On the 17th of June, 2020, Canada lost its bid for a temporary seat in the UN Security Council, the only UN body which can put binding resolutions on the member countries.. In the competition were Norway and Ireland, which won by 130 and 128 votes respectively where the votes required to secure a seat were 128. Canada, however, fell short by 20 votes.
It is a jolt to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who had declared “Canada is back” to the world stage after the conservative government. He had personally campaigned for the seat but Canada received even fewer votes than what it received in 2010 under the conservative government of Stephen Harper. That is why Bessma Momani, a senior fellow at the Centre of International Governance and Innovation, calls it “embarrassing” and a “bit of a wake-up call.”
There have been many mixed reactions within Canada on the reason for the loss as well as the significance of this loss.
A professor at the Munk School of Global Affairs at U of T, Jance Stein, talks about how Canada in UNSC would have got trapped in the crossfire between US-Canada clashes. Andrew MacDougall, the ex-director of communications with the former PM Harper, says “UNSC hasn’t been relevant to global peace and security for more than 15 years”, implying that UNSC seat is not worth much.
There have been many reasons ascribed to the loss, the first and foremost being Canada’s staunch support of Israel. Canada has voted 116 times against UN resolutions for Palestinian rights, against Israel’s occupation, since 2000. It has also not opposed Israel’s planned annexation of the Jordan valley. “Just Peace Advocates” in association with over a hundred non-governmental organizations sent a signed letter to UN members countries, urging them to consider Canada’s votes against Palestinian refugees and illegal settlements while deciding on their votes for UNSC seat. It also pointed out how Canada considers Israel’s illegal territories as a part of it in trade, which is directly against UNSC Resolution 2334 which calls on member states to distinguish between Israel and its new territories occupied in 1967. As majority of the countries in UN show support for the Palestinian cause of a separate state and the well being of the war-wreckin Palestinian citizens, Canada’s unwavering support for Israel might have contributed to its defeat in winning UNSC seat.
Tamara Lorincz, a member of the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute pointed towards a more fundamental issue with Canadian foriegn policy management. He talked about how Canada hasn’t drafted a foreign policy to explain its stances on important global issues, hasn’t set aside enough funds for overseas development aid, has exported weapons to countries like Saudi Arabia, has snubbed negotiations on a treaty against nuclear weapons and many other shortcomings which make it undeserving of the seat.
This development, however, is beneficial for the Palestinians, since Canada would have supported Israel in the UNSC and opposed all such resolutions which may favour Palestinians and are critical to Israel. This loss may also force Canada to give a serious rethink to its Israel First policy. According to a poll by EKOS Research Associates, three in four Canadians want their government to oppose Israel’s annexation plans and 42% of them wanted sanctions against the country. There is also a campaign in Canada which calls on the Prime Minister “to fundamentally reassess Canadian foreign policy.”
It is too early to predict whether the loss of the UNSC seat will trigger some introspection in the foriegn policy circles of Canada or it will be business as usual.