Canada pulls out of UN conference on racism

Canada on Wednesday bowed out of the United Nations 2009 conference on racism in Durban, saying it would likely “degenerate into ... expressions of intolerance and anti-Semitism”.

Secretary of State for Multiculturalism and Canadian Identity Jason Kenney said that, to his knowledge, Canada was the first country to announce it would not take part in the 2009 Durban Review Conference.

The UN’s first World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, held in 2001 in the same South African city, “degenerated into open and divisive expressions of intolerance and anti-Semitism” that prompted Israel and United States to abandon the meeting, said Foreign Affairs Minister Maxima Bernier.

“Secretary of State Kenney and I had hoped that the preparatory process for the 2009 Durban Review Conference would remedy the mistakes of the past. Despite our efforts, we have concluded that it will not,” he added in a statement.

“Canada will therefore not participate in the Durban Review Conference in 2009,” Bernier said.

Kenney said it was clear that forces that dominated the 2001 conference were still in control, noting that Libya had been elected president of the event’s organising committee, which also included Iran, a country that has advocated Israel’s destruction.

He said Canada tried unsuccessfully to influence the preparatory process of the upcoming conference, and that by withdrawing its participation it hoped to signal other countries to avoid the mistakes of the 2001 meeting.

The Jewish Bonsai Birth organisation welcomed Canada’s decision, saying that it was setting an example by refusing to take part in an event that promotes hate and intolerance.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s conservative administration has been a staunch defender of Israel since it rose to power two years ago.

Last week, Bernier apologised to Israel after his ministry published an internal document that included Israel and United States in a list of countries where prisoners risk torture.
He ordered the mistaken entry to be edited out.—Sapa-AFP

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