It may be time for Canada to leave UN and stop trying to please everyone
Predictable elements are uneasy that Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird’s tough speech at the UN represents a shift away from Canada’s usual tiptoeing around sensitive issues.
Baird scolded the UN for its inability to resolve crises (e.g., Syria), and its reluctance to take decisive action when rogue regimes run amok or defy international opinion. That sort of thing.
In taking a tough stand, Baird undoubtedly reflected Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s attitude — and Baird was filling in for Harper who, instead of addressing the General Assembly along with other heads of state, was accepting a “Statesman of the Year” award.
Speaking for Canada, Baird essentially called the UN useless — kissing the butts of every dictator who violates human rights, making speeches that are mere rhetoric and sanctioning any nonsense that is critical of the state of Israel.
To some, Baird’s speech was indication that Canada is abandoning its traditional support of the UN, signalling that it’s becoming more independent, dealing with friends and allies, and no longer bothering to appease or persuade enemies.
If this is the case — maybe good, maybe not so good, depending on circumstances.
One thing Canada does not need to prove to the world is its good intentions.
More than most countries, Canada has opened its doors to the world. It is tolerant (sometimes to a ridiculous degree) of the social and cultural differences of others. We even adjust our own traditions, so as not to offend others. Again, sometimes foolishly.
The UN was set up after the Second World War to do what the old League of Nations was intended to do, but failed miserably: To resolve international disputes without recourse to war.
The League’s abject failure was apparent when Italy invaded Abyssinia (Ethiopia) and Hitler made various land grabs with impunity — until Britain drew the line when Poland was invaded in 1939.
The UN resorted to force when North Korea invaded the south, but that was only because the Soviet Union was pouting and boycotting the Security Council which OK’d military intervention.
(We forget that when Katanga legitimately sought independence around 1960, the UN used force to prevent secession from the Congo).
Canada financially supports various UN agencies, some of which seem bureaucratic nightmares more attuned to totalitarianism than democracy.
For more than 60 years the UN has had limited effect in making the world a better place. Perhaps Canada, which has been a loyal supporter of the UN, would have more influence if we sided and identified with countries that worked for the same values to which we subscribe.
We — Canada — can do this because we have proved that we threaten no one; we deal openly and courteously with all countries; we have no hidden agenda. This may sound patronizing, sanctimonious, even arrogant. But it’s true.
What upset some people in Baird’s speech — and the PM’s recent pledge of friendship and support for Israel — is that it’s something of a break from Canada’s past caution about possibly offending anyone.
Maybe it’s time we stopped trying to please everyone, and stood up for what we believe. If the UN is miffed, get used to it because we aren’t likely to change.
Perhaps it’s also time for the UN to change — to develop a little backbone when confronting tyrants, even though it’s short of muscle to impose its will on anyone.