Canada seeks a UN Security Council seat, but critics are railing against its foreign policy record

By Scott Costen

CANADA’S bid for a UN Security Council seat is facing intense criticism from within the G7 country’s own borders.

Prominent Canadian authors, academics and activists have signed a petition highlighting the country’s policy failures and demanding it be denied a spot on the powerful 15-member council.

In making their case, the signatories cite Canada’s role as a significant arms exporter, its failure to stand up for Palestinian rights, and its support for US-backed regime change efforts in Latin America.

“Echoing Trump’s foreign policy, Canada has backed reactionary forces in the Americas,” says the petition, introduced by the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute (CFPI) and supported by Noam Chomsky and Roger Waters.

“The Trudeau government has led efforts to unseat Venezuela’s UN-recognized government, while propping up repressive, corrupt and illegitimate governments in Haiti and Honduras. Canada also lent its support to the economic elites and Christian extremists who recently overthrew the democratically elected indigenous president of Bolivia.”

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Image: Patrick Gruban @Flickr

Domestically, the petition laments Canada’s mistreatment of its indigenous peoples and its support for petroleum companies and their “heavy emitting tar sands.”

“Violating the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Trudeau government sent militarized police into unceded Wet’suwet’en Nation territory to push through a pipeline,” the petition reads.

“The UN Human Rights Committee recently documented various ways Canada is failing to live up to its obligations towards indigenous people under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”

The Security Council is responsible for international peace and security and its decisions are binding. As the UN charter states: “The action required to carry out the decisions of the Security Council for the maintenance of international peace and security shall be taken by all the Members of the United Nations or by some of them, as the Security Council may determine.”

Five countries – China, France, Russia, the US and the UK – hold permanent seats on the council. Ten non-permanent members are elected for two-year terms by the UN general assembly. Canada has been a Security Council member six times since 1948, but last held a seat in 2000.

Prime Minister Trudeau has spent considerable time, energy and resources trying to end the 20-year drought, a feat that requires beating out either Norway or Ireland in next month’s Security Council elections. A recently published analysis shows these two countries are “easily outshining Canada” in terms of foreign aid spending.

Trudeau, who famously declared “Canada is back” when his Liberals formed government in 2015, has made no secret of his desire to accomplish what his Conservative predecessor, Stephen Harper, could not.

But his foreign policy has been no better than Harper’s, according to Tamara Lorincz, a member of Canadian Voice of Women for Peace.

“(Canada’s) foreign policy is really about aiding and abetting U.S. imperialism,” she told Redaction Politics.

“We are undermining democracy, international law and state sovereignty with our intervention on Venezuela.”

Lorincz, a PhD candidate in global affairs, condemned Canada for arming countries that are engaged in human rights abuses at home and wars of aggression abroad.

“Canada is selling weapons to Saudi Arabia, to Egypt, to Israel, to Jordan,” she said. “We are flooding the Middle East with our weapons.”

If its Security Council bid is successful, the federal government is promising to “continue to strengthen the focus on conflict prevention and peacebuilding.”

Yet, as the Canadian Press reported May 22, the country’s contribution to international peacekeeping has reached an all-time low, with only 25 military members and 10 police officers deployed on missions at the end of April.

“Canada hasn’t been doing peacekeeping seriously for more than 20 years,” Lorincz said.

The country seems much better at financing peacekeeping missions than it is at staffing them. According to the government’s Security Council pitch, Canada was the ninth-largest contributor to the UN peacekeeping budget and the sixth-largest donor to the UN Peacebuilding Fund.

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Image: Collision Conf @Flickr

Activist and retired sociology professor Gary Kinsman told Redaction Politics that Canada’s international nosedive is clear and undeniable. “Globally speaking, Canada’s reputation has really gone downhill,” he said.

Kinsman noted the way Canadian mining companies “run rampant” in the Global South and receive backing from the federal government “even when they do horrible things.”

He also noted the Trudeau government’s inaction on Palestinian rights. “The Canadian government has basically done almost nothing to criticize the incredible injustices and violence waged against the Palestinian people by the Israeli state,” he said.

Kinsman didn’t just criticize Canada, however; he also questioned the legitimacy of the Security Council itself.

He rejected as outdated the permanent membership of the Security Council, saying it reflects the outcome of the Second World War more than it does current global reality. “Why should the U.K. and France be there in perpetuity?” he asked. “Why should the United States basically have veto power over what the rest of the people in the world want to do?”

Global Affairs Canada did not respond to a request to participate in this story.

However, during a May 21 TV appearance on one Canada’s top political programs, foreign affairs minister François-Philippe Champagne downplayed the petition and its criticisms of the federal government.

“No one is perfect. Canada is not perfect,” he told CBC News Network’s Power & Politics. “But I can assure you that, in all my discussions with leaders around the world, they want to see more Canada.”


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