Pierre Poilievre (left), the Ottawa MP who is also the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, was back in the House of Commons today but earlier this week, the PM had dispatched him to Geneva to what had been dubbed the “anti-Durban” conference. Officially titled The Conference Against Racism, Discrimination and Persecution, it was held at the same time as the controversial Durban Review Conference. That's where Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad got the podium for his anti-semitic screed. Canada had boycotted that conference due to “the unacceptable anti-Semitic rhetoric that has saturated the entire Durban process,” a government release said.
Poilievre, too, got some podium time in Geneva and here's some excerpts of what he had to say:
Our Government recognizes that, for the UN to live up to its potential and be a positive force in the world, its actions must reflect its stated ideals.
For this reason, it is painful for me to find myself speaking here, outside of a UN Conference that could have had so much promise, but has degenerated into a soapbox for those who would demonize the democratic State of Israel—the beacon of liberty and freedom in the Middle East, and, as Natan Sharasnky has so rightly highlighted, the only country in the region “that respects right of Arabs, women, [and] sexual minorities.”
Furthermore, there is growing concern and increasing evidence that Israel is being used by some as a thin cover for a new, burgeoning form of anti-Semitism.
Our Prime Minister Stephen Harper, has been a global leader in the fight against this modern anti-Semitism. He recently stated that “Anti-Semitism is a pernicious evil that must be exposed, confronted and repudiated whenever and wherever it appears. Fuelled by lies and paranoia, it is an evil so profound that […] it is ultimately a threat to us all.”
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s attendance at the Durban II Conference this past Monday, and his offensive tirade, only made more obvious what was so apparent to Canada a long time ago—that this event was the exact inverse of what it purported to be.
And all the while, Durban II perversely ignores actual racism and human rights abuses elsewhere.
As Elie Wiesel has brilliantly pointed out, “There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.” While time has run out to prevent Durban II from performing an injustice to the UN’s reputation, we must stand strong and protest.
I am tremendously proud of the fact that our Government has been a true global leader in voicing opposition to Durban II.
In fact, it was in January of 2008—almost 16 months ago to the day—that Canada was the first country to withdraw from Durban II.
We also refused to fund NGOs that wished to participate in the conference.
It is something that our Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, the Honourable Jason Kenney—who has been an outspoken and articulate defender of human rights—recently called his “proudest moment as minister.”
It should be made clear that Canada, as an international leader in promoting multilateralism, firmly believes in engagement and diplomacy. As such, we take every opportunity to make improvements to the UN process from within.
That said, we must also recognize when something has fallen so short that it is now beyond the pale. Durban II is exactly such a case. Participating would provide it with a legitimacy it absolutely does not deserve.
… we are heartened that several other countries that share our values and live up to the UN’s founding principles have reached the same conclusion as we have, and have also decided not to participate in Durban II.
My presence here today—at the real anti-racism conference—is to say to you and the world that Canada will never stop the fight against racism.
We will never stop the fight against discrimination.
We will never stop the fight against persecution and genocide.
And we will never stop the fight for peace, liberty, democracy and human rights.
With this, I want to say that Canada is here with outstretched arms and open hands, eager to work together with the international community to help the UN achieve its full potential, and to continue the fight against racism, discrimination and persecution, wherever they arise.