Commentary by Bhupinder Liddar
Canada will re-emerge on the world scene, after a decade of absence, when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses the United Nations General Assembly, in New York, next week on Tuesday.
While Canada’s former Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper shunned the 193-member world body, Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau plans to give all he and his delegation can, at the United Nations on September 19 and 20. Canada is looking to “making meaningful contributions to solving important global challenges, such as climate change, international peace and security, and refugees and migration,” according to Prime Minister Trudeau.
“The Government of Canada is committed to redefining its place in the world and promoting core Canadian values like diversity and inclusion, gender equality, and respect for peace worldwide,” according to the statement announcing the Prime Minister’s visit to New York. It adds, Trudeau will advocate for greater global leadership to address refugee and migrant crises, reiterate Canada’s intention to once again play a major role in peacekeeping and conflict prevention efforts, and encourage countries to follow through on the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
This is exactly what Canada is all about and known for on world stage. This is the kind of engagement, on the international level, that befits Canada. These are Canadian values that Canada can project through engagement with the international community at the United Nations.
Canada is a founding member of the United Nations, playing a key role in drafting the UN Charter. The intent of setting up the organization by some 50 countries, following the disastrous Second World War, was to establish a regular forum for world leaders to meet and consult on various issues and to help resolve issues before they escalate into full-fledged conflicts or humanitarian disasters.
Foreign leaders, from presidents to prime ministers to foreign ministers meet, often on an informal basis, at the UN General Assembly session every Fall, in New York.
Canada has made tremendous contributions, disproportionate to its size, over the decades, to world peace through its efforts at the United Nations, be it through contributions to peacekeeping operations, development assistance, or just playing the role of an honest broker.
Canada was instrumental in resolving the Suez Canal crisis in 1950s, under the leadership of Foreign Affairs Minister and later Prime Minister Lester Pearson, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts and in helping establish peacekeeping operations.
A Canadian, John Humphreys, played a key role in helping draft UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights – a milestone in the history of human and civil rights. Canada also played a significant role in helping draft the International Law of the Seas Treaty, establish the International Criminal Court, and getting agreement on banning landmines, under the leadership of former Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy, among many other achievements.
Insulting the UN
Unfortunately, former Prime Minister Stephen Harper shunned and despised the UN. On two occasions, in 2012 and 2013, Harper, while in New York at the same time as the UN General Assembly session, refused the invitation to address it – the most insulting gesture by any leader to the world body.
Harper instead sent, then Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, in his place.
Harper disgraced Canada and its legacy on the international stage. Many thought it hurt Canada’s international reputation.
The international community took note of this slight. Because, when it came time to elect five non-permanent members to the prestigious Security Council of the UN, Canada was defeated for the first time in its attempt to seek a seat, in 2010.
Fortunately, the damage is being repaired and Canada is ready to resume its traditional responsible and active role on world stage. Prime Minister Trudeau announced in March that Canada will seek to win back a seat on Security Council for the 2021-22 term.
He added, “It’s time for Canada to step up once again …We are determined to revitalize Canada’s role in peace-keeping …We are determined to help the UN make even greater strides in support of its goals for all humanity”.
Canadians ought to be proud that their country is be back on the international stage, playing an active and much-needed role in making a better world, for all humanity.
Bhupinder S. Liddar is a former Canadian diplomat and founding editor/publisher of “Diplomat & International Canada” magazine. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.liddar.ca