards to human rights. He argues that Canadian rights speech has become a model emulated elsewhere in the world.

As such, the Canadian government will always have important global responsibilities vis a vis human rights. It hasn't always lived up to these responsibilities -- such as when Jean Chretien refused to even discuss the matter with Chinese President Jiang Zemin except under extremely cloaked terminology -- but it maintains these responsibilities nonetheless.

The Rights Revolution provides a valuable road map for the Canadian global human rights agenda -- one that leaders of all stripes could benefit from, and one that Ignatieff himself should be held to if he ever succeeds in his Prime Ministerial ambitions.

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