PM calls UN conference an ‘anti-Western hatefest’; Canada Won’t Go; Durban II likely as bad as Durban I, Harper says
Sat 28 Jun 2008
Byline: Andrew Mayeda
OTTAWA – Prime Minister Stephen Harper told a delegation of B’nai B’rith members yesterday that Canada is refusing to participate in a United Nations conference on racism because Ottawa will not be party to an anti-Semitic "anti-Western hatefest."
The so-called Durban II meeting is a followup to the 2001 United Nations World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, which was held in Durban, South Africa. The conference came under fire after several non-governmental organizations launched diatribes against Israel, prompting the U. S. delegation to walk out of the conference.
In January, Ottawa announced Canada would boycott Durban II, planned for sometime next year in Geneva, because it was shaping up to be as anti-Semitic and anti-West as the controversial 2001 conference.
"We have every reason to believe it will be a repeat of Durban I," said Mr. Harper in a prepared speech at an event yesterday to accept the first Canadian-awarded Gold Medallion medal from B’nai B’rith International.
"We will not be party to an anti-Semitic and anti-Western hatefest dressed up as an anti-racism conference."
The Gold Medallion has also been awarded to former U. S. presidents Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy and several British prime ministers including Margaret Thatcher.
The Prime Minister also renewed Canada’s position on the Middle East, saying the government supports a two-stage solution and that Israel’s right to exist is "unshakeable."
"We see Israel as a friend and ally in the democratic family of nations," he said.
In the speech, Mr. Harper was critical of the election now being held in Zimbabwe. He called it "an ugly perversion of democracy."
"Our government has condemned the corrupted vote in the strongest possible terms," he said, "and we are working with the international community to bring in strong measures to pressure the Mugabe regime, which has illegitimately stolen the election."
Mr. Harper also announced Canada would join a task force for international co-operation on holocaust education, remembrance and research, adding that Canada has already made inroads by creating the Canadian Museum of Human Rights in Winnipeg.
The federal museum, a project funded by the Asper family, is designed by architect Antoine Predock and will be the first museum devoted to human rights issues in Canada. A date for construction to begin has not been set.
The B’nai B’rith is an independent body that represents the Jewish community to government, the public and NGOs.