Marking 20 years
of bold journalism,
reader supported.
Rights + Justice

Canada Doesn’t Deserve a Place on the UN Security Council

From arms sales to emissions, rivals Ireland and Norway have better records.

Bianca Mugyenyi 11 Jun

Bianca Mugyenyi is an author and former co-executive director of The Leap. She currently co-ordinates the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is campaigning hard for a Canadian seat on the UN Security Council.

But the country doesn’t deserve a place on the council this time, and progressive Canadians should be opposing the bid for the most powerful decision-making body of the United Nations.

Canadians are too often lulled into a false sense of self-righteousness by contrasting their country’s foreign policy to that of the United States.

But the world is much bigger than the northern parts of the Americas.

Our competition with Ireland and Norway for two available seats on the 15-member Security Council provides an opportunity to understand international reality and broaden our perspective.

How does Canada compare with these rivals on issues that matter at the United Nations? Does the Liberal government reflect the desire of most Canadians to be a force for peace and human rights in the world?

Disarmament and world peace are two key goals of the United Nations. We may be less hawkish than the U.S., but Canada’s competitors for the two available seats on the Security Council are certainly less involved with controversial arms exports.

In 2019, Canada transferred almost $3 billion worth of weaponry to Saudi Arabia. Canadian-made sniper rifles and armoured vehicles have been used in the devastating Saudi-led war in Yemen.

Over the past quarter-century, many people around the world have come to identify our country with its massive mining industry. With less than one per cent of the world’s population, Canada is home to half of all mining companies. Often supported by the government, these firms have been responsible for innumerable abuses, including human rights and environmental violations, and have faced allegations of using slave labour.

UN bodies have called on Ottawa to hold Canadian companies accountable. In 2015, the UN Human Rights Committee found Canada needed to do more to curb abuses, saying it should “enhance the effectiveness of existing mechanisms to ensure that all Canadian corporations under its jurisdiction, in particular mining corporations, respect human rights standards when operating abroad.”

Despite promising to do so, the current government has failed to follow through on reining in Canada’s controversial international mining sector. Instead it has established a largely toothless ombudsperson while openly backing the most notorious firms.

Neither Norway nor Ireland’s international policies are linked to such a controversial industry.

Over the past decade Canada has voted against more than 100 UN General Assembly resolutions defending Palestinian rights. Ireland and Norway haven’t voted against any. Recently, the Irish government has put forward a bill to impose sanctions on products from the settlements if Israel goes ahead with a plan to annex part of the West Bank.

Trudeau didn’t speak up against Israel’s illegal annexation proposal until 58 former Canadian diplomats and politicians, including former Liberal foreign affairs ministers Lloyd Axworthy and André Ouellet, penned a letter denouncing Canada’s silence over the matter.

So it’s no surprise that over 100 Canadian and international civil society organizations and dozens of prominent individuals have backed an open letter urging UN ambassadors to vote for Ireland and Norway.

On the most important issue facing humanity, Trudeau may be better than Donald Trump, but Canada lags far behind its rivals for the Security Council seats. Norway and Ireland’s per capita greenhouse gas emissions are a little more than half of Canada’s. Between 2017 and 2018, Canada’s GHG emissions actually rose 15 million tonnes.

Ireland and Norway endorsed the Basel Convention Ban Amendment on eliminating the export of waste from rich to poor countries. Canada has refused to support the initiative, which became binding last year after 97 countries ratified it.

Canada’s Security Council competitors have also signed the UN Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Ottawa has not. Norway and Ireland have also ratified far more International Labour Organization conventions.

The record is clear. Our rivals for the Security Council seats are more responsible international citizens.

For progressive Canadians the message is simple: better than the U.S. is not good enough.  [Tyee]

Read more: Rights + Justice, Politics

  • Share:

Get The Tyee's Daily Catch, our free daily newsletter.

Tyee Commenting Guidelines

Comments that violate guidelines risk being deleted, and violations may result in a temporary or permanent user ban. Maintain the spirit of good conversation to stay in the discussion.
*Please note The Tyee is not a forum for spreading misinformation about COVID-19, denying its existence or minimizing its risk to public health.


  • Be thoughtful about how your words may affect the communities you are addressing. Language matters
  • Challenge arguments, not commenters
  • Flag trolls and guideline violations
  • Treat all with respect and curiosity, learn from differences of opinion
  • Verify facts, debunk rumours, point out logical fallacies
  • Add context and background
  • Note typos and reporting blind spots
  • Stay on topic

Do not:

  • Use sexist, classist, racist, homophobic or transphobic language
  • Ridicule, misgender, bully, threaten, name call, troll or wish harm on others
  • Personally attack authors or contributors
  • Spread misinformation or perpetuate conspiracies
  • Libel, defame or publish falsehoods
  • Attempt to guess other commenters’ real-life identities
  • Post links without providing context

Most Popular

Most Commented

Most Emailed


The Barometer

Do You Agree with BC’s Decriminalization Rollback?

Take this week's poll