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October 20, 2010

Harper's animosity toward Muslims and Arabs costs Canada UN seat

Scott Stockdale

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Canada's failure to obtain a seat on the UN Security Council is a clear indication that a large part of the world doesn't agree with the Harper government's characterization of Canada's foreign policy as "principled."

After winning a seat once a decade on the UN Security Council, it's the first time since the UN was founded in 1945, that Canada has failed to win a seat on the 15-member body – the UN's most powerful.

In New York last month, Stephen Harper campaigned for votes at the UN, talking about Canada's “moral imperative.”

“Who when seeing his neighbour distressed, will pass by on the other side of the road” Mr. Harper said, at the UN General Assembly in September.

Unfortunately, Mr. Harper is very selective about who he considers to be his neighbours.

Mr. Harper called Israel’s 2006 invasion of Lebanon “a measured response”; justified Israel’s war on Gaza and the deadly Israeli raid on the humanitarian flotilla, even though these actions were widely condemned by the UN and the international community.

Representatives of many other countries find it hard to understand how supporting the attack on Gaza in 2008-2009 – which led to the death of over 1,000 Palestinians and untold suffering which continues to this day – fits in with Canada's moral imperative.

Aside from his strident support for Israel, he makes no effort to hide his animosity toward Muslims and Arabs, avoiding contact, never mind dialogue, with them whenever he can, under the flimsiest of pretexts.

For example, Portugal's Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs addressed the 57-member Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) while campaigning in New York for a security council seat, but Canada didn't bother.

Here at home, Federal Court Justice Richard Mosley's ruling which repudiated Ottawa’s trumped up reasons for banning former British MP George Galloway:  The Harper government claimed that because Mr. Galloway participated in an aid convoy to Gaza he was a supporter of terrorism.

Remarkably, in 2009, at the same time he was banned from speaking in Canada, Mr. Galloway was allowed to speak out against the Iraq and Afghanistan wars in the United States.

While it's been reported that Brazil, in particular, quietly passed the word that a vote for Canada was the same as a vote for the United States, other countries didn't need Brazil to tell them that.

On the world stage, Canada – under the Harper government – has been little more than a rubber stamp for US policy.

For example, in the National Post, Conrad Black writes approvingly – and who knows why – that Canada “has been a more solid supporter of the Afghan effort than the Americans.”

Based on questionable reasons to begin with – the US has never produced their promised evidence that Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda were  behind 9/11 - this nine-year-old war is now going to end, leaving massive carnage behind, with nothing to show for the thousands of lives lost and trillions of dollars spent.

Neoconservatives like Mr. Harper and Mr. Black are attributing the loss to the fact that NATO didn't send enough troops – an argument that can be used ad infinitum.

Feeling threatened by American hegemony – and no doubt wanting to exert a little of their own – India and China saw no benefit in electing a US lackey like Canada to the security council. 

While Mr. Harper's diplomats advised him beforehand to start cozying up to China as a way to gain the needed UN votes, it's hard to imagine what he could have done that he's not already doing, with little if anything to show for his efforts.

The Financial Post reported this week that Mr. Harper spoke out in favour of foreign investment from China, as speculation continues to mount about a China-led offer for Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan Inc.

Meanwhile, even Financial Post columnist Diane Francis has spoken out against selling such an important Canadian resource to China.

When Chinese literature professor Liu Xiaobo won the Nobel Peace Prize recently,  Mr. Harper made brief mention of the fact that Mr. Liu is in prison, then said the important thing is that he won the prize and Canada congratulates him.

Part of what the Harper government considers to be a principled foreign policy includes courting Chinese business leaders while remaining silent about China's – a country that annually executes more people than the rest of the world combined – flagrant human rights violations.

Don't look for the Harper government to pay anything but lip service to protest Mr. Liu's imprisonment because as Ms. Francis put it, “the Nobel Peace Prize to a jailed Chinese activist is an embarrassing backdrop.”

While it's been widely reported that the 57-member Organization of Islamic Conference opposed the Harper government because of its strident support for Israel, they weren't alone.

African countries such as Rwanda, Malawi, Kenya and Niger that have been struck off of Canada's “countries of concentration” list under the Conservative government, don’t see their loss of foreign aid and resultant suffering as “principled” either.

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