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Canada is (at the) back!

Written by Anson Yeh
Edited by Bhromor Rahman

The night of the 2015 Federal election, during his victory speech, Justin Trudeau declared that ‘‘Canada is back’’ presumably as an active participant in the international community. After this Wednesday’s United Nations General Assembly vote, we know how far back…

He had his eyes on that United Nations Security Council seat since day 1 of his term. He tried. He really did. That is, groveling at every world leader on the planet as if he was in some position to negotiate with them. That and spending millions of our tax dollars to fly to every country in Africa to ask any warlord he could find to ‘‘please, oh pretty please, support Canada!’’ Realistically, countries like Russia and China would never support us anyways, but we know we have a problem when a genuine democracy in India publicly declares its opposition towards Canada. Why wouldn’t India of all countries support us, you wonder? Hint: look up “Justin Trudeau India trip.”

Somewhere in the world, wherever he may be, Stephen Harper is probably laughing under his facemask. The first time Canada failed to secure a seat at the UNSC was in 2010. Back then, the Liberals in opposition touted Canada’s withdrawal against Portugal as a major diplomatic defeat for Canada on the international stage and blamed the Conservative government for the outcome. While it is true that under Harper, Canada downscaled its diplomatic efforts on the international stage to some extent, it was because of the Conservative Party’s opposition to multilateralism; the worldview emphasizing cooperation lauded and promoted by the current Liberals and their leader. The bottom line is that Stephen Harper is a unilateralist who never believed in the UN: he made absolutely no effort to garner a seat at the UNSC and was at a Tim Hortons with his constituents during the crucial General Assembly vote at the time.

The MWR’s motto may be ‘‘there are two sides to every story’’, but the Liberals are having a very hard time trying to put a positive spin on this one. They wheeled out poor François-Philippe Champagne, the current Minister of Foreign Affairs, to do damage control when he had very little to do with this. If anything, Trudeau’s lack of diplomatic skills and Chrystia Freeland’s inability to reign in her boss’ shenanigans over the last few years are to blame for this disaster. How bad was it really though? Well, here are the numbers; this was only the second time Canada lost a bid to the UNSC since we joined the UN in 1945, we actually did worse than in 2010, garnering only 108 votes compared to 114 in 2010, and we lost against Norway and Ireland: countries with about a seventh of Canada’s population.

The pundits have already expressed a litany of opinions for this failure ranging from Canada’s late entry in the fray to our nonexistent foreign policy. While Canada did enter into the race in 2018 when some countries were campaigning since 2010 and while it is also true that this government has virtually no foreign policy plan to speak of, the truth is that Justin Trudeau didn’t need any of that. No, for Justin Trudeau, all he needed was Justin Trudeau. Norway gives more in foreign aid and we are dwarfed by Ireland in peacekeeping, but who needs a foreign policy when you have the handsome progressive PM as the face of the nation? My take: this was a vanity project. The only person who thinks they can win a UNSC seat without a credible foreign policy is someone who thinks that they themselves are the foreign policy. However, after that notorious trip to India, being caught on hot mic making fun of Donald Trump in front of other world leaders, and now this GA vote, the myth of Justin Trudeau’s diplomatic asset is, hopefully, dead for good.

In today’s increasingly globalized world, it is essential to work with other countries to achieve better outcomes for each of us. However, we really need to reevaluate the role and, more importantly, the purpose of the United Nations. The organization was created to uphold world peace, but what has it accomplished? It has failed to stop multiple wars initiated by major powers on the world stage and even after the Cold War, it stood by as hundreds of millions of Tutsis were massacred in Rwanda, did nothing significant to stop the US invasion of Iraq, and allows scores of UN peacekeepers to be routinely killed by handcuffing them with strict rules of engagement. Not to mention the credibility of some of the UN’s specialized agencies being hijacked by individual countries and special interest groups. If the organization is ineffectual, expensive and a retirement home for former government officials, is it really anything more than a virtue signaling country club? Frankly, the only time I have witnessed the UN solve an actual problem in the world is in a Model UN crisis committee.

The world is in desperate need of leadership right now. We are (once again) entering the 20s in amidst an economic depression, a global pandemic and a rise in nationalism. However, if the goal is cooperation to get through these crises, the current empty rhetoric must come to an end. While a desire to instill change is necessary, the power to do so requires concrete action. Whether it be regarding COVID-19, climate change or more recently, the issue of systemic racism, at best, Canada chose to follow rather than lead and at worst, has been completely hypocritical such as the government ‘s purchase of the Trans Mountain pipeline shortly after signing the Paris Climate agreement. Credibility much? With the current tenuous status quo in international relations, Canada has the amazing opportunity to be the decisive middle player it once was. But this will be impossible with the current vapid posturing. It’s not enough to simply pay lip service to whatever is most convenient at the time; we need tangible long term policies.

Then next time, hopefully, we won’t embarrassingly lose a UNSC seat to Ireland.

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