Recently, a strong movement has coalesced opposing the Canadian government’s attempt to gain a seat on the UN Security Council (UNSC). Although progressive groups and individuals have been laying the foundation for this issue since late 2019, it has been thrust into the national spotlight in the last month with various petitions, statements and media coverage in the #NoUNSC4Canada campaign. The voting for the non-permanent seats is set to happen June 17, 2020.
For Palestinian activists, this call to refuse to reward the Trudeau government is welcome. Since 1947, Canada has played a negative role at the U.N. regarding the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people. From Lester B. Pearson, dubbed the “Balfour of Canada” for his part in preparing and passing the infamous Partition Plan, to the more recent 15 years of anti-Palestinian voting at the General Assembly, and all the “refugee resettlement” plans in between, it is fitting that the Canadian government is held accountable at this forum.
The Canadian government is well aware that it is vulnerable regarding its position and voting record on Palestine at the UN. After all, it is one of the 6 “permanent members” of the Israel Fan Club that overwhelmingly votes, year after year, to disregard Palestinian rights (along with the U.S., Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia and Palau). As letters flooded in to UN ambassadors through the #NoUNSC4Canada campaign, the Canadian representative felt compelled to send his own letter on June 10th extolling all the things Canada has allegedly done to support Palestinians. As predicted when it happened last November, he bragged about Canada’s single “orphan vote” supporting the resolution on Palestinian self-determination at the UNGA, as proof that Canada can “adapt to changing dynamics” and defend the “two-state solution”.
Over a thousand letters have now been sent to UN ambassadors urging them to reject Canada’s bid. The following excerpts from one such letter (written by one of the co-authors of this article) give us a glimpse into how this issue is personal, and how Palestinians live with the refugee issue every day of their lives.
Dear UN Ambassadors:
I am a Christian Palestinian refugee from Bethlehem who can’t return to my hometown because of my identity and because Israel refuses to implement the UNGA resolution regarding “Persons displaced as a result of the June 1967 and subsequent hostilities”. I am also the chairperson of the Canada Palestine Association. I am writing to urge you to NOT support Canada’s bid for a seat on the UN Security Council.
My late father sent a letter to the United Nations in 1948 following the dispossession of our people, appealing to the UN members at that time for justice, peace and equality. I am making one last effort in his name to speak to the conscience of this international body.
It came to my attention that Marc-André Blanchard, the Canadian UN Ambassador, sent you a letter dated June 10, 2020 stating that “Canada has long supported the creation of a Palestinian state…”. This is a blatant falsehood and reminds me of the treatment our native brothers and sisters have endured from the white settler colonialists.
On the personal level:
Canada, under the current Liberal government has voted for the past FIVE years against “Persons displaced as a result of the June 1967 and subsequent hostilities” resolution. Voting against this resolution is personal and affects me directly. I have with me the deeds for my grandfather’s property in Bethlehem and still I can NOT go and live in my ancestral home. The only real explanation for such a vote by Canada is that it supports Israel’s ethnic cleansing of the West Bank and subsequently supports the “Greater Israel Project”.
The Canadian government refused to enshrine Bethlehem, Palestine as my birthplace on my passport. I refused to accept such a denial of my identity, so I stayed stranded in Canada for nineteen years without the ability to travel. Finally, four years ago, the passport office offered to put Bethlehem, West Bank as my birthplace, which I accepted begrudgingly.
On the Collective level:
If the Canadian government supports “the creation of a Palestinian state”, why did it vote last year AGAINST seven U.N. resolutions that affirm the “two-state” solution and call for ending the illegal occupation that has lasted for 53 years? And why does Canada vote against the other resolutions at the U.N. that uphold Palestinian human, national and refugee rights?
The response of the Canadian Foreign Minister François-Philippe Champagne to U.S. President Trump’s “deal of the century”, that gave the green light to Israel to annex the West Bank was: “Canada recognizes the urgent need to renew efforts toward a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and will carefully examine the details of the U.S. initiative for the Middle East peace process”; it seems to this moment he is still “examining” it.
Only after the Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory wrote “Canada missing in action on Israel’s proposed annexation of the West Bank”, and after 58 former Canadian diplomats and politicians signed a “letter calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his government to show stronger resistance to a proposed Israeli annexation”, only then did Canadian PM Trudeau pay lip-service to opposing the Israeli planed annexation.
On the International Criminal Court (ICC) Canada’s Foreign Ministry stated: “Canada’s longstanding position is that it does not recognize a Palestinian state … In the absence of a Palestinian state, it is Canada’s view that the Court does not have jurisdiction in this matter under international law”. Meanwhile, the Canadian UN Ambassador tells you in his letter that “Canada has long supported the creation of a Palestinian state…”
The letter concluded with the following reminder and appeal which speaks to the profound sense of bitterness that Palestinians have regarding the international community’s refusal to hold Israel to account.
“Finally, Article 1 of the Fourth Geneva Convention states: “The High Contracting Parties undertake to respect and to ensure respect for the present Convention in all circumstances.” In addition to Canada not abiding by this article, it is directly empowering Israel’s violations of international and humanitarian law.
Please don’t reward Canada for supporting and enabling Israel’s ethnic cleansing, war crimes, apartheid and genocide. I call on you in the name of my father, who died without being able to return to live in his beloved homeland, to not support Canada’s bid for a UNSC seat.”