Over the past three and half years, our government has consistently demonstrated leadership in foreign affairs with strong, principled action. This week, with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad set to address the United Nations General Assembly, on behalf of Canada, I proudly decided that I would stand up and walk out.
The reasons behind our decision to boycott may be obvious, but are nonetheless worth repeating.
Firstly,Iran has violated the human rights of its own citizens and foreign nationals, including Canadians Maziar Bahari (by unjustifiably detaining him) and Zahra Kazemi (whose death remains unexplained). This recently also has been demonstrated in its violent response against protestors following the fraudulent presidential election.
Second, Ahmadinejad continually denies that the Holocaust — one of the greatest crimes in human history –ever occurred.
Finally,Iran refuses to cease its quest to become a nuclear power, which not only threatens Israel’s very existence, but also regional and global stability. As I said in March 2009, a nuclear threat against Israel is a nuclear threat against all of us.
As Prime Minister Stephen Harper unequivocally stated yesterday, "there is no way I’m going to permit any official of the Government of Canada to be present and give any legitimacy to remarks by a leader like that."
Under the leadership of Prime Minister Harper, our government has ushered in a new era of Canadian foreign policy based on the forceful defence of our fundamental principles of freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law. I have personally expressed this position to Iran’s Foreign Minister Mottaki recently in Turkey.
Guided by these principles, Canada now takes decisive action on the world stage.
We were the first country to cut off funding to the Hamas government in Gaza.
We were the first country to pull out of the Durban II conference.
And, Canada now votes according to our values at the United Nations.
Taking such positions is not always easy. Sometimes standing up for what is right means standing alone. But, as the above examples have shown, we have also found that if we are clear and bold in our actions, other nations will follow our lead.
Our government understands Canada that can be a positive force on the international stage only if we unapologetically represent what is best about our country when the world is looking most intently at us.
This week, at the UN, we’re doing just that.
I can say without any reservation that I have never been prouder of Canada’s actions on the world stage as I am now.
Canadians can be certain that under the leadership of Prime Minister Harper, Canada will continue to be an unwavering opponent of those forces that threaten global security and that undermine such bodies as the United Nations. As well, Canada will be as a strong advocate for that which we hold most dear: freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law. – Lawrence |Cannon is the Minister of Foreign Affairs.