Last week, the Queen unveiled the cornerstone of the new Canadian Museum for Human Rights, celebrating a new landmark in the city of Winnipeg, and our country. The stone originated from near Windsor Castle, where the original “Great Charter of Liberty”, the Magna Carta, was signed in 1215.
But the event was marred by an incident which is now receiving international news.
Jeremy Dyer was one of twelve winners of a Canadian art competition to express perspectives on human rights in attendance at the ceremony.
Prime Minister Harper was also present, and following the unveiling, Harper approached the line of young artists to meet them. Dyer was apparently “outraged” that he wasn’t told that he would be approached by Harper for a handshake. The young man informed staff that he would refuse to shake the PM’s hand. As Harper approached the line-up, a museum staff member leaned in to Dyer and asked him to step back into the crowd.
That’s when things got snotty. The kid is claiming his rights were silenced! After traveling to Winnipeg by funds provided by the museum, visiting local historical sights, receiving a +$300 camera to record his experience, and have their art displayed in an esteemed exhibition, he was also given the opportunity to meet the premier, the Queen, and the prime minister.
Being too good to shake the PM’s hand, Dyer expected to be given the right to publicly refuse it. “We were supposed to be there representing youth involvement, engagement, human rights and activism,” he said. He personally disagreed with Harper’s position on the G20 and G8 activities, so therefore his response to “involvement and engagement” were to publicly insult our country’s top political official. He called it “degrading.”
Would someone give Jeremy Dyer a lesson on common courtesy? Refusing a handshake to a superior is not an honourable, respectful message of mutual disagreement.
It’s an arrogant, self-motivated sign of contempt.
I don’t care what this young man thinks of our Prime Minister’s political, social or human rights policies. I don’t care what he thinks of the G20 or G8 budgets or activities. I don’t care if he felt vindicated in his intention to not shake his hand.
The fact is, men and women of character are expected to show respect in socially acceptable ways. The common handshake is not a universal public agreement of all policy. It is an interchange of courtesy between two colleagues.
Handshakes are expected of people who represent others. As a young artist, privileged to be chosen to represent the talented artists of our country, Dyer needs to understand that the refusal of a handshake is simply lowbrow and ridiculous.
Would someone also remind Dyer that Prime Minister Harper has achieved significantly more than he has for this country? Dyer was representing Newfoundland Labrador. How many of the citizens would like to get their hands on this kid now?
Imagine two world leaders, at odds with each other, vehemently opposed to their counter opinions. Should the situation arise that one extends their hand in cordiality to the other, and the other refuses, it could create political tension of an extreme scale, sometimes war. But this rarely happens, because men and women of stature understand the importance of courtesy.
Imagine now, in some areas around the globe, a man or woman refusing the handshake of their national leader. Many of them would be dead, and their family publicly flogged for it.
Dyer claimed that the event was set up as a promotional photo-op for the PM. Does he not get the fact that every event that the PM attends is a photo-op? And what of the free promotion of Dyer’s art?
The suppression of rights is a serious world wide problem, of which Canadians personally experience little. Being asked to step back in a line-up so as to not create a scene is not suppression.
Someone, please, tell Dyer to grow up, and give the museum back their camera.