28 May 2009

Three women honoured, one gratuitously insulted

Yesterday's issue of The Globe and Mail stood out for its inspiring stories about not one but three women of extraordinary achievement. The first was about Canada's very own master of the short story, Alice Munro, "our Chekhov," and her winning of the $100,000 Man Booker International Prize for fiction. Selected from a short list of internationally renowned writers, Ms. Munro adds the Man Booker to her impressive list of awards, including the Governor-General's Award for fiction (three times), the Giller Prize (twice), the U.S. National Book Critics Circle Award and the W.H. Smith Literary Award in Britain. She has had 48 short stores published in the New Yorker and has been described in the New York Times as having "a strong claim to being the best fiction writer now working in North America."

Appearing on the front page of the Globe with Ms. Munro was U.S. President Barack Obama's nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor. Growing up poor in the Bronx, Ms. Sotomayor now aspires to the highest judicial office in her country. If she is confirmed by the Senate, as she almost certainly will be, she will become the first Latina justice on the Court.

Featured on the Globe's Law Page was Canada's most successful jurist, Louise Arbour. She achieved the highest honour available to a Canadian judge -- elevation to the Supreme Court -- and is also the most accomplished Canadian jurist internationally. She served as chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda and the Former Yugoslavia, and recently completed a term as United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

At a recent meeting of the UN Human Rights Council, Ms. Arbour was praised by ambassador after ambassador, all expressing regret she was not seeking another term. All except the Canadian ambassador that is, who made no reference to her decision. The Harper government is known to have differences with her, but on occasions such as this, good manners call for differences to be set aside to say something nice about the person being honoured. But the Harperites seem to have great difficulty setting differences aside, it is always us against them. One wonders what the representatives of other members of the international community thought about this boorish slight by the Canadian ambassador toward one of his own.

Ms. Arbour will continue to play an international role, assuming the positions of president and chief executive officer of the International Crisis Group, an independent organization that analyzes conflicts around the world and proposes solutions. Congratulations to her, and to Mses. Munro and Sotomayor, and a raspberry to Canada's ambassador to the UN.

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