Friday, May 16, 2008

 

MAY LESTER REST IN PEACE

One of Canada's great Prime Ministers, Lester B. Pearson, would be aghast at the drama playing-out in Ottawa these days over abandoning our bid for a seat on the Security Council of the United-Nations.

Back in 2001 Canada served notice it would be seeking a two-year term on the Security Council when elections are held in 2010. Though word hasn't yet leaked-out from Mr. Harper's cabinet discussions, there are indications the current Conservative government is considering bowing-out of the bid commissioned by the Chretien Liberals seven years ago.

Some say this change of heart comes amidst growing concern in diplomatic and foreign circles that we might suffer an embarrassing loss to Portugal. The United Nations will vote on two replacement seats on the Security Council in a couple of years. Three countries are currently vying for the honour: Canada, Germany and Portugal.

Canada has always played a significant role at the United Nations including Lester Pearson's "Nobel Prize" winning effort at Middle East Peace in the late 1950's. Our reward has been to be elected to the powerful Security Council roughly every ten years since the U.N. was created from the ashes of World War II. But, perhaps unlikely this time.

Consider a partial list of the Canadian Foreign Affairs Ministers who have impacted the United Nations. I've mentioned Pearson, add Jean Chretien from the Trudeau years. There were Flora MacDonald and Barbara McDougall from the Mulroney cabinet, and Lloyd Axeworthy who is credited with the world Land-Mines Treaty. From the perspective of those representatives, I am hardly motivated to add Peter MacKay and Maxime Bernier!

No wonder then that the Globe and Mail quotes an unidentified Asian diplomat saying "Canada is simply less visible at the U.N. that it was in the 1990's." The Liberal Leader, Stephane Dion, ratchet's-up the criticism suggesting that in two and a half years the Conservatives have "damaged our international reputation" and that as a result Canada's chances of winning the coveted seat this time "have shrunk."

There is an understandable and mounting state of demoralization these days at Ottawa's Foreign Affairs Headquarters aptly named the Lester B. Pearson Building. And it isn't just because their Minister, Mr. Bernier, can't seem to shake rumours and stories of his relationship with Julie Couillard. Some believe that our commitment to a multilateral foreign policy has eroded in favour of a closer relationship with the policies of the United States. For instance the move towards a pro-Israel position at the United Nations is being noted by the 50 or so Muslim nations at the U.N. who are among the 192 countries with a vote to select the Security Council. U.N. watchers claim Canada's bid would run head-first into what is described as the cumulative effect of the changes in our Foreign Policy in recent years.

Although the maintenance on the Chelsea, Quebec, grave site of former Prime Minister Pearson, like that of many other former P.M.'s, is a national disgrace; at least there perhaps he Rests In Peace unaware of Canada's decline in the international stature he dedicated his life to creating.

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