Orbinski: Refuse government funding being used to quell dissent

James Orbinski looks into the camera at a conference table in the Jubilee Auditorium
Dr James Orbinski spoke at the Jubilee Auditorium on June 13, 2012.

Last week, I had a chance to interview Dr James Orbinski for The CJSR Edition, our freshly-minted local news show. The former international head of Médecins Sans Frontières/ Doctors Without Borders was at the University of Alberta to accept an honourary degree. I met a few folks who saw his convocation speech, and they seemed kind of shell-shocked at how persuasively he had convinced them to do the hard thing and take some responsibility to make things better.

What struck me when we spoke was this comment about whether vocal civil society groups should risk taking federal funding or charitable status these days:

“The most important and powerful tool that any citizen has is his or her voice. The free and public expression using that voice is very much in my view a duty and a responsibility of citizenship. And if government — in this particular case, the Harper government — chooses to use tools of government, funding for example, in an effort to quell expression, and voice, and public engagement and public criticism, then citizens and citizen organizations should just simply refuse that funding.”

You can listen to the full interview below.

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