The Ottawa Citizen
Saturday, March 11, 2006
UNITED NATIONS – Canada switched in favour of Israel on a UN resolution vote yesterday about the status of Palestinian women as Foreign Minister Peter MacKay made his first appearance at the world body, meeting with Secretary General Kofi Annan.
The vote marked the first time an issue connected to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has come before the world body since the federal election, but Mr.
MacKay stopped short of saying it marked the start of a more robust pro-Israel stand for Canada at the UN under the Conservatives.
The resolution deplores the difficulties faced by Palestinian women because of the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict, but says nothing about how Israeli women are affected, prompting Israel backers to say it is one-sided. The next four resolutions, which pro-Israel groups also say heavily favour the Palestinians, will come up for renewal at the Human Rights Commission 2006 session beginning next week in Geneva.
"I wouldn’t take any sign or any indication of today’s vote of necessarily impacting on next week," Mr. MacKay said.
But he added the change "may (mark) a difference philosophically" from stances taken by the previous Liberal government. "You have to be decisive at times … instead of trying to be all things to all people," he said.
Members of Canada’s Arab community expressed anger at learning of the change.
"We have asked the minister for a meeting, and we have been waiting to discuss this and many other issues," said Hussein Amery, president of the National Council on Canada-Arab Relations.
"With the number of upcoming votes, we think it is incumbent on the government to consult with concerned parties in Canada before changing their vote."
Since becoming minister, Mr. MacKay has also not met with the Canada-Israel Committee, one of the country’s leading pro-Israel groups, which welcomed the change.
"This demonstrates the government’s resolve to follow through and ensure that Canadian votes reflect Canadian values," said Shimon Fogel, committee chief executive officer.
While Canada abstained last year in the vote on the Situation of and Assistance to Palestinian Women, Paul Martin’s Liberal government told the mainly Arab and Muslim countries sponsoring it that the wording has to be more balanced.