Louise Arbour, United Nations High Commissioner of Human Rights

Louise Arbour, former justice of the Supreme Court of Canada was appointed as the United Nations High Commissioner of Human Rights (UNHCHR) for a four year term commencing July 1, 2004. In March 2008 Mme Arbour announced that she would not be seeking a second term and so would be retiring as the UNHCHR at the end of June 2008.

On June 17, during question period in the House of Commons Liberal Member of Parliament Martha Hall Findlay, was calling on the government of Canada to acknowledge the work of Louise Arbour as the UNHCHR, when Vic Toews, Conservative MP and (then) President of the Treasury Board, yelled, “She is a disgrace to Canada. She is a disgrace.”

David Emerson, (then) Conservative Minister of Foreign Affairs, responded by saying, “We congratulate the work of Louise Arbour and we very strongly support the work of the United Nations in their pursuit of the protection of human rights and we’ll continue to do so,” Foreign Affairs Minister David Emerson said in response to Hall Findlay’s question.

Mr. Toews later refused to withdraw his remarks, when requested to do so by Martha Hall Findlay, saying, “…the comments that Louise Arbour has made in respect of the state of Israel and the people of Israel are, in fact, a disgrace and I stand by those words.”

The remarks to which Toews was referring had been made by Arbour in reference to civilians killed in the 2006 Israel/Lebanon conflict. At that time Arbour said, “International law demands accountability. The scale of the killings in the region, and their predictability, could engage the personal criminal responsibility of those involved, particularly those in a position of command and control.”


LRWC wrote an open letter dated June 19, 2008 calling for an official apology, which was signed by Claire L’Heureux-Dubé, Charles B. Davison, James Tate, Steven Kelliher and Gail Davidson. The letter was published in the Ottawa Citizen, June 21, 2008.