Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer says he would continue Canada’s campaign for a seat on the United Nations Security Council if he becomes Prime Minister following this fall’s federal election.
However, Mr. Scheer said he would not “sell out” Canadian principles, including democracy, the rule of law and fundamental human rights, in an effort to secure votes from other countries for a seat on the UN’s most powerful branch.
“I think that Canada can play a very valuable role and would have a major contribution to make, but not at the expense of selling out our principles or selling out our long-standing positions on various issues and certainly not contributing to actions abroad where there are no clear Canadian interests,” Mr. Scheer said in an interview with The Globe and Mail last week.
Canada’s top envoy to the UN said member states have actually applauded the fact that Canada stands up for its values on the world stage and have not expressed concerns about Canada’s foreign-policy priorities, including its tense relationship with China, in talks about the Security Council seat.
“Many countries actually appreciate the fact that Canada stands very strongly for values and is acting as a beacon of human rights in the world,” UN ambassador Marc-André Blanchard said in an interview last month.
Mr. Scheer said he would make the case to countries around the world about the important role Canada could play on the Security Council. His predecessor, former prime minister Stephen Harper, had a strained relationship with the UN, withdrawing Canada’s candidacy for a Security Council seat in 2010 when it became clear Canada would lose to Portugal.
In the 2015 federal election, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau campaigned on a commitment to “restore Canada as a leader in the world.” After taking office, Mr. Trudeau announced Canada’s plans to pursue one of 10 rotating, non-permanent seats on the Security Council in 2021-22 – a campaign that is now underway. Canada last sat on the Security Council in 1999-2000.
Mr. Scheer said he would not axe the Canadian campaign for the seat, but criticized the Trudeau government’s approach.
“When I look at what this government has done … with governments that just have no common ground on democracy, on the rule of law, on fundamental human rights, I’m not interested in compromising any of Canada’s positions on those issues just to win a seat on the council,” Mr. Scheer said.
Mr. Scheer did not point to any specific examples during the interview, but his press secretary said the Tory leader takes issue with the Trudeau government’s relationship with China, particularly its decision to send taxpayer money to China’s Asian Infrastructure Bank as Beijing continues to detain two Canadians.
Canada was drawn into the dispute between China and the United States when it arrested Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. executive Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver on an extradition request from the U.S. in December. Ms. Meng faces allegations of fraud relating to U.S. sanctions against Iran.
In apparent retaliation, China detained Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor days after Ms. Meng’s arrest; it also barred or restricted Canadian agricultural imports such as canola, beef and pork products.
Mr. Scheer has said Mr. Trudeau needs to stop “getting bullied around” by China. He said Canada should withdraw from the China-backed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, lodge a formal complaint to the World Trade Organization about Beijing’s trade actions against Canada, and draw up a list of retaliatory measures over China’s behaviour.
A spokesperson for Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland’s office said Canada’s campaign for the Security Council is focused on promoting its values, including “democracy, human rights, and a more prosperous future for all” – a message that is resonating with UN member states.
The Security Council has 15 members: five permanent countries – China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States – and 10 non-permanent seats that are chosen in rotating elections. The 193 UN member states will vote for the 2021-22 seat next June.
The Council has significant influence in determining what constitutes threats to international peace and security, calling upon parties to settle disputes and authorizing the use of sanctions or force to address a conflict; a seat on the body ensures a vote in decisions.
Mr. Blanchard, a high-powered Quebec lawyer appointed to the UN by Mr. Trudeau, recently revealed the government’s five-point platform for the coveted seat: economic security, sustaining peace, fighting climate change, advancing gender equality and strengthening multilateralism.
Canada’s campaign for a Security Council seat comes amid an attack on the multilateral system by some protectionist world leaders, including U.S. President Donald Trump, who argue that the UN is ineffective.
With files from Robert Fife