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Critics Say Canada Should Seize Failure to Win UN Security Council Seat as Catalyst for 'Foreign Policy Reset'

"The Liberals promised change, but the world is unconvinced."

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks at a news conference April 20, 2020 in Ottawa, Canada. (Photo: Dave Chan/ AFP va Getty Images)

Progressive campaigners said Wednesday that Canada's failed bid to secure one of the empty temporary seats on the United Nations Security Council should prompt the country to undergo a much-needed overhaul of its foreign policy. 

Voting for a pair of two-year seats on the UNSC took place Wednesday, with Canada beaten for the "Western Europe and Other" category in the first round of voting by Norway, which secured 130 votes, and Ireland, which secured 128 votes. Canada won just 108.    

The development marks the second time Canada has lost its attempt to secure the seat; a 2010 effort under then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper also failed.  

This new loss, as CBC reported, followed "an intense and costly diplomatic push" and represents "a heavy blow for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne, and other high-level officials who had been reaching out to political leaders around the world in a campaign to secure one of the two available rotating seats." 

The Canadian Foreign Policy Institute, which had waged a campaign opposing Canada's fight for the seat, called the development evidence of a need for a "foreign policy reset."

Calling the vote "a major blow to Justin Trudeau's government," Bianca Mugyenyi, national coordinator with the organization, said it also serves as "a victory for those seeking a more just Canadian foreign policy."

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She blamed the lost bid on Canada's "support for controversial mining companies, indifference to international treaties, anti-Palestinian positions, climate policies, and militarism."

"Ten years ago, the Stephen Harper government suffered a similar defeat, which was largely explained as a rebuke of their support for Washington, mining and oil companies, as well as anti-Palestinian policies," she said.

"The Liberals promised change, but the world is unconvinced," Mugyenyi continued. "Do Canadians want a foreign policy driven by Washington and corporate interests?"

In a new campaign the institute outlines 10 questions it frames as essential to driving such a foreign policy overhaul: 

  1. Do people living in Canada want a foreign policy driven by Washington or an independent foreign policy?
  2. Should Canada continue to offer financial and diplomatic support to arms exporters or refocus on demilitarization?
  3. Should Canadian foreign policy continue to be enmeshed with mining interests abroad?
  4. Why has Canada isolated itself from world opinion on Palestinian rights rather than standing for universal human rights?
  5. How can we ensure Canada abides by all International treaties protecting Indigenous rights?
  6. Does Canada's sanctions policy respect international law?
  7. How can we ensure Canada radically reduces its greenhouse gas emissions?
  8. Why is Canada involved in efforts to oust Venezuela's U.N. recognized government?
  9. Should Canada continue to be part of NATO or instead pursue non-military paths to peace in the world?
  10. How can we ensure Canada's foreign policy has a focus on peace, human rights, and overcoming global inequities?

Trudeau, for his part, in a statement following the vote that the campaign to secure the seat had "contributed to our broader efforts to tackle the most important challenges of our time, including the Covid-19 pandemic, and has acted as a foundation for further international cooperation on other key issues."

"We will continue to pursue this approach at the United Nations and in other international forums," he continued, "because Canada does well, and Canadians do well, when we strengthen our international relationships and fully engage on the world stage."

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