As we are about to adjourn for Canada Day and our first long weekend of summer, it is a fitting time to provide a mid-term evaluation of some of the issues we have been tracking over the last few months.
Arms Trade Treaty
First the good news: Foreign Minister Dion announced today, June 30th, that on June 17th he had tabled the UN Arms Trade Treaty in Parliament as a first step to fulfilling the government’s election promise to accede to the treaty. In that announcement he stated:
Accession to the treaty will reflect Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s commitment to multilateralism. In addition to bringing Canada into line with its NATO and G7 partners, finally becoming a full participant at the ATT Meeting of States Parties will allow the government to be more effective in its quest for a more transparent and accountable arms trade, not only here in Canada but throughout the world.
This is a welcome, but purely symbolic, step forward. We still await the necessary legislation to enable Canada to become a state party to the treaty, a process the government hopes to complete by June 30th, 2017.
This brings us to the bad news:
Update on Saudi Arabia
New and increasingly damning information on Saudi Arabia is forthcoming it seems almost every day. The latest is a call from several international human rights groups, led by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, for the General Assembly to remove Saudi Arabia from its membership in the Human Rights Council. The statement reads in part:
We call upon the United Nations General Assembly to immediately suspend the membership rights of Saudi Arabia in the UN Human Rights Council. …
Failure to act on Saudi Arabia’s gross and systematic human rights violations committed in Yemen, and its use of its membership to obstruct independent scrutiny and accountability threatens the credibility of both the Council and the General Assembly.
See also: Human rights groups call for removal of Saudi Arabia from UN body (Steven Chase, Globe and Mail, 29 June 2016).
Needless to say, an ouster of Saudi Arabia from the UN Human Rights Council would constitute yet more evidence of the need to reassess Canada’s sordid Saudi arms deal.
Canadian Troops to Latvia
More bad news. Today Canada’s Foreign and Defence Ministers issued a joint statement on Canada’s decision to :
…establish and lead a rotational multinational NATO battlegroup which will contribute to NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence in Eastern and Central Europe along with the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany.
So the question surely has to be, if this is so important for European security, why is Canada the one to take a leading role? Of the 25 European members of NATO, only Britain and Germany are participating. If France, Spain, Italy, Hungary, the list goes on, are not stepping up, once again we have to ask why Canada is doing so? Could it be that Europe itself is divided over the wisdom of what the German Foreign Minister has called NATO “warmongering”.
We could have committed to a tremendously useful UN peacekeeping role with Mexico to oversee implementation of Colombia’s historic peace agreement. Instead, we have chosen the same old counterproductive NATO sabre rattling that we saw under Prime Minister Harper.
As for what is really needed to move away from escalating confrontation with Russia to a focus on making the peace process work, read: Might NATO and Russia make peace for Ukraine? by Chris Westdal, the only Canadian diplomat to have served as a Canadian Ambassador to both Russia and Ukraine. (Hill Times, 27 April 2016).