I have seen on Babble quite a few discussions about this in the context of a specific examples but I am hoping we can address it outside of that more as a principle.
At times in the international forum we have a person speaking about something happening in a particular country and then others will come along and debate whether they even have a right to express those opinions, as if the expression of opinions is illegitimate and an interference in itself. On the other hand we define ourselves as not United States but have no trouble saying what we wish about that country and its internal as well as external politics. As well we accept and encourage other countries to express opinions about what goes on in Canada.
I would like to address this apparent inconsistency with some principles that reflect the biases I have (as we all have biases). As a former publisher, expression is key to the assertion of most other freedoms in my view.
I also believe that the variety of individuals and groups deserve to be part of the conversation, to be acknowledged and to some degree that means discussed, talked to and actively heard as well as just listened to. This is in part an understanding of what it means to be in a wider diverse society that goes beyond tolerance and towards active engagement.
I don't believe it is respectful to discourage honest thought about others out of some deferential idea that only they can speak of themselves-- was it not Robbie Burns who said "give us the gift to see us as others see us"? That gift may not be a right but to deny it, I believe is a violation-- in other words you don't have to discuss someone else or another group but if someone else is, and doing so with respect, then this should not be discouraged.
Respect, is not about agreement and we don't have to like what others say. Respect is based on honesty and presumptions of equality and understandings of relativism. We can speak from our perspective of what is relevant to us, so long as we do not presume that this is important to our subject. We can understand and express our opinion, but we cannot presume that this opinion has any value beyond that. If our opinion is a preferred direction we want, then that too is not presumed to have weight or standing unless the subject gives it that weight. But the debate and expression is not either negative or to be disallowed.
When it comes to interference, our opinion cannot be backed up by coercion, force or pressure if it is to be respectful. This is why when nation states express opinions and back them up with sanctions, preferences or military power, we have interference. The expression by a state in another's affairs may constitute interference because of the presumed power and threat behind the statement. Not true when the statement comes from individuals having no such power.
The same rules should apply to all subjects (if we are speaking of countries then the same rules apply to all)-- it should not be a popularity contest where we reward favour based on what seems best to us because respect is a principle not something that is given to some and not others.
Therefore I do not think there is anything wrong with people here responding and reacting with words to the internal affairs of others so long as no force is brought to those words and no presumptions are made about the value of those opinions. And of course so long as the speaker is also listening. We should equally be able to discuss in a place like this, the internal affairs of countries such as Iraq or China or the United States or any other country especially given that the opinions here have no force behind them in the context they are presented here. We should also expect that if interested others will do the same with Canada and we should respect them for it and hear them out.
We should not have massive do not touch subjects except when it comes to expressions of hate and knowing prejudice. Where prejudice is inadvertent then it is through discussion that we can recognize it and deal with it not by an apparent politically correct pressure to not have a conversation on a given topic at all.
Since there is widespread acceptance that Canada is facing now more human rights issues than it has for some time, I would hate to see us move away from discussing human rights in all contexts, here and in other countries. And we can hope that others in other places, with the gift of distance, will also discuss Canada and inform us from their perspectives if we want to hear it. (And if we do not want to hear it it is our choice not to listen but it is not our choice to presume the conversation ought not to exist.)
I don't want to go from an imperialist position of assumptions that others need to hear and follow our opinions to a shutting down of reflection and opinion about others given in a respectful way because that is imposing isolation. And I would not want others to hold back based on this signal.
It is interesting to note, at least from my experience, I have never heard any person associated with any group or nation that they do not want to be discussed. To the contrary, they only ask for respect and a willingness to learn, to recognize and debate biases and hear responses.
So I propose we accept that non-interference does not mean non-discussion and respect does not mean automatic acceptance and agreement. Respect is essential but it is more subtle than that.
Anyway, I hope some find this discussion interesting and I would be interested in what others have to say on this having both asked the question and provided my viewpoint.