As I’m sure most Canadians with even a passing interest in politics are aware of by now, Canada failed to gain one of the rotating temporary seats on the United Nations Security Council today.
What does this mean? Well, as this is an elected seat, voted on by the 192 permanent members of the United Nations, it signifies a colossal rejection by the rest of the world to Canada’s current status as a member of the international community. And it’s worth pointing out that this is the first time ever, that Canada has failed to gain a seat it has campaigned for.
Canada has, over the years, had a proud history of participation at the United Nations and has been routinely considered one of the international body’s most ardent supporters. Canada was there at the inception of the United Nations in 1945. Lester B. Pearson won the Nobel Peace prize in 1957 for his creation of an international emergency force to help resolve the Suez Canal conflict. The Nobel selection committee claimed that Pearson had “saved the world”. In addition, he is considered to be the father of modern United Nations Peace Keeping. Canada has long been considered world leaders and one of its most effective and professional forces with respect to U.N. Peace keeping.
From John Diefenbaker to Brian Mulroney, Canada took a firm stance on Apartheid in South Africa and advocated for its end. Canada has always been seen as a reliable, trusted and unbiased “third party” with regards to the ongoing strife in the Middle East. Canada fought under the U.N. banner in Korea. And then there are the myriad other U.N. initiatives that Canada has supported whole heartedly.
But now, rejection, from a major world body that has long coveted and respected our contribution. How could this be? What could have caused such a falling out between Canada and the rest of the world? Well if you listen to Stephen Harper’s Reform Conservatives, it is Michael Ignatieff’s fault. Yes, that’s right; the Reform Conservatives are claiming that the leader of the opposition is more influential on the world stage than the Prime Minister himself.
You see, Ignatieff recently made on the record comments that questioned whether or not Canada deserved a seat on the Security Council in light of our recent performances on the world stage. So because Mr. Ignatieff dared question Mr. Harper’s foreign policy (make no mistake about it. In this autocratic Government, it is most definitely Harper’s foreign policy), which is essentially his job, holding the Government accountable that is, he is being demonized once again for being “un-Canadian” and not being a “team player”. And of course, in the minds of the Reform Conservatives, there is only one team…..You got it, Harper’s!
So let’s take a little closer look at that “Foreign Policy” that “Iggy” has been criticizing. Let’s start off with the Chinese. During the Chretien Government, Canada worked hard at establishing meaningful trade ties with China. Why? Because they recognized the incredible growth of the Chinese economy, which is considered second in the world today. And by strengthening ties with the Chinese, it meant less reliance on trading ties with the Americans who don’t always play according to Hoyle, despite the North American Free Trade Agreement.
But early in his tenure as Prime Minister, Harper chose to criticize the Chinese for their poor human rights record, not taking into consideration the fact, that a repressed, and in many places, third world country, has been rocketed at light speed to the number two spot in the world economically speaking and that requires a little “catching up” in such areas. And he also failed to realize that you don’t influence change in another country without having a good relationship with them first, and you don’t achieve that by causing them to
"lose face” in such a public way. So relations have not been terribly warm and fuzzy between us since then and, oh yes, still no improvement in Chinese Human rights. Perhaps if we had a little more influence.
In the Middle East, Canada has always been seen as a steadying and unbiased influence. We have been conducting Peace Keeping and diplomatic missions in the region almost since the inception of Peace Keeping. But The Reform Conservatives have taken a rather inflexible and almost blind stance in support of the Israelis. And this stance has come across to most observers as Un-Palestinian. As a result, Canada has lost its diplomatic effectiveness in that very troubled part of the world.
Another move made by Mr. Harper early in his tenure was to squash Canada’s commitment to the Kyoto Protocol. Critics have claimed that this was a “made in Alberta” decision as the worst polluter in the country are the Oil Sands. But not only did Mr. Harper “blind Side” Canadian efforts at Environmental reform, he and his ministers have inexplicably blocked attempts by world leaders to set meaningful goals for the reduction in green house gasses. This moved has earned us international recognition as “Dinosaur of the Year” on more than one occasion because of our interfering and backwards stance on the environment. But then Mr Harper, via his henchman Mr. John Baird, introduced what they hailed as an aggressive “Made in Canada” solution that upon closer examination, has turned out to be somewhat of a Made in Canada “fib” (see Reform Conservative’s Stephen Harper’s plan for the Environment:
Of course there’s Mr. Harper’s failure to sign on to the U.N.s Rights of Aboriginal People, an area where Canada received failing grades. Or Mr. Harper’s failure to repatriate Omar Khaddar who, when he first went to Guantanamo Bay, was little more than a wounded child soldier. And let’s not forget that when opposition MPs first queried the Reform Conservatives about the possibility of Afghani prisoners being tortured, Harper accused them of being more interested in Afghani prisoners than the lives of Canadian Men and Women and branded them as being decidedly un-Canadian.
On a more recent note, in one of his more zealous displays of Religious Fundamentalism, Harper refused to fund aid to struggling African nations who advocated/performed abortions.
And the above is not an exhaustive list of the decidedly un-neighborly behaviour that The Reform Conservatives have inflicted on an unsuspecting world in the past five years. So considering this kind of divisive, intolerant, narrow minded, idealistic foreign policy, did Canada even warrant serious consideration for a seat on the Security Council? Would the Harper influence on this respected international body have been conciliatory or divisive as has been his foreign and domestic policies? Is this the kind of influence the world needs at this time in our history?
But it appears that The Harperites are having difficulty persuading Canadians that this International debacle is the fault of Michael Ignatieff. Even the most ardent Conservatives are shaking their heads at Harper over this bit of deflection and wondering at which point the P.M. will start taking responsibility for his failures rather than shifting the blame.
So in response, the Reform Conservatives have moved to plan “B”. They are now claiming that because of their unyielding and uncompromising adherence to “Canadian morals and Values”, Canada lost the Security Council Seat. I would submit that it was “Canadian morals Values” that earned Canada the respect and gratitude of the International Community in the first place and it was a deviation from those morals and values that caused our rebuke from the other 191 members of the U.N. General Assembly today.