Canada votes against UN motion on glorifying Nazism

Maked protester seen during clashes in Kyiv, Ukraine on Feb. 18, 2014 MSTYSLAV CHERNOV/WIKI COMMONS PHOTO
Maked protester seen during clashes in Kyiv, Ukraine on Feb. 18, 2014 MSTYSLAV CHERNOV/WIKI COMMONS PHOTO

Canada has voted against, and Israel for, a United Nations resolution against glorifying Nazism that is being perceived as part of a Russian campaign to smear its neighbours.

The resolution, which passed in the UN’s Third Committee Nov. 19 and now heads to the General Assembly, is part of Russia’s “rhetorical war against Ukraine and the Baltic Republics in which all non-Russian nationalism is discredited as being fascist and akin to the Nazi collaborators of the World War II era,” according to Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based group UN Watch.

Canada was one of just four countries to vote against the measure, which called on nations to fight the “glorification of Nazism and other practices that contribute to fuelling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.”

It also encourages states to take legislative and educational measures “to put an end to all forms of Holocaust denial” and welcomes the preservation of former Nazi death and labour camps.

Misusing the language of human rights

As well, the resolution recognizes “with deep concern the alarming increase in instances of discrimination, intolerance and extremist violence motivated by anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and Christianophobia and prejudices against persons of other religions and beliefs.”

It is common for “non-democracies to misuse the language of human rights to promote political agendas, and that’s what Russia is overtly doing here,” Neuer told The CJN via email.

Israel voted for the resolution, as it did a year ago, because the country “cannot vote anything but ‘yes’ to a resolution against Nazism, as it also includes a condemnation of anti-Semitism,” said Eitan Weiss of Israel’s embassy in Ottawa.

Voting no were Palau, the United States, Ukraine and Canada, which voted against it last year as well, as did the United States and Ukraine.

The resolution was brought forward by Russia and submitted by 41 countries, including China, Cuba, Sudan, Myanmar, Pakistan and 17 African nations, including Nigeria. It passed with 126 yes votes and 53 abstentions, which came from European Union countries and Japan.

Western countries “mostly abstained”

It is “no surprise” that the co-sponsors of the Russian text are almost all non-democracies and that western countries mostly abstained, Neuer observed.

“These kinds of texts, which include both legitimate and distorted language, can present countries with the dilemma of looking bad no matter how they vote,” he added.

The U.S. delegate agreed the resolution was politicized and expressed concern that Russia was using it to carry out a political attack against its neighbours.

Several times, the document references the controversial 2001 World Conference Against Racism, held in Durban, South Africa, which was widely criticized for its strident anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist language. It “reaffirms the relevant provisions of the Durban Declaration and of the outcome document of the Durban Review Conference.”

The United States and Israel withdrew from the first Durban conference in 2001 citing its anti-Semitic tone.

Canada was one of nine countries to boycott the 2009 conference. At the time, Ottawa said the decision was made because of the “open and divisive expressions of intolerance and anti-Semitism” at the 2001 gathering.

In 2011, Canada said it would not participate in the “charade” of a 10th anniversary commemoration of the Durban “hate fest.”

In a statement to The CJN, spokesperson Tania Assaly of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada said this country is “strongly opposed to the glorification of Nazism and all forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and intolerance. We are deeply concerned by the rise of neo-Nazism in many parts of the world, and are committed to eliminating racism and discrimination, in all their forms.”

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However, “the resolution put forward at the United Nations General Assembly on the glorification of Nazism regrettably includes references which are counterproductive to this goal and seek to limit freedom of expression, assembly and opinion. Canada did not, therefore, vote in favour of the resolution.”

Canada was blunter a year ago, when it explained that it had not supported the same resolution because it referred to the “highly politicized and anti-Semitic outcomes” of the 2001 Durban conference.

Explaining his vote this year, the delegate from Ukraine said his country had been among those that had suffered the most during World War II, but that the text had nothing to do with fighting Nazism, neo-Nazism and other forms of intolerance.