Canada withdraws support for UN anti-racism conference


Canada will not support preparations for a UN anti-racism conference planned for Durban, South Africa, next year, a decision which has been welcomed by the Canadian Jewish Congress.

The government in Ottawa believes that the previous meeting in 2001 turned into an embarrassing promotion of racist attitudes and “a bit of a circus for intolerance and bigotry, particularly, but not exclusively directed at the Jewish people,” Jason Kenney, the government’s secretary of state for multiculturalism, told Canadian television.

He added that Hitler posters were displayed “by NGOs that have been re-invited by the organizing committee now chaired by Libya.” The opposition NDP party said Canada needed to be at the table in Durban and that the government should not abandon its traditional commitment to multilateralism.

The 2001 World Conference Against Racism in Durban highlighted divisions between the developing and developed world. It also showed the seething anger in much of the Arab world against Zionism, the international movement that helped establish Israel. Some countries, notably Pakistan and Syria, had wanted to state in a declaration that Israel’s “foreign occupation” had given rise to racism in the Middle East. The US and Israel alleged anti-Semitism was behind much of the anti-Israel rhetoric and walked out in protest.

The Canadian Jewish Congress praised Canadian officials for pulling their support for the conference and said it was a principled stand.

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