Honourable senators, this Monday, Canada’s strong international leadership in boycotting the United Nations’ so-called world conference against racism was validated by the despicable remarks of the conference’s opening speaker, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. As Prime Minister Harper predicted, the Iranian president disgraced himself and the United Nations with a tirade against Jewish people and the state of Israel.
The fact that such an infamous and unapologetic bigot was chosen to kick off a conference that is ostensibly against racism is more than ironic. It is a damning statement about the failure of the United Nations as an organization to stand against the most dangerous and offensive forms of racism.
In January 2008, Canada became the first country in the world to announce that it would not attend Monday’s conference. Many other nations followed Canada’s lead – Israel, Australia, New Zealand, Poland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United States.
I congratulate Prime Minister Harper for the moral clarity and decisive leadership he has demonstrated in standing against racism, and I applaud those nations that followed Canada’s example by boycotting Monday’s debacle. I also applaud the nations whose delegates walked out on the Iranian president’s disgusting speech and the leaders who have since condemned that speech.
Most of all, I implore the United Nations to seriously rethink its handling of this issue and to avoid giving bigotry a podium in the future.