Canada pulls support for UN anti-racism conference
Published Wednesday, January 23, 2008 7:37PM EST
Canada will not support preparations for a UN anti-racism conference planned for Durban, South Africa, next year. The government claims the previous meeting in 2001 turned into an embarrassing promotion of racist attitudes.
"(The conference) turned into a bit of a circus for intolerance and bigotry, particularly but not exclusively directed at the Jewish people," Conservative MP Jason Kenney, the government's secretary of state for multiculturalism, told CTV's Mike Duffy Live.
He added that "Hitler posters (were displayed) by NGOs that have been re-invited by the organizing committee now chaired by Libya."
The NDP said Canada needs to be at the table in Durban.
"I think Canada needs to be there even if we bring a different perspective and can say something differently than other people in the world," said British Columbia MP Bill Siksay.
Siksay added that the Conservative government should not abandon its traditional commitment to multilateralism.
The 2001 World Conference Against Racism in Durban highlighted divisions between the developing and developed world. It also showed the seething anger in much of the Arab world against Zionism, the international movement that helped establish Israel.
Some countries, notably Pakistan and Syria, had wanted to state in a declaration that Israel's "foreign occupation" had given rise to racism in the Middle East. The U.S. and Israel alleged anti-Semitism was behind much of the anti-Israel rhetoric. They walked out in protest.
But African governments complained at the last conference that Western governments had chosen to highlight treatment of the Israeli issue as if it was the only one on the agenda.
South Africa, the host country, stopped short of calling U.S. President George Bush a racist, saying instead that he was not "anti-racist." Other African countries were upset that Britain and the West refused to overtly apologize for their support of centuries of slavery.
Last month, a prominent Israeli newspaper reported that Israeli diplomats were working behind the scenes to convince the Europeans, the U.S., and "like-minded" countries such as Canada, to boycott and even de-fund the conference.
B'nai Brith Canada and the Canadian Jewish Congress praised Canadian officials for pulling their support for the conference.