Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee
Background information: Canada’s stance on UN World Conference Against Racism

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January 23, 2008 (7:10 p.m. EST)
No. 16




The Honourable Maxime Bernier, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the Honourable Jason Kenney, Secretary of State for Multiculturalism and Canadian Identity, today issued the following statement:


“Canada has a long and proud history of fighting racism, discrimination and intolerance in all its forms,” said Minister Bernier. “It was for this reason, and its promise of concerted global action against racism, that we participated in the 2001 World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance in Durban, South Africa. Unfortunately, that conference degenerated into open and divisive expressions of intolerance and anti-Semitism that undermined the principles of the United Nations and the very goals the conference sought to achieve.”


“Secretary of State Kenney and I had hoped that the preparatory process for the 2009 Durban Review Conference would remedy the mistakes of the past,” said Minister Bernier. “We have concluded that, despite our efforts, it will not. Canada will therefore not participate in the 2009 conference.”


“Canada will continue to focus its efforts on genuine anti-racism initiatives that make a difference,” said Secretary of State Kenney. “Our government’s decision to seek full membership on the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance, and Research demonstrates that we remain committed to the fight against racism and to the promotion of freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law at home and around the world.”


January 24, 2008


NDP supports non-participation in flawed UN conference

“Time for Canada to show international leadership on racism” – Dewar

OTTAWA – The NDP is deeply committed to fighting racism and intolerance in Canada and around the world, said NDP Foreign Affairs Critic Paul Dewar (Ottawa Centre) and NDP International Human Rights Critic Wayne Marston (Hamilton-East Stoney Creek).

“We are deeply concerned that the integrity of the UN Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance has been compromised as a result of poor structure and a lack of real anti-racism leadership on the planning committee,” said Dewar.

According to the New Democrat MPs, the first UN anti-racism conference, held in Durban in 2001, became little more than a forum for spreading hatred and was a missed opportunity to work multilaterally to fight racism, discrimination and intolerance.

“New Democrats believe that the issue of anti-racism must be led by international voices that are respected throughout the world community,” said Marston. “This conference was clearly failing to achieve that.”

The NDP MPs also called on the Harper Conservatives to show real leadership on the issue. “Canada should not only cancel its participation in Durban II, but it should also take a role in proposing an alternative,” said Dewar. “Canada should take the initiative and host an international forum on the issues of racism, discrimination, xenophobia, and intolerance. Our country can serve as a platform for a world-wide discussion committed to uprooting racism.”

“The cancellation of our participation doesn’t mean that the Harper government can continue to sit on its hands and ignore the serious problems of racism that still exist in Canada,” said Marston. “Mr. Kenney should, without delay, assure the Government of Canada’s continued funding for the Anti-Racism Council of Canada.”



Conservatives Must Continue Fight Against Racism

January 25, 2008

OTTAWA – The Conservative government must lay out its next course of action now that it has made the correct decision to pull out of the second Durban anti-racism conference, said Liberal Foreign Affairs Critic Bob Rae.

“We support the government’s decision to withdraw from preparatory meetings for the 2009 Durban conference. The first meeting was turned into a political circus, and became a platform for blatant anti-Semitism and an effort to make the very existence of Israel illegitimate. Judging by early rounds of discussion, Durban II will be no better. The world deserves better,” said Mr. Rae.

“But Canada’s commitment to fighting racism and intolerance in Canada and around the world is still very important and we must not remain silent about it. Now that Canada has withdrawn from Durban, the government must set out an alternative course of action to try and bring international partners together in a different forum.”

During the first Durban conference in 2001, Canada made a point of strongly opposing any mention of the Middle East conflict, or any anti-Israel and anti-Western bias in the conference’s final declaration.

“Since the preparatory discussions for Durban II appear to be a repeat of Durban I, Canada can not possibly participate,” said Mr. Rae.

“But our withdrawal doesn’t mean the government can sit back and do nothing. We must continue to strongly advocate against racism and convene a formal process to set out a course of action to fight it. The government must also continue to fund UN efforts at combating racism.

“To do anything less would be irresponsible and would cast yet another blight on our international reputation as a leader on human rights and tolerance,” said Mr. Rae.


Jan. 24, 2008


Liberal Parliamentarians for Israel welcome Canada’s withdrawal from the politicized Durban Review Conference
Ottawa – Liberal Parliamentarians for Israel, co-chaired by Liberal Member of Parliament Anita Neville (Winnipeg South Centre) and Senator David Smith have welcomed the decision by the Government of Canada to withdraw from the Durban Review Conference.

“The government has been in disarray on this issue,” Anita Neville observed, “in 2006 they decided to support the yearly General Assembly resolution on follow-up work from the 2001 Durban Conference debacle. In 2007, they changed their minds, starting to oppose that same resolution while voting to merely abstain on another resolution that laid out the groundwork for the review conference. Although Canada’s decision to withdraw from the conference is belated, we are pleased that the Government is finally taking this issue seriously and is doing the right thing.”

“Sadly, it looks like the Durban Review Conference will continue in the footsteps of its 2001 predecessor,” commented Senator David Smith, “it is inappropriate for Canada to advance the international human rights agenda through a forum that makes a mockery of the fight against racism and discrimination. I would like to see the Canadian Government urging our friends and allies around the world to boycott this hijacked forum as well.”


For further information contact Brian Kaufmann, Office of Anita Neville: 613.992.9475


The 2001 World Conference Against Racism, commonly known as the Durban Conference, was supposed to be a landmark gathering of world leaders to combat racism and discrimination. But the good intentions for the conference were quickly dashed by a partisan effort from some countries to hijack the conference’s agenda and isolate Israel internationally. Canada’s officials in Durban have stated “Canada is still here today only because we wanted to have our voice decry the attempts at this Conference to de-legitimize the State of Israel and to dishonour the history and suffering of the Jewish people. We believe, and we have said in the clearest possible terms, that it was inappropriate – wrong – to address the Palestinian-Israel conflict in this forum.”

The Durban Review Conference is set to reconvene world leaders to assess progress on issues raised at the original conference and generate international political will to advance them further.

In 2007, Canada abstained on General Assembly resolution 144, entitled Report of the Human Rights Council on the preparations for the Durban Review Conference and has voted against resolution 220, entitled Global efforts for the total elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and the comprehensive implementation of the follow-up to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.


Canada snubs UN anti-racism conference

Last Updated: Wednesday, January 23, 2008 | 9:17 PM ET

CBC News

Canada will not participate in a United Nations anti-racism conference in South Africa next year, the federal government has announced, saying the first one in 2001 degenerated into “expressions of intolerance and anti-Semitism.”

In a statement released Wednesday, Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier said that while Canada participated in the 2001 World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance in Durban, South Africa, it will not attend a followup event in 2009.

“Unfortunately, that [first] conference degenerated into open and divisive expressions of intolerance and anti-Semitism that undermined the principles of the United Nations and the very goals the conference sought to achieve,” the statement read.

The UN would not comment directly on Canada’s withdrawal from the conference. UN spokeswoman Marie Okabe said instead that “racism is too important an issue for member states not to work out their differences.”

Jason Kenney, secretary of state for multiculturalism and Canadian identity, said the 2001 conference was “a circus of intolerance” that Canada will not support a second time.

“Our considered judgment, having participated in the preparatory meetings, was that we were set for a replay of Durban I, and Canada has no intention of lending its good name and resources to such a systematic promotion of hatred and bigotry.”

Canada’s delegation to the 2001 conference issued a statement of reservation on its final declaration, which included a statement of concern for the “plight of Palestinian people under foreign occupation.” The document stopped short of directly condemning Israel.

At the time, Hedy Fry, the head of Ottawa’s delegation to Durban, castigated the conference for what she characterized as attempts to de-legitimize the state of Israel — largely by Arab and Muslim countries. Consequently, the Canadian delegation disassociated itself from all text in the document referring to the situation in the Middle East.

Kenney cited numerous examples of how the upcoming conference “has gone completely off the rails,” including the election of Libya as chair and the appointment of Cuba to vice-chair and rapporteur. Iran was nominated onto the organizing committee.

He also said important pre-conference meetings have been scheduled on Jewish high holidays, preventing participation by Israeli officials.

“We’ve tried to influence it so that we would not revisit the overt expressions of hatred which came out of the original conference,” said Kenney. “But we unfortunately ran into a brick wall.”

B’nai Brith Canada said it supported the government’s decision Tuesday, saying Durban I “degenerated into a hate-fest directed at Israel and the Jewish delegates attending the conference.”

Ottawa has acted “clearly and decisively by refusing to participate in a venue that pays lip service to anti-racism but in fact provides a platform for the promotion of hatred and bigotry,” said executive vice-president Frank Dimant.

With files from the Canadian Press



Why Opposing Durban II Matters

Durban II will not just be about Israel. The conference promises to inflame racial and religious intolerance the world over.

As the host country for Durban I, South Africa is playing a leading role in pushing an extremist agenda. Appeals to South African leaders to avert the negative votes during the final hours of the 2007 General Assembly fell on deaf ears. At Durban I the United States and European governments also found themselves directly in the crosshairs. Arab states ranted about the history of Western slavery – as if they had no recollection of their own long and undistinguished record of enslaving black Africans. Zimbabwe screeched about Western racism – as if Mugabe wasn’t one of the world’s most prominent aficionados. Muslim states howled about Western racial intolerance while millions of migrant workers continue to languish in the rat holes of Saudi Arabia, and religious and ethnic minorities are tortured and repressed across the Middle East.

This time the anti-Western rallying cry will be “Islamophobia.” At the U.N. Islamophobia is not invoked to mean legitimate objection to discrimination that wrongly targets people of the Islamic faith. It has become a code word for hysterical accusations that Western democracies are engaged in a phony war to end terrorism as a ploy to subjugate Muslims everywhere. Mindful that the best defense is a good offense, Pakistan (on behalf of the 56 member states of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC)) made the following announcement on opening day of the first Durban II preparatory committee meeting (PrepCom) held this past August. “The defamation of Islam and discrimination against Muslims represent the most conspicuous demonstration of contemporary racism and intolerance…It is regrettable that the world media has allowed defamation and blasphemy in this form…” With that, they marked the kick-off of an aggressive campaign to curtail freedom of expression – along with other hallmarks of a democratic society – under Durban II auspices.

This is in addition to the renewed effort to cast Israel as the world’s foremost racist state – with all of the concomitant consequences of isolation, boycotts and sanctions. Pakistan, on behalf of the OIC, made the Durban II agenda unambiguous, saying this on opening day of the Durban II PrepCom: “The conference should move the spotlight on the continued plight of the Palestinian People and non-recognition of their inalienable right to self-determination.”

Unopposed, Durban II promises to be worse than Durban I. There is no possibility that Durban II will not be held, or that UN money will not flow into its planning or occurrence. But denying the event the credibility which would come from the participation of the United States and other democracies, and Western funding which would raise the level and numbers of participants, it is possible to render the outcome a Pyrrhic victory for the racists, antisemites and terrorists hoping for further sustenance from the UN.