OTTAWA — Canada has formally opposed Palestinian attempts to join 15 different United Nations treaties and conventions — a position that puts the federal government on the wrong side of history and at odds with its citizenry, the Palestinian envoy in Ottawa says.
Canada is objecting in writing to the UN because it maintains Palestine is not a legal state. The Palestinians have formally replied to Canada’s objections in writing, issuing a pointed reminder that they won non-member observer status in November 2012 at the UN General Assembly.
The dispute has sparked the most scathing Palestinian criticism to date of the Harper government’s unwavering support of Israel.
“It pains the Palestinians to know that Canada is trying to exclude us from our rightful place in the family of nations. It is awkward to see a great country like Canada relegated to the role of cheerleader for Israeli extremists at the UN,” Said Hamad, the chief representative of the Palestinian delegation to Canada, said in an emailed response to questions.
“When future Canadians look back at Canada’s positions during this time they will be appalled that their country was so boldly opposed to justice and so far on the wrong side of history,” he added.
“We invite Canada to pursue a position of its own — rather than parrot policies developed by the Likud Party and its ultranationalist allies — on the matter of Palestinian freedom.”
Canada voted against the Palestinian bid for statehood recognition along with Israel, the United States and six smaller countries, but it still won the approval of the 193-member UN General Assembly.
On Nov. 29, 2012, John Baird — who was foreign affairs minister at the time — flew to New York to deliver a speech to the General Assembly to express Canada’s opposition to the bid.
Now, Canada is making it clear to the UN that because it does not recognize “Palestine” as a state, it does not recognize any treaty relations with it, either.
In documents filed by the UN, Canada has objected to the Palestinians acceding to the Rome Statute that creates the International Criminal Court and 14 other conventions and protocols.
Among them are the Convention on Biodiversity, the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal, the UN Law of the Sea, a convention against transnational organized crime, a protocol on biosafety and biological diversity and the convention on womens’ rights.
In repetitive legalese, one of the documents citing Canada’s position says, “‘Palestine’ does not meet the criteria of a state under international law and is not recognized by Canada as a state.” It says that Canada considers any declarations “made by the ‘State of Palestine’ to be without any legal validity or effect.”
In its repeated replies, “The State of Palestine” says it “regrets the position of Canada and wishes to recall” the resolution of Nov. 29, 2012, that granted it “non-observer state status in the United Nations.”
The Department of Foreign Affairs says Canada has officially registered its objections to the Palestinian action with the UN Secretary General and the International Criminal Court.
“Canada’s position on Palestinian efforts to join the ICC and to become party to other treaties is clear: the Palestinians do not meet the criteria of a state under international law. They are not recognized by Canada as a state,” said spokesman Francois Lasalle.
“This provocative Palestinian attempt to politicize international organizations will not contribute to peace in the region.”
New Democrat foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar said the Palestinians have earned the right to join UN treaties and conventions.
“At a time when we’re facing a crisis in Ukraine and devastation in Syria and Iraq, I’m sure there’s much more important work that our diplomats at the UN could be doing to save lives and promote global peace and security.”
Canada also opposes the Palestinian bid to join the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM), a treaty that Canada itself signed in 2008 but has yet to ratify.
While the Canadian government has yet to formally deposit any ratification documents on the CCM with the UN, it has nonetheless managed to register its objection to the Palestinian desire to ratify it.
“Canada considers the declaration made by the ‘State of Palestine’ to be without any legal validity or effect,” says the notification on the CCM circulated by the UN on Jan. 23.
Last week, the UN circulated the Palestinian reply, which came with the same boilerplate statement of regret and reminder of UN recognition.
“The Conservatives should focus on ratifying Canada’s commitments on the Convention on Cluster Munitions rather than trying to keep others from joining this important international treaty,” said Dewar.
Canada has faced international condemnation for dragging its heels on ratifying the CCM, and for proposing ratification legislation that could undermine the treaty.
Cluster bombs are tiny submunitions that often lay dormant for decades, eventually maiming and killing innocent civilians.
Israel’s 72-hour bombardment of south Lebanon with cluster bombs in the final hours of its 2006 summer war with Hezbollah terrorists spurred the international effort to create the treaty banning the weapons.