“I can say that from time to time, we have had concerns of actions of certain UN agencies, but by and large, we have a very good relationship with the UN.”
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, June 8, 2012
Earlier this month, a controversial Turkish lawyer was named UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food.
Both Canada and the U.S. objected to the appointment of Hilal Elver.
Why? Because Elver and her husband, former Palestinian rights rapporteur Richard Falk, have a long history of espousing radical anti-Western views.
The purpose of some UN agencies are dubious, it’s true.
The Right to Food post was actually spearheaded by Cuba in 2000, and its first holder, Jean Ziegler, was co-founder of the Muammar Gaddafi Human Rights Prize — as absurd a title as one can conceive.
But Canada has more to answer for than the scattered tiff with this or that agency.
This week, dozens of Canadian scientists and fisheries experts signed a letter urging Ottawa to approve UN voluntary guidelines aimed at protecting small-scale fisheries around the globe.
Canada is the lone holdout among 97 nations. And apparently it’s all because of one word: occupation.
One sentence in the 23-page document states, “All parties should protect the human rights and dignity of small-scale fisheries stakeholders in situations of occupation to allow them to pursue their traditional livelihoods, to have access to customary fishing grounds and to preserve their culture and way of life.”
Federal officials suggest that is nothing but a provocation over the Israeli-Palestine situation.
The fact that Canada is willing to play spoiler shows utter disregard for small-boat fishermen in Newfoundland and elsewhere in Canada who share a common interest in the guidelines.
“They’ve taken an extreme position …,”
Maritime Fishermen’s Union spokesman Christian Brun told The Canadian Press, “and we believe that to be an extremely big mistake.”
A mistake, perhaps, but not surprising.
Here are a few of Stephen Harper-led rebuffs of the UN since 2010, when the prime minister was humiliated out of a place at the UN Security Council.
‰ June 2011: Canada blocks the listing of asbestos as a hazardous chemical on exports, a move backed only by Vietnam, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.
‰ March 2013: Canada is the only country to pull out of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, an agreement to help fight severe drought, especially in Africa.
‰ March 2014: A Canadian delegation helps block the inclusion of life-saving intervention strategies in international drug policies. They include needle exchanges, methadone therapy and overdose prevention, all services provided in Canada.
You’d be forgiven for thinking all this has little to do with common-sense policy, and a lot to do with one man’s spite.