Today PM Stephen Harper announced that Canada will boycott Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s speech to the UN General Assembly, calling the man’s declarations “disgraceful” and “insulting.” The PM said in Oakville, ON:
“There is no way I am going to permit any official of the government of Canada to be present and give any legitimacy to remarks by a leader like that.”
Hats off to the prime minister for taking a firm, principled stand against Iran’s leader using the United Nations as a forum to spread his anti-Semitism. Canada and Iran have been involved in a diplomatic row since Zahra Kazemi, an Iranian-Canadian photojournalist from Montreal, died in Iranian custody in 2003 after being tortured.
Wouldn’t this gesture have meant more, though, had Stephen Harper, as our prime minister, been at the UN to lead our delegates walk-out? This won’t happen any time soon, however.
The official excuse for Stephen Harper’s absence is that he chose to attend G20 meetings in Pittsburgh this week rather than address the General Assembly, even though other national leaders will do both.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has frequently criticized the UN and has not addressed the General Assembly in three years. He has questioned that body’s commitment in Afghanistan and elsewhere, citing “challenges” in Haiti, Darfur and the Middle East. He once asked:
“Will the new Human Rights Council become a forum where human rights are genuinely put above political maneuvering? Or will it emulate the fate of its failed predecessor organization?”
And at a recent meeting of the party faithful he said:
"Instead of polling the United Nations General Assembly to determine Canada’s foreign policy, we have taken a strong and principled stand in favour of freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law around the world."
This is quite a departure from the position of former prime minister Jean Chretien, who often used decisions by UN to shape Canada’s foreign policy. I like the idea that we make our own decisions in our own national interest.
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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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