Saturday, May 29, 2010

Canada's Suspension of Diplomatic Relations with North Korea

When I was working for DFAIT in the late-1990s, I strongly supported Canada's diplomatic recognition of the DPRK (which finally came about in 2001). I thought Canada could identify engage and support agents of change there and encourage the DPRK to move toward compliance with international norms of state behaviour domestically and internationally. I now realize that I was naive in my assessment of the nature of the regime there. The Kim family regime in North Korea  could go on a long time longer sustained and supported by China, sorry to say. 

Hope I am wrong again about this.

For details on Canada's suspension of diplomatic relations with DPRK:

CanKor has published a blog posting entitled "Confusion over Canada's suspension of relations":

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Monday, May 10, 2010

Human Rights and Human Resources Management at the Canadian Embassy to China

I was chatting with a Chinese friend who served with me at the Canadian Embassy in Beijing over both of my diplomatic postings there.  She was just forced to retire from service to the Embassy at age 55, very much against her will and is now looking for work.  I have men friends in the same situation who the Embassy made leave at age 60, also against their wills leaving them at loose ends and in reduced financial circumstances.  It is quite a contrast to the numbers of Canadian diplomats I have known who voluntarily retired after 30 years of service to generous pensions and substantially increased income becuase they were able to keep working for the Canadian Government on contract.

The justification given by the Embassy Admin Section for mandatory retirement of locally engaged staff is that it is a Chinese practice to require women to retire at 55 and men at 60.  There is no Chinese law requiring this in fact, only internal procedures in the state sector that are full of loopholes.  In fact most Chinese women continue working past 55 and most Chinese men continue past 60.  And anyway there is nothing that requires the Government of Canada to follow Chinese labour practices at our Embassy in China.  China is not an exemplar of progressive human resources practices after all.  Anyway we do not apply these to the Canadian diplomatic staff as a courtesy to our host nation.  That would definitely not go over well with PAFSO.

The bottom line appears to be that the Embassy prefers younger more attractive and more energetic Chinese people in our employ.  Until a few years ago my employer, Brock University would have forced me to retire at age 65, but thanks to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms this is no longer the case for me.  I expect my future more wrinkly self to be able to enjoy the dignity of work until I decide myself that it is time for me to hand over my courses on Chinese Politics and International Human Rights to some fresh-faced newly minted Ph.D.  Canada has determined that this is my human right.

The Embassy's discriminatory mandatory retirement requirment for Chinese staff only is simply morally wrong.  The crux of them matter is: are we prepared to treat the people under our authority with the same dignity as we treat our fellow Canadians?  Respect for universal entitlement to human rights is a principle that expresses in things great and small.  If we flaunt human rights in the small stuff of personnel management in China, what does it say for the much more serious and challenging and complicated issues of human rights in our treatment of people under our authority in Afghanistan?