Canada lost its bid for a seat on the United Nations Security Council, the most powerful and prestigious body for international affairs. On June 17, UN member states overwhelmingly elected Norway and Ireland for the two non-permanent seats representing the Western European and Other Group.
It was a humiliating defeat for Prime Minister Trudeau and the Liberal government. Canada received even fewer votes in this UN Security Council election than it did when it lost under Prime Minister Harper and the Conservative government in 2010.
Canada’s most recent failure must be seen as a sharp rebuke by the world and an unequivocal indictment of our foreign policy record. Canadians must consider how the world sees us and have the courage to confront the criticism.
After the election, Venezuela’s UN Ambassador tweeted about Canada, “Losing two consecutive elections to the UN Security Council within a 10-years period is a clear message that you are not a reliable partner and that the international community has no confidence in you for entrusting questions related to international peace and security.”
The vast majority of UN member states recognize President Maduro as the democratically-elected leader of Venezuela and are opposed to the illegal sanctions and interference by Canada against the resource-rich South American country. In contrast, Norway has been mediating the Venezuelan conflict.
UN members were not fooled by Canada’s claim to have a “feminist foreign policy” as they see our weapons exports increase to repressive regimes like Saudi Arabia, a country that is imprisoning women activists and conducting a brutal war in Yemen.
Last year, Canadian weapons exports reached a record high of $3.7 billion. The Trudeau government has regrettably disregarded the crucial UN Agenda for Disarmament, while Ireland made disarmament a cornerstone of its foreign policy.
The Canadian government also snubbed the negotiations with 122 UN members including Ireland to draft the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Canada refuses to sign on to this important UN treaty to eliminate the worst weapons of mass destruction because of our membership in nuclear-armed NATO.
Canada’s contribution to UN peace support operations has fallen to its lowest level with only 35 soldiers wearing blue helmets. Norway and Ireland have consistently deployed more peacekeepers. Instead, Canada has hundreds of soldiers on destabilizing NATO missions in Europe and the Middle East.
Over the past two decades, UN members have watched as Canada isolated itself and shamefully voted 166 times against resolutions that recognize Palestinian human rights and condemn Israel’s illegal, harsh occupation. Norway and Ireland have never voted against these resolutions.
Moreover, Canada refuses to meet the agreed upon target of 0.7% of gross national income for overseas development aid (ODA). Norway and Ireland spend more than Canada does as a percentage and per capita on ODA to help developing countries.
Finally, unlike Norway and Ireland, Canada never bothered to draft a foreign policy statement to explain what our values and positions are on international affairs. Instead the Trudeau government released a defence policy Strong Secure Engaged that articulated an aggressive posture toward the world.
UN members were right to keep Canada off the Security Council. The record shows that the Trudeau government’s rhetoric about peace and security does not match the reality. Too often Canada has chosen national interests over the global good and militarism over multilateralism.
It is time for serious self-reflection about Canada’s role in the world and our relationship with other countries. It has been 15 years since the federal government last consulted with Canadians on international affairs. The Trudeau government should hold a foreign policy review and let us have a say.
Find out more at the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute.
Tamara Lorincz is a PhD candidate, Balsillie School of International Affairs, Wilfrid Laurier University, and member of the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute.