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No UN Security Council seat for Canada without foreign policy change

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Illustration created using a wiki image by Howard the Duck with other open-source and public domain elements.

For most of its term in office, Justin Trudeau's Liberal government has been running for a United Nations Security Council seat in 2021. It has declared it is campaigning for it on the basis of "Canadian values." Its approach thus far seems to involve mostly spending and lobbying its way to support.

This bid presents an opportunity to send a message to whoever forms the next federal government. Recall how Harper's failure to win a seat for Canada in 2010 was perceived (rightly or wrongly) as a national rejection, even a national embarrassment: Canada had never before lost a bid for a seat on the council in all our decades of UN membership.  

What has changed since 2010? Not much, it turns out, in our UN votes. Overall, Canada's international record does not deserve a Security Council seat in 2021. Consider for example: 

  • Canada has not yet signed key UN disarmament measures;
  • Canada has played a central role in the Lima Group, destabilizing the Venezuelan government by supporting the attempted coup there;
  • Canada supports authoritarian governments like the ones in Honduras and Haiti, where Canadian extractive industries and other corporate interests work closely with corrupt local authorities;
  • Foreign Minister Freeland's avowed  "U.S. first" foreign policy became clear in a leaked diplomatic memo;
  • Canada's unquestioning support for the Israeli occupation of Palestine is, if anything, even stronger than under Harper.

In fact, the Liberal chair of the House of Commons standing committee on justice and human rights boasts that the Liberal's record on pro-Israeli votes is even more strongly biased towards Israel than the Conservatives' was under Harper. Successive analyses by the Canada Palestine Assocation of Vancouver details resolutions where Canada's UN representatives voted against most of the world, siding time and again with just Israel, the U.S., and a few small Pacific island states. This ongoing "Micronesization" of Canadian foreign policy will make it difficult to build the support needed for a successful security council bid.

All of these policy areas have much more impact on our chances than the Liberal government's international spending largesse and lobbying efforts. Across Canada and around the world, people concerned with issues of peace and disarmament, Latin American and Caribbean solidarity, trade justice or justice for communities impacted by mining and other extractive industries already know the truth about Trudeau's record.

Whatever one may think about their domestic policies, the Liberals' foreign policy record is really a continuation of the "Harper hangover." There has been little substantive change since the previous Conservative government, so why should we expect a different outcome from the rejection Canada received in 2010? 

Who else is running for a seat?

There are two seats to be elected in 2020 from the Western European and Others Group which includes Canada, Australia, New Zealand... and Israel) for a 2021-2022 term. Besides Canada, Ireland and Norway are currently also in the running. 

Ireland's bid makes a lot of sense. They have recognized the state of Palestine, for example. People may think Norway doesn't necessarily deserve a seat either, but most agree that country's international record is not as poor as Canada's on many issues. It seems like a pity that tiny San Marino pulled out of the running. And Malta is already running towards the 2022 vote for a 2023 seat. UN rules prevent outgoing Sweden from repeating a term immediately. So maybe Iceland (who has never yet had a Security Council seat) could jump into the race quickly? 

But opposing Canada's candidacy does not require us to support any particular alternative bids. The bottom line for our next federal government is this: the world needs to see a major foreign policy shift before Canada can be seriously in the running for a seat on the Security Council. 

Otherwise, the call should be for Anyone But Canada for the UN Security Council next year: #ABC4UNSC 

David Heap is an organizer with the Canadian Boat to Gaza campaign, part of the international Freedom Flotilla Coalition.

Illustration created using a wiki image by Howard the Duck with other open-source and public domain elements.

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