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Will Canada’s UNSC Loss Trigger Change?

On June 5, Canadian PM Trudeau made a surprise appearance at an anti-racism protest, with less than two weeks left at the UN for voting in new temporary Security Council members. Was his “taking a knee” at this event nothing more than a publicity stunt to bolster Canada’s bid at getting that UNSC seat? If so, it more than likely backfired as countries may have justifiably been turned off by the Canadian government’s double standards.

On May 25th, George Floyd was brutally murdered by Minneapolis police in what can be described as nothing less than an act of hate, oppression, racism and tyranny. A few days later, Eyad Hallaq, a 32 year old disabled Palestinian, was killed by Israeli occupation police, in a similar act. And just as George Floyd was pleading that he couldn’t breathe, Eyad’s co-worker pleaded with the officers that Eyad was autistic, but they shot him dead anyway while he lay bleeding on the ground.

Just as police in the US have continued killing black people and people of color for years with impunity, the Israeli occupation forces have similarly been killing Palestinians. Hallaq and Floyd are only two of the latest names in a long list of African-American and Palestinian victims. And even when the killings are caught on camera, as in the case of Abdul Fattah al-Shareef, who was also shot as he lay incapacitated on the ground, little to no punishment is meted to the perpetrator. The Israeli soldier who killed him was released after only nine months in jail.

The struggles against oppression and injustice are one and the same, whether in Palestine or the US, because the forces of darkness and evil work together. For example, it is well-documented that Israel trains and militarizes US police departments. It is no wonder then, that the Black Lives Matter movement and their allies have stood in solidarity with Palestinians in their demand for human rights, and vice versa.

Yet despite all of the above, the Canadian government has voted countless times at the UN against Palestinian human rights, and irreconcilably with this, the Canadian premiere is incredulously seen as he attends an anti-racism protest! Thus, it is entirely plausible that other countries, or their UN ambassadors, saw this hypocrisy for what it is, and voted against Canada at least partially because of this. The fact that this voting is secret, which means these ambassadors can vote as they please personally if they so choose, bolsters this argument further. Coupled with this was a campaign against the government’s UNSC bid, due to its horrendous record on Palestinian rights and bias towards Israel, in isolation from the majority of the world. It is no wonder that Canada lost its bid.

Perhaps the most pathetic event seen in Canada’s political arena in a while, was the exchange between Conservative leader Andrew Scheer and the Prime Minister in parliament after the vote. To summarize, Scheer was admonishing the PM for not criticizing and sanctioning leaders of countries with terrible human rights records while -simultaneously and paradoxically- criticizing the PM for not standing (even more so!) with Israel, one of the biggest human rights violators of our time. On his part, the PM’s defence was that “we’ve always stood for human rights” while also saying in the same breath that “we have stood strongly by Israel as a friend”. The only “logical” explanation to this absurd and bizarre exchange can be that neither one of them considers Palestinians human who are worthy of human rights too.

After the UN defeat at the Security Council, the Canadian government did not acknowledge that this could be –at least in part- due to its horrific foreign policy on Palestine, even though the government was clearly unnerved by a campaign, conducted by conscientious Canadians against the UNSC bid. As a result, Canadian UN ambassador Blanchard had sent a letter prior to the vote, to the UN representatives, to counter that campaign.

The government must now realize two things: Its foreign policy needs a serious review and that there will be consequences for its actions. If it continues to remain in denial, then we don’t have much to look forward to.

Rifat Audeh is a Palestinian-Canadian human rights activist and an award winning filmmaker.

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