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Cablegate: Canada Will Not Attend Un World Conference On

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FM AMEMBASSY OTTAWA
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DEPT FOR DRL/MLGA LAURA JORDAN

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PREL CA
SUBJECT: CANADA WILL NOT ATTEND UN WORLD CONFERENCE ON
RACISM


1. (SBU) Summary: Canada took a firm stance against the UN
World Conference Against Racism on January 23 when it
announced it would not attend the 2009 Durban Review
Conference (Durban II). Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime
Bernier stated that the 2001 UN World Conference Against
Racism "degenerated into open and divisive expressions of
intolerance and anti-Semitism that undermined the principles
of the United Nations and the very goals the conference
sought to achieve." He said the Canadian government had
concluded that the preparatory process for Durban II would
not "remedy the mistakes of the past." Bernier emphasized
that Canada has a "long and proud history of fighting racism,
discrimination and intolerance in all its forms." A number
of media outlets and Jewish groups applauded the
announcement, while some NGOs and the New Democratic Party
spoken out against the decision. The Canadian government's
sharp criticism of the 2001 conference and early announcement
that it will not attend Durban II once again show that the
Harper government is not afraid to take a stand in the
international arena. End summary.

GOVERNMENT TAKES A STAND AGAINST DURBAN
---------------------------------------

2. (U) Minister Bernier issued an official statement on
January 23 stating that Canada would not participate in
Durban II, as he and Secretary of State Kenney had determined
that the preparatory process for the conference would not
"remedy the mistakes of the past." Bernier noted that the
2001 conference "degenerated into open and divisive
expressions of intolerance and anti-Semitism that undermined
the principles of the United Nations and the very goals the
conference sought to achieve." Secretary of State for
Multiculturalism and Canadian Identity Jason Kenney
emphasized that Canada would continue to focus "on genuine
anti-racism initiatives that make a difference" and noted
that Canada's commitment to fighting racism is evidenced by
the fact that it is seeking full membership on the Task Force
for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education,
Remembrance, and Research.

3. (U) In remarks to the media, Kenney was even stronger in
his criticism of the Durban conference. Kenney stated that
Durban II "has gone completely off the rails," and said that
"Canada is interested in combating racism, not promoting it."
He remarked that the 2001 World Conference Against Racism
turned into a "circus of intolerance" and said that Canada
would attend "any conference that is opposed to racism and
intolerance, not those that actually promote racism and
intolerance." Noting that Iran was named to the organizing
committee, Kenney commented, "This is a country whose
government has publicly expressed its desire to eliminate the
only Jewish country in the world."

NEWSPAPERS AND JEWISH GROUPS SUPPORT DECISION...
--------------------------------------------- ---

4. (U) Canada's announcement that it was pulling out of
Durban II received a fair amount of press coverage, with most
analyses supporting the decision. An Ottawa Citizen
editorial said the Canadian government "showed real courage"
by pulling out of the conference, and commented that this
decision "demonstrated the kind of clear moral leadership the
Conservatives promised to show when they were elected in
2006." A Toronto Star op-ed expressed a similar opinion,
commenting that, "If Durban II is going to again bury all
other racism issues under the debris of the Middle East
Qother racism issues under the debris of the Middle East
conflict, then it's better to bury Durban itself." B'nai
Brith Canada and the Canadian Jewish Congress also spoke in
support of the Canadian government's announcement. B'nai
Brith Canada's executive vice president stated that Canadians
have long called on their government to behave honorably, and
"today, the Government has again answered that call..."

...WHILE SOME NGOS AND ONE POLITICAL PARTY OPPOSE IT
--------------------------------------------- -------

5. (U) Some NGOs and one political party, however, have
criticized the government's decision. The executive director
of the National Anti-Racism Council of Canada told PolOff
that her organization was "shocked" by the announcement since
the government had not consulted them or other NGOs. She
said that walking away from the table was not the answer, and
noted that she would be sharing this view with media
representatives in the coming days. New Democratic Party MP
Bill Siksay said that Canada should be at the table in Durban
if only to bring a different perspective.

OTTAWA 00000123 002 OF 002

COMMENT
-------

6. (SBU) Canada's conservative government has once again
shown that Canada is not afraid to take a strong stance on
moral issues, even if it goes against the international
community. As additional evidence of this, we understand
that Canada was the sole "no" vote on the January 24 UN Human
Rights Council resolution condemning recent Israeli actions
in Gaza.

Visit Canada,s Economy and Environment Forum at
http://www.intelink.gov/communities/state/can ada

WILKINS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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