Canada to stay engaged regardless of UN Security Council outcome: PM

It's competing against Norway and Ireland for two seats, and the competition is expected to be heated.

June 17, 2020   by Mike Blanchfield

OTTAWA — Even if Canada loses its bid for a United Nations Security Council seat, it will continue its international efforts to fight against climate change, economic inequity and preserving the world’s increasingly fragile institutions, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said.

Trudeau offered a last public appeal for the seat on the world’s most powerful body as voting was underway for two temporary positions on the security council.

Canada is competing against Norway and Ireland for two seats, and the competition is expected to be heated. Both those countries had an advance start in campaigning because Trudeau only announced Canada’s intention to seek a seat in 2015 after the Liberals were elected.

Trudeau dismissed suggestions that a loss for Canada would be a political failure for him personally, given the capital he has invested in the bid – starting with his “Canada is back” declaration the day after he won the October 2015 federal election.


Since then, Trudeau said, Canada has been engaged in a wide range of international activities and groups because he said that is in the interest of all Canadians, who need global trade and economic success everywhere so they can succeed at home.

“These are the things that we will continue to do into the future, regardless of what happens this week. But it certainly would be nice to have that extra lever of a seat on the Security Council,” Trudeau said.

Canada’s campaign for the council has focused heavily on what it has been doing to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic. That has included convening like-minded countries to ensure food security in developing countries, keeping vital supply chains open across the globe, and working on new financing models to help struggling countries whose economies have been badly damaged by the pandemic.

European countries are expected to unite around Canada’s two competitors, which has forced the Trudeau government to focus on Africa, Latin America, and Arab nations, as well as the small island states of the South Pacific that face potential extinction one day from rising sea levels caused by climate change.

Trudeau levelled veiled criticism at the UN’s geographical organization that has placed Canada in a grouping against European countries, which can never agree on two candidates for the temporary seats on the council.

“I have nothing but respect for our two competitors, Ireland and Norway, that have demonstrated an engagement in the world,” he said. “It is unfortunate that we’re in a situation of having to compete against friends for this.”

Independent Sen. Peter Boehm, who has lobbied small island states on Canada’s behalf, questioned whether Canada belongs in the “Western European and Others Group,” or WEOG, the UN geographical bloc that Canada has been assigned.

“WEOG is sort of a lonely place for Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Israel. We don’t really fit,” said Boehm, who was Canada’s ambassador to Germany in 2010 when the European powerhouse won a seat alongside Portugal, vanquishing Canada in its last attempt at winning a seat on the council.

Boehm said Canada belongs in the Group of Latin American and Caribbean Countries, which is less competitive and makes more geographic sense for Canada.

The voting began at 9 a.m. Eastern time, with the 193 UN ambassadors gaining staggered access to the General Assembly meeting hall to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne, who travelled by car to New York City on the weekend, cast Canada’s vote around mid-day.

The historic promenade of electors was expected to take at least five hours – it would have taken about one in a full pre-pandemic chamber – and it could all be repeated June 17 if two of the competing countries can’t get 129 votes, or two-thirds of the assembly.