TORONTO (JTA)– Canada is boycotting the third U.N. "Durban conference" against racism, citing the charged anti-Israel and anti-Semitic rhetoric at its predecessors.
The conference is slated to mark the 10th anniversary of the 2001 meeting in South Africa aimed at defeating xenophobia and racism. Canada and several other countries walked out of that meeting after Iran and several other countries engaged in Israel-bashing.
The United States led a walkout of the first conference in Durban, South Africa in 2001 after it devolved into an anti-Israel hate-fest and a number of western nations kept away from its follow-up in 2009.
Canada was the first country to withdraw from Durban II last year in Geneva.
"Canada will not participate in this charade," Immigration Minister Jason Kenney told a news conference on Nov. 25. ""Canada is clearly committed to the fight against racism, but the Durban process commemorates an agenda that actually promotes racism rather than combats it."
"We will not lend our good name to this Durban hatefest," Kenney said.
Kenney says the U.N. General Assembly has chosen to "repeat and even augment the mistakes of the past" by holding an anniversary conference in New York next September, timed to coincide with the annual opening of the U.N. General Assembly.
In a statement, opposition Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff said he "unequivocally" supports the government’s decision to boycott the Durban III conference.
"The first Durban conference, which the proposed Durban III conference seeks to commemorate, turned into a festival of racism against Israel and the Jewish people that Canada was right to condemn," Ignatieff said.
The Canadian Jewish Congress praised Ottawa’s move. "On this, they are the international leaders, not the Canadian leader, they’re leading the world," CJC CEO Bernie Farber told the Toronto Sun.
"Yet again, Canada is taking the lead on the world stage in terms of principled policy-making,” stated Frank Dimant, the CEO of B’nai B’rith Canada. “We saw the writing on the wall with the failures of the first two Durban conferences, which promoted rather than combated racism against the Jewish people. The world should surely know by now that the Durban process is completely tainted."
A number of Jewish groups want the Obama administration to announce that it will not attend the next conference early, in order to rally a broad boycott. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), the incoming chairwoman of the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, had also called for a boycott. The Obama administration’s strategy with the United Nations has been to join its deliberations in hopes of reversing them