How important is the United Nations? Is it still relevant and effective? Does it need significant reform? And how important was it for Canada to spend millions of dollars in an attempt to gain a non-voting, temporary seat on the U.N.’s Security Council? What does it mean when they failed?
I wonder about all of that.
Obviously, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau thought is was important for Canada to have a seat on the United Nations Security Council. He spent millions of taxpayer dollars trying to get there. He cozied up to leaders and countries with questionable records, to put it mildly, when it comes to human rights and corruption. He softened his stance on Israel in order to woo Arab votes. In February, the prime minister spent time in Africa and the Caribbean campaigning when he should have been at home dealing with the looming crisis of COVID-19. He really wanted this gig.
For all of that, Canada lost.
For a decade, Liberals have been crowing about Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s failure to gain a seat for Canada on the Security Council. Remember when Justin Trudeau, early in his tenure as prime minister, boasted, “Canada is back”?
Uh… Maybe its not.
And yet, the question must be asked: why is it so important for Canada to have a seat on the U.N. Security Council and why was it so important to Mr. Trudeau? We wouldn’t have had a vote and three countries—Russia and China who are no friends of Canada and the United States whose current leader doesn’t seem to like us much either—all have a veto on the Security Council. Canada’s influence under the best of circumstances would be slim to none.
In my view, the United Nations in its present form is past its best before date. Its Security Council is effectively dysfunctional now that aspects of the Cold War are back amongst us and the three super-powers with vetoes can barely agree on the time of day. Other aspects of the United Nations have deteriorated over the years to the point where many of its original aspirations and goals can no longer be met. It is time for some real soul searching about the effectiveness and the future of the United Nations.
That is why it is important for Canada to stand on its own two feet when it comes to international relations. Historically, we have been good at that. Having your country with a seat on the U.N. Security Council may be good for the ego, but it has little actual effect outside of some very limited status. The real effect, the real influence, is who we are as a nation.
Canada is not one of the larger countries in the world in terms of population, and yet over the decades it has gained a reputation and influence that has lifted it well beyond countries of much larger size. It made a name for itself by punching well above its weight through two world wars and consistently championing human rights and strong economic values that are the underpinning of Western democracy.
As a result, we still hold a very significant place on the world stage. We are members of the elite G-7. We regularly finish at or near the top of the list when it comes to most-admired countries. We are well respected internationally, living in the world at a time when respect appears to be a diminishing quality.
Of course, we are not perfect and have made mistakes. Many of our standards and practices today are different than our forefathers. Priorities, attitudes, and views about what is right or wrong change with time and will continue to do so. But just as it is important to remember our mistakes, to learn from them and not pretend they didn’t occur, it is important to remember that our significant place in world order is because of who we are on balance and what we have accomplished as a nation. That, too, is an important part of our history.
For me, the jury is still out on whether Prime Minister Trudeau has contributed positively or negatively to Canada’s standing and relationships internationally. Time will tell us that as well. But I do believe we are much better off building on our reputation and strength, earned over many decades, that we have in global affairs; offering help and expertise where we can, promoting economic security and social justice, and doing all of that from here. Not from some expensive and inconsequential seat in the Security Council of the United Nations.
Canada has played an important role in world affairs regardless of what political party is in power. I believe we will continue to do so as long as we hold to the principles of social justice, economic strength, and opportunity for all.
The journey to perfection, to accomplish all of this, is far from over. But we have no reason to apologize for being Canadian.
I for one am proud of it. Warts and all!
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