Observers in the Jewish community reacted with cautious approval to the announcement that Canada would bid for a two-year term on the UN Security Council in 2021.
“Participation on the Security Council is a practical and symbolic metric of Canada’s full engagement in the multilateral efforts of the international system to enhance peace, security and stability on a global level,” said Shimon Fogel, CEO of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA).
“For the Trudeau government in particular, it would be an important confirmation or validation of Canada playing that kind of role within the international community,” Fogel added.
“It will be a long process for Canada to regain its role and reputation for peacekeeping and to take our place on the Security Council, but it is a process well worth beginning,” said Karen Mock, a spokesperson for JSpace Canada, a left-wing Zionist organization.
“Canada can and should increase our efforts to contribute meaningfully to UN reform and to helping the UN regain its credibility for human rights, security and peace for all, not just some.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made the announcement that Canada would be seeking the Security Council seat during a visit to UN headquarters in New York this week.
“We are determined to help the UN make even greater strides in support of its goals for all humanity,” Trudeau said March 16 in the UN building. “My friends, it’s time. It’s time for Canada to step up once again.”
Citing the importance of gender equality, refugee resettlement, respect for diversity, stability in the Middle East and addressing climate change, Trudeau said, “This is the Canada of today.”
Later, in an address to the Security Council, Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion said, “We seek a seat at the Security Council precisely because the world finds itself at a time when there is a pressing need to prevent violent extremism, to manage conflict and to respond to humanitarian crises.”
“The world needs a more active and more engaged Canada,” Dion added.
Canada is vying with Norway and Ireland for the non-permanent seat allocated to western nations.
“Beyond the symbolic aspect of joining the Security Council, Canada could leverage its position and consensus-building skill to help reach agreements on important international issues,” Fogel said.
“The real issue surrounding the UN and Canada’s contribution to that institution is the extent to which Canada is prepared to speak ‘truth to power’ about the need for UN reform across the whole system of its agencies and activities,” he added. “If Canada truly wants to play a meaningful and constructive role over the coming period, it will focus its energies on reforming those agencies, like the Human Rights Council, rather than the ephemeral attraction of seats on the Security Council.”
Avi Benlolo, president and CEO of the Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said the organization “supports Canada’s bid to sit on the Security Council and offer much needed guidance in support of democratic ideals, freedom and justice around the world. By the same token, we anticipate our Canadian representative will work to counter the growing anti-Semitism at the UN by providing a strong voice in support of Israel, while harshly denouncing brutal dictatorships like Syria and Iran.”
Stuart Kamenetsky, a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, said, “If this results in Canada having a voice on the Security Council that will result core values of fairness, decency, fighting against dictators and injustices in the world – great.
“But if Canada, in order to secure this seat, will return to become an ‘honest broker’, which basically means that it will become like other western countries that are obsessed with criticizing Israel – it’s not worth the ‘honour’ of the seat,” he added.
“I hope that Canada doesn’t do ‘anything’ to get the seat. It must stick to important core values or else the seat isn’t worth it,” Kamenetsky added.
Meanwhile, in an odd twist, the UN first announced that Canada would resume funding for UNRWA, and then retracted the announcement.
UN spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric said the statement was an early draft sent by mistake. It was issued following a meeting between Trudeau and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
UNRWA is a UN agency whose mandate is to provide aid to Palestinian refugees. Critics say it is aligned with Hamas, which Canada has designated as a terrorist organization. Canada stopped funding UNRWA in 2010 under former prime minister Stephen Harper.
But the new Liberal government has suggested it is considering restoring $15 million in funding for the organization.
“We’re evaluating the situation. And the decision will be taken shortly,” International Co-operation Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said last month.