ARCHIVED – Speaking notes for The Honourable Jason Kenney, P.C., M.P. Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism

At the Perils of Global Intolerance Conference
New York, New York, September 22, 2011

As delivered

Good afternoon, friends. I am delighted to have this opportunity to join you. Before I start to talk about the Durban process, let me say that I’m proud to be here in New York, where my country is standing against provocation and for peace in the Middle East.

Yesterday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper met with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to reiterate Canada’s strong support for a negotiated – negotiated – two-state solution between the Palestinians and the Israelis. Canada does not support unilateral action that will limit the prospects of peace.

I’m also proud to be a member of the first government in the world to have announced its withdrawal from both the Durban II and Durban III Conferences. In my statement on behalf of the Government of Canada last November, I said that our government has lost faith in the Durban process. We will not be part of this event which commemorates an agenda that promotes racism rather than combats it. Canada will not participate in this charade any longer. The Government of Canada will not lend Canada’s good name to the organized exercise in scapegoating that is the Durban process.

Our decision to boycott Durban II was vindicated when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad used the occasion of Hitler’s birthday to single out the only democratic pluralist nation in the region and accuse it of “a kind of racism which has an ugliness that has completely distorted the honour of mankind at the verge of the third millennium and it has made the global society shameful.” Those were Ahmadinejad’s words.

This was just the highest profile outrage at a conference that was, like its notorious predecessor in 2001, blighted by crude anti-Semitism and bully tactics by some of the most dangerous and lawless nations in the world.

Now I’m sure that you know well, as you’ve heard all day, the litany of abuses and outrages that marred the two previous Durban Conferences: the re-emergence of the Zionism is racism canard; calls for the eradication of a member state of the United Nations; vulgar displays of Nazi imagery in so-called spontaneous protests; anti-Semitic tracts being distributed by some of the many extremist NGOs accredited and approved to attend the conference, the NGO forum and so on. And, by the way, every one of those NGOs was automatically re-invited to Durban II, which is one of the reasons that we withdrew so early.

I should mention, speaking of the NGO forum, I got a lot of criticism in Canada when we announced that we would boycott Durban II. But the most criticism I got was when I subsequently announced that we wouldn’t pay the way for any of the pro-Durban NGOs to go from Canada. They didn’t like the end of the gravy train.

And, still, two debacles was not enough for the participants. Instead of admitting their errors, the organizers of Durban II patted themselves on the back and hailed it as a brave step forward. But a step forward towards what? Towards a third hate fest, of course. Because, if there’s one thing the self-appointed defenders of human rights can’t get enough of, it’s camping out at five-star hotels in New York while slinging abuse at America and her allies.  

In fact, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, expressed “shock and deep disappointment at the decision of Canada and eight other liberal democracies to withdraw from Durban II.” She said at the time, “a handful of states have permitted one or two issues to dominate their approach to this issue, allowing them to outweigh the concerns of numerous groups of people.”

So the UN Human Rights Chief was shocked and disappointed by the absence at Durban II of several free, pluralistic countries with the world’s strongest protections for civil and human rights, countries like Canada, the United States, Australia, New Zealand and The Netherlands. And yet, she did not express one syllable of dismay that the conference itself was organized by some of the world’s most notorious human rights violators, with Gadhafi’s Libya in the chair ably assisted by Ahmadinejad’s Iran as vice-chair, with Castro’s Cuba pitching in as rapporteur. It’s hard to imagine a better example of the upside down world of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

But, make no mistake, this kind of cynicism and manipulation are at the root of the Durban process. In the crass anti-Semitism that erupted in the first Durban Conference, it’s easy to forget that the conference’s original agenda didn’t target Israel, but Europe and the United States. The Durban Declaration was long on calls for reparations and compensation, but short to the point of silence on the responsibility of corrupt regimes to institute free political, legal and commercial systems. It’s an old refrain. If anyone, anywhere is suffering, it’s the Liberal democratic west that is to blame. And it’s sung enthusiastically by many western NGOs, whose capacity for self-guilt is exceeded only by their gullibility.

Why do they delude themselves into believing that blank cheques can substitute for freedom, civil society and the rule of law, or that in the long term foreign aid can benefit societies that lack these fundamental building blocks?

I should mention here that Canada has re-focussed our generous development programs away from the failed approaches of the past to address real practical improvements in the lives of vulnerable people, such as Prime Minister Harper’s leadership on improving child and maternal health. As he has said, we must strive to build support, not just for our noble objectives, but also for our commitment to the highest standards of oversight and accountability.

Now, friends, we all know that a free and prosperous society cannot be built on handouts. In the end, it must be built on a home-grown commitment to the rule of law, predicated on a respect for the inviolable dignity of the human person. It’s no coincidence that the worst humanitarian disasters and crimes in history, from the Ukrainian Holodomor to the great Chinese famine that killed as many as 40 million people, to the repeated famines in the Horn of Africa, including that which we see tragically today in Somalia, have taken place under corrupt or totalitarian regimes or in the absence of accountable government. These are not simply natural disasters. They are moral crimes perpetrated by callous and greedy leaders who value ideology above the lives of their own people.

Zimbabwe, as Douglas Murray pointed out, should be the bread basket of Africa. But in a few short generations, its fertile farmland has been denuded by Robert Mugabe’s politics of revenge. And tiers-mondiste Marxism, which seeks to blame western prosperity for Third World poverty, has proved more destructive than any biblical plague of locusts.

The ongoing Sudanese slave trade is not the fault of the transatlantic slave trade, as heinous as it was. And, while millions starve in Somalia, the Taliban-style warlords of Al-Shabaab reject emergency food supplies and terrorize foreign aid workers.

Yes, today many developing countries are injured, but their injuries are not inflicted by the countries who provide that aid and support humanitarian work. To deny this is to deny the experience of half a century of failed interventions. It is, in short, to deny reality.

But the denial of reality is at the root of the Durban process. Indeed, the hallmark of Durban is an almost pathological refusal to see things as they are. In the world of the Durban process, the blame is always external. The fault always lies with someone else, preferably someone with deep pockets.

Now Douglas quoted from President Ahmadinejad’s speech today, and I recommend that you read it because I can’t think of a better encapsulation of this perverted ideology than his speech today in which he said, inter alia, that “if some European countries still use the Holocaust after six decades as the excuse to pay fines or ransom to the Zionists, should it not be an obligation upon the slave masters or colonial powers to pay reparations to the affected nations?” He also said, “by using their imperialistic media network which is under the influence of colonialism, they threaten anyone who questions the Holocaust and the September 11th event with sanctions and military action.” This man will be given a podium of honour today at the United Nations.

By the way, I should say, if there’s one thing that we can celebrate today, it’s that he won’t be followed at that podium by his fellow traveller, Colonel Gadhafi, the former king of kings of Africa. At least he has been deposed, thanks to his brave people and support from the world’s democracies.

So, friends, let’s not hold our breath for Durban III to denounce the murderous regimes that enslave their own people; or the bigoted and violent persecution of gays and lesbians, of religious and ethnic minorities in states too numerous to mention; or for any recognition that responsibility for ending the violence in the Middle East falls on Hamas, Hezbollah and the regimes who supply them with the weapons of terror.

For the Durban enthusiasts, it is always about the faults of the west and of Israel. It’s easier to pin the blame for poverty on the historical wrongs of liberal democracies than on the regimes that exploit the wretched of the Earth today. It’s easier to scapegoat Israel than to decry leaders who use the Palestinians as political pawns. This is why our government has lost faith in the Durban process.

But Canada will not be deterred. Though we will not support an agenda that exculpates undemocratic and oppressive regimes or glosses over violence against Jews and Israel, we will continue to be leaders in the global fight against racial injustice and the new anti-Semitism.

What do I mean by the new anti-Semitism I mean the growing acceptance of the unique vilification of Israel and the new apologetics that tries to hide or explain away the underlying anti-Semitism.

In Nazi Germany, Jews were stripped of their citizenship, denied their natural rights and ultimately exterminated. Today, there are those who are trying to strip the state of Israel of its citizenship in the international community, minimizing its natural rights as a sovereign state and even deny its right to exist.

The new anti-Semitism has adopted more sophisticated language than the old Der Sturmer caricatures and blood libels. Its rhetoric is now dressed up in the fashionable anti-Americanism and anti-western jargon of leftist ideology. Instead of targeting Jewish people, it now targets the Jewish homeland, but it ultimately espouses the same old hatred and the same old intent.

Of course criticism of Israel cannot in and of itself be regarded as anti-Semitic. However, if that criticism selectively condemns and denies the only Jewish state’s right to exist, it cannot be considered anything but anti-Semitic

This is why Canada has made teaching future generations the lessons of the Holocaust and the effects of anti-Semitism one of our primary objectives. It’s why the Harper government has joined the International Task Force on Holocaust Commemoration, Education and Research, through which we are supporting important projects like a National Research Task Force in Canada, bringing together experts, scholars, and community survivors to educate future generations about the Holocaust. It’s why we are recognizing our own policy of having rejected European Jewish refugees before and during the Second World War. And it’s why we hosted the Inter-parliamentary Conference on Combatting Anti-Semitism in Ottawa this January, leading to the important Ottawa Declaration which our government signed earlier this week.

It is important that we are able to recognize the shamefulness of those decisions in our own past because, while Canada now enjoys a remarkably successful model of pluralism and peaceful co-existence, we must not take these achievements for granted. Remembering the errors of our past ensures that we don’t repeat them. We must draw on our own experience to challenge anti-Semitic rhetoric and action in all their forms, old and new. And we must not let the noble and humane idea of human rights to be captured and twisted beyond recognition by ignoble and inhumane regimes.

The hypocrisy of the enemies of freedom is sometimes breathtaking, but it is the natural consequence of the far left’s cynical approach to human rights. Is it any wonder that countries like Cuba who routinely violate their own people’s human rights feel justified in their moral preening, when they do so from the lofty perch of the United Nations Human Rights Council? The United Nations Human Rights Council, or the UNHRC, as you know, is the new and improved successor to the discredited UNHRC. Only at the UN could rearranging the letters of an acronym be considered a major reform.

Friends, this is not a problem of acronyms. It is a structural problem. The genius of the United Nations at its best is that it brings even the worst regimes to the international table. The problem is that no one insists on proper table manners when they’re there.

As long as the international community persists in rewarding serial human rights abusers with seats on its Human Rights Council and giving them microphones at conferences like Durban III, it cannot expect Canada’s endorsement of the process.

By the way, Douglas reminded me, he said if we could all give this talk, why not participate in Durban in just two minutes? I recall in a 2008 meeting a senior minister of the British government who was shocked that Canada had announced our boycott of Durban II and he asked me, a mere minister from one of the colonies, why this would be. “Why would Canada not participate in this important UN process?” And I said, “well, Minister, I could spend hours describing the reasons, but I’ll just give you two. Libya is the chair and Iran is the vice-chair. Doesn’t that end the argument right there?” Unfortunately, it didn’t.

So, under the current arrangement, Canada and like-minded nations must join together to uphold their principles of freedom, civil society and the rule of law where we can, and refuse to participate when it is clear these principles will be ignored or perverted.

That is why Canada recently boycotted the United Nations Conference on Disarmament when North Korea was named its chair. And it is why, when Canada saw that Durban III would be a repeat of its shameful predecessors, that we refused to give it the imprimatur of our presence.

Many well-intentioned people have urged our participation there – no matter what – and we respectfully disagree. I believe it is naive to think that irrationality will respond to reason. I believe it is foolish to think that coldly calculating regimes can be appealed to on the basis of altruism. And I believe it is dangerous to think that tyranny will voluntarily make peace with freedom.

Canada will no longer make the mistake of confusing process with results or participation with action. Most importantly, we will not be afraid to stand on principle and defend our own interests and those of our friends.

In closing, as Prime Minister Stephen Harper said recently, Canada has a purpose in the world. He said, “that purpose is no longer just to go along and get along with everyone else’s agenda. It is no longer to please every dictator with a vote at the United Nations. And, I confess, that I don’t know why past attempts to do so were ever thought to be in Canada’s national interest.” He went on to say, “now we know where our interests lie and who our friends are, and we take strong principled positions in our dealings with other nations, whether popular or not. And that is what the world can count on from Canada.

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