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Canadian Freedoms In Jeopardy


The rights and independence of Canadians are being eroded by Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy at negotiations for the establishment of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in Rome, June 15th to July 17th, 1998.


C. Gwendolyn Landolt

 Author Notes

National Vice President, REAL Women of Canada

 Essay - 6/15/1998

Many Canadians, frustrated by an inability to influence their country’s policies because of the power of its courts, will be further distressed if Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy has his way in regard to the proposed International Criminal Court (ICC). Its existence and mandate are being negotiated in Rome this month, and Mr. Axworthy is out in front, leading the charge. Not only is this court supposed to deal with crimes of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, it is also going to deal with “gender” crimes. This will turn the court into a world-wide vehicle of social engineering, particularly geared to the cause of radical feminism. The court will also become an engine for the elimination of cultural, ethnic and religious values that dare to stray from the convictions of the ICC’s judicial elite. Moreover, if Mr. Axworthy is successful, he and his international allies will move us one giant step closer to a one-world government. It is significant that the World Federalist Movement is one of the leading non-government organizations (NGO’s) promoting the ICC.

Mr. Axworthy is confidently pursuing the goal of creating this all-powerful gender-sensitive world court, serene in the knowledge that he does not have to pay the slightest attention to the views of the Canadian public. Unlike the U.S. Congress, Canada’s Parliament plays no role in entering into treaties. There is no legal requirement that it approve the signing or ratification of a treaty. Outside of the Prime Minister, Mr. Axworthy has absolute power in his Foreign Affairs fiefdom.

The publicly stated purpose of the ICC is to call to heel perpetrators of such terrible atrocities as those which occurred recently in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. There is, at present, no permanent court to carry out this work and the ICC is represented as the legitimate successor of the Nuremberg International Tribunal, which was established immediately following WWII to prosecute the perpetrators of Nazi genocidal policies.

If that were the entire story, such a court would be most welcome and uncontroversial. However, it is the proposal that the court’s jurisdiction, structure and operations include a gender perspective and that it preside over “women’s” concerns outside of armed conflict which sets off alarm bells. One such issue is “enforced pregnancy”, which, although undefined in the ICC document, has been defined elsewhere as a denial of access to abortion. Therefore, the ICC could become an international enforcer of abortion-on-demand, whether a sovereign country wishes this provision or not.

In addition, it is proposed there be an equal number of male and female judges and that these judges and the Prosecutor possess expertise on gender issues, including sexual violence and other such crimes against women. Such a stipulation virtually guarantees a preponderance of judges who are ideologically feminist, a philosophy and outlook not shared by many countries of the world.

It is further proposed that the Prosecutor for this court be completely independent from the UN in order that prosecutions may be initiated not only by the UN or member States, but also by complaints from individual women, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and victims. Such a scenario would, of course, subject a nation’s domestic policies to constant review, and penalties. Clearly, to accept an international court with such a broad and ideological mandate is to surrender a significant part of our national sovereignty.

Canada’s Role in the Promotion of the ICC

In a speech made at a UN meeting in Geneva on March 30th of this year, Foreign Affairs Minister Axworthy made an impassioned plea for the ICC as a war crimes tribunal, but, tellingly, made no reference to any broader mandate. However, on April 1st, in a speech prepared for the UN’s ICC Preparatory Committee Meeting in New York, Mr. Axworthy gave his support for a court that was “sensitive to gender issues”. He stated further that the court must build “... on the needs and rights of women...” and that gender mainstreaming must be a part of its day-to-day operations. He then went on to say, optimistically, “... we cannot allow ourselves to get bogged down in details”! On April 21, the Canadian delegation at the Geneva Human Rights Commission sponsored an amendment to include “enforced pregnancy” as a human rights resolution in armed conflict.

It is significant that NDP MP, Svend Robinson, long an advocate of abortion-on-demand, assisted suicide and homosexual rights, such as lowering the age of consent for anal intercourse, is included in the world-wide Parliamentarians’ campaign to establish the ICC. Further, the Executive Director of the World Federalists of Canada is the convenor of the Canadian Network for an International Criminal Court.

Concerns about the ICC

The proposed broad mandate of a permanent ICC is not acceptable to some nations. They are hesitating for the very genuine reason that they do not want either their governments or their citizens to be dictated to by such a court. For example, in a speech given in New York in September, 1997, U.S. President Clinton supported the principle of a permanent war crimes tribunal. However, his administration is concerned that the U.S. could be subject to politically-motivated investigations by a rogue prosecutor or an overzealous tribunal. There is also a real danger that a partisan court could put tiny players on the world stage, such as Benin, Trinidad or Tobago, on equal footing with the U.S. The U.S., therefore, has taken the position that no cases should be brought to the ICC unless they have first been approved by the UN’s Security Council. As it happens, the U.S. has permanent veto power in the Security Council.

Not surprisingly, there is a strong campaign against the Security Council’s involvement with the ICC. Canadian Judge, Madame Justice Louise Arbour, who was appointed a prosecutor of the temporary International War Crime Tribunal in Yugoslavia in 1997, has entered the ring opposing Security Council control of the ICC. Feminist Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and currently head of the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Commission, has also brought her prestigious office against Security Council control of the ICC. Foreign Affairs Minister, Lloyd Axworthy, has also pointedly objected to the Security Council involvement.

Canada’s national sovereignty and the independence of Canadians is at stake with the proposed ICC, but, unfortunately, we have no say about it.

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