Good News – No UN Security Council Seat for Canada



Surprise, No Surprise

It has come as a surprise to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that Canada lost the vote for one of three vacant seats on the UN Security Council. Other leaders in Canadian foreign policy circles, like Ben Roswell, President of the Canadian International Council, also expressed surprise. There were flagrant reasons why the members of the UN did not vote for Canada. For those who get their news from American and Canadian sources, it is impossible to understand how other countries around the world view us. News “from a Canadian perspective” is a proud mainstay in Canada; however, it leaves us sorely uninformed. To understand the world and world affairs – and how the world views us—Canadians need the perspectives of those living in other countries.
As a Canadian who works in conflict resolution and peacebuilding for 30 years, has conducted research in Russia, Eastern Europe, Africa and Asia, and engages regularly with close colleagues in diverse countries and contexts, the UN Security Council vote is no surprise. And indeed, it is welcome. Such an honour is not deserved.

Why The Loss?

Prime Minister Trudeau has blamed the loss on a late start in campaigning. Many have offered alternative explanations. The fact is Canada is inactive on the international stage. When I travel, I am often asked” “Where is Canada?” The asker is always asking from the believe that Canada is an honest broker and a friend to human rights and peace, and wanting Canada’s engagement in their country be it with peacekeepers, a voice on rigged elections, human rights violations, etc. Canada’s engagement is wanted. But we are absent.
Some conservatives blame Canada’s “values-based” foreign policy for the loss, but in my view, the problem is not our values, but rather the gap between words and deeds.
The words of Stephen Lewis, a former Canadian Ambassador to the UN, are the most pointed and biting: “[The loss] shows that through the Trudeau years Canada’s superficiality and insouciance in foreign affairs got through to the rest of the world…” MORE

The View from Abroad

Bianca Mugyenyi of the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute asks why many Black and brown countries rejected Canada’s bid for the Security Council. While the Canadian International Institute thinks the key to Canada’s foreign policy lies in asking Canadians what they want, I think Mugyenyi has it right — understanding the perspectives and needs of other countries is the place to start with re-thinking Canada’s foreign policy.
While the Trudeau Government’s inaction on the international stage is notable, Mugyenyi lists actions the Government of Canada has taken and how they may be perceived negatively by other countries—supporting mining companies but not the communities in which they operate, contradictory action on environmental protection and climate change, and so on. Mugyenyi concludes:
Each and every time we consider Canadian support for corporations or military interventions, we must take into account the standpoint of the largely Black and brown countries that make up most of the world. MORE

Changing Canada’s Approach to Foreign Policy

The change in Canada’s foreign policy must begin with seeking to understand the needs of other countries, and to understand the profound impact Canadian foreign policy action—and inaction—have on them. Canada has the ability to protect and save lives, but so often doesn’t speak up or step up. Countries around the world see Canada’s lack of commitment. Why would these countries give Canada a seat on the Security Council?