Prime ministers, presidents, statesmen and diplomats from all over the world are gathering in New York this week for the opening of the General Assembly of the United Nations. Canada's Stephen Harper is also in New York, ostentatiously NOT attending the General Assembly. In a childish attempt to show that he has more important things to do, he has gone out of his way to be in NYC at the same time as the GA and then, not attend. If we are lucky, no one will notice. If anyone does notice, they are more likely to laugh at him behaving like a spoiled child than take offence.
I was taught that the UN is a great and noble endeavour, and that we as Canadians should be proud of our participation in its founding. We used to take great pride in participating with more enthusiasm and effect than other nations of our size - we 'punched above our weight'. One of Canada's ambassadors to the UN won the Nobel Peace Prize for resolving the Suez Crisis, Canadians actively participated in UN peacekeeping missions (up to the mid-90s, we proudly claimed to have been involved in every mission to that date). Canada's Stephen Lewis resigned his position as ambassador to the UN in order to take on the role of UN special envoy for AIDS/HIV. Louise Arbour resigned from the Ontario Court of Appeal to become the Special Prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal, chasing and prosecuting the worst modern war criminals from Rwanda and Bosnia. Canada was a member of the UN Security Council at least once each decade until the start of the 21st century.
And now, under the current regime in Ottawa, Canada is determined to humiliate the UN for not living up to our standards. Canadian diplomats will attend sessions simply so they can storm out as soon as someone they've been told not to like gets up to speak. We will refuse to participate because we don't like a speaker. We will reject criticism not because the criticism is invalid, but because the accuser isn't.
An example of this occurred earlier this week when Canada rejected a call by the UN Human Rights Council to investigate violence against aboriginal women. Canada took umbrage that countries with "questionable" human rights records could question us - clearly New Zealand and Switzerland should not have had the temerity to challenge our purity.
In the 1980s and 1990s, Canada led an international initiative to ban landmines. The campaign managed to recruit the Princess of Wales as its spokesperson, and resulted in the Ottawa Treaty. This week, a landmark treaty to limit the global arms trade was signed in New York by 112 countries, including our closest allies. Canada chose not to sign. Apparently John Baird thinks that signing a treaty limiting international trade in weapons will allow UN police to storm farms in rural Canada to steal hunting rifles.
I acknowledge that the UN is an imperfect organisation, but it is the only truly global venue where governments of all countries can meet to resolve their differences. I believe that we as Canadians should be working with the UN, as we did proudly from 1945 to 2006, to improve the institution. If Mr Harper and his party believe otherwise, they should say so and take action to remove Canada from the UN. Sitting on the bleachers and yelling insults does nothing to correct whatever Mr Harper's team perceive as faults, but it does push Canada away from the community of nations, making cooperation difficult on other issues.