Friday September 3, 1999
Playing With the World’s Agenda
Reproduced by LifeSite with permission of Lorne Gunter
This story first appeared in the National Post on p. A14, Monday 30 August 1999.
PLAYING WITH THE WORLD’S AGENDA
Mr. Axworthy and his staff treat all potential critics of their policies the same way, says Lorne Gunter. They simply deny them funding and permission to attend international conferences
Lorne Gunter The Edmonton Journal
At the end of June, Jason Kenney was an American, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Mormons) in New York for a United Nations conference on population control.
This secret identity will baffle anyone who knows the formidable 31-year-old Canadian. In real life Mr. Kenney is a conservative Catholic and the Reform MP from Calgary Southeast.
So why the mask while he was at the UN? Because the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and its minister Lloyd Axworthy, refused to permit Mr. Kenney to attend UN meetings as part of the official Canadian delegation.
It was nothing personal, mind you. Mr. Kenney had not offended the Great Liberal Father.
Well, perhaps he had. During a Commons debate last spring, the taxpayers’-advocate-turned- MP questioned Jean Chretien’s ethics over the brewing controversy surrounding government business loans and grants awarded to the prime minister’s acquaintances since 1993. Then, when Mr. Chretien challenged Mr. Kenney to make the same remarks outside the chamber where MPs are not immune from libel suits, Mr. Kenney did. (No word yet on the suit.)
But Mr. Kenney had not been shut out at the UN because of his criticism of the PM. Indeed, Mr. Axworthy and his staff of condescending diplocrats treat all potential critics of their policies the same way; they simply deny them funding and permission to attend international conferences as Canadian delegates.
Sometimes Foreign Affairs ignores critics in hopes they will go away. Eric Lowther, a caucus mate of Mr. Kenney’s, member of Parliament for Calgary Centre and the Opposition critic for family issues, wrote Mr. Axworthy four times seeking even just Canadian observer status at the same conference Mr. Kenney attended as a Mormon. Mr. Axworthy and his mandarins never gave Mr. Lowther a definitive answer, they merely dragged their heels until it was too late. Mr. Lowther, too, attended as a delegate for a foreign non-governmental organization (NGO).
Foreign Affairs has repeated this pattern so often it has acquired the force of habit within the department. Undoubtedly, few Foreign Affairs bureaucrats even realize any more how undemocratic their policy is.
In December of 1997, in Sao Paulo, the UN hosted the Americas Regional Workshop on Firearm Regulation. Similar meetings had previously been convened in Europe, Asia and Africa with the expressed purpose of gathering suggestions for ending the illegal international trade in small arms (handguns, rifles, shotguns and machine guns).
Several senior Canadian bureaucrats would be chairing working groups at Sao Paulo, including James Hayes, co-ordinator of international gun control efforts for the Department of Justice. Coalition for Gun Control chief Wendy Cukier was to be there, too. And by the time consultations reached Brazil, it had become obvious one of the main methods the UN favoured for reducing gun smuggling was to reduce the number of legal guns held by law-abiding, private citizens, on the theory that fewer guns would then be available for the smugglers to steal.
Dr. Jim Pankiw, a Reform MP from Saskatoon, merely wanted to keep an eye on Canadian government involvement at the workshop, so he wrote to Mr. Axworthy seeking inclusion as an observer with the Canadian delegation.
Mr. Axworthy responded that “pursuant to [UN] Economic and Social Council resolution 1996/28 … invitations are limited to government experts.” The minister added “no provision has been made for attendance by elected officials.” Mr. Pankiw attended as an Australian.
But resolution 1996/28 imposed no such restrictions on national delegations. More than a month after the workshop concluded, Mr. Axworthy admitted as much when Mr. Pankiw confronted him again. Indeed, Mr. Axworthy confessed, the resolution “does not explicitly prohibit participation by individual elected officials.” The truth was, “As minister of Foreign Affairs, I exercised my responsibility in appointing the Canadian delegation whose function it was to represent the views of the government of Canada.”
This, too, was a bit misleading. Typically, UN rules for official delegations speak only of “representatives of member states.” U.S. delegations always include both Democrats and Republicans (regardless of which party is in the majority), as well as executives from NGOs that favour the White House position and those that oppose it. Several anti-control senators and congressmen, along with representatives of the National Rifle Association, were part of the U.S. contingent in Brazil.
Canada is not alone in excluding dissenting voices from its UN delegations (indeed, the balance in American delegations is probably the exception rather than the rule), but it has turned the practice into a high art.
There are hundreds of millions of dollars available from Ottawa each year, mostly through Foreign Affairs and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), for feminist, pro- abortion, environmentalist, gay rights, gun control and anti-free-trade NGOs. A group called Womyn for Womyn’s Health attended the recent UN population conference as part of the Canadian delegation, yet there was no room for MPs from the official Opposition, or for pro- family organizations, and there never is.
This fall, Canada must submit its regular, five-year report on its compliance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Despite widespread support for it among the international establishment, the convention is controversial since its provisions would appear to grant governments and international agencies the right to provide sex education, contraceptives, abortion counselling and abortions, and sexual orientation counselling to minor children, even if the children’s parents object.
Moreover, in a move typical of the ever ongoing manipulation of UN treaties and conventions by international radicals and leftists (and reminiscent of the Canadian courts’ abominable practice of “reading-in” rights where none exist), the children’s rights convention has, since its ratification, been interpreted by UN bureaucrats to include a prohibition on the simple disciplinary spanking of children by their parents, even though no such prohibition appears in the text.
As a result, opposition members on the House of Commons heritage committee asked to see a copy of the government’s compliance report before it is sent to UN headquarters in New York. Several Liberal MPs claimed to favour an advance review, too. But after heavy “whipping” by assistants to Sheila Copps, the Heritage Minister, every Liberal committee member voted to keep the report secret.
Given this manoeuvring, and the fact Ottawa has paid an anti-spanking NGO $350,000 to prepare an “independent” assessment of the government’s performance for the UN, it is hard not to conclude the Liberals are stage-managing the entire effort so the UN will chastise Canada for not outlawing spanking. The Liberals will then be able to turn to Canadian voters and say, “We don’t want to outlaw spanking, but our hands are tied. We must do so if we wish to honour our international legal obligations.”
In other words, they will make a change to domestic policy, one they secretly want, but which they know would be unpopular, and lay the blame on the UN. They will thus achieve their policy goals without the political consequences.
Stifling dissent and keeping secret its dealings with the UN are but two of the ways the Liberal government is using the international body and NGOs to engineer domestic and international policy.
As with most intergovernmental agreements, the real negotiations over the content of UN treaties and conventions take place for months or years before the politicians and officials show up to fine-tune and sign the finished product.
Canada involves NGOs to an unprecedented degree in these PrepComs (preparatory committees). Ottawa spends millions annually subsidizing NGO research on which provisions Canada should demand at PrepComs, an extraordinary sum considering NGO research often consists mostly of quoting the opinions of other NGOs, and being quoted by them, in a sort of circular celebration of non-proof.
Then Foreign Affairs pays for NGO representatives to attend PrepComs, staying in plush hotels in exotic foreign locales. Once at the PrepComs, NGO representatives are often included in closed-door negotiations (and when they are not, Foreign Affairs usually designates one of its officials to leave negotiations frequently to brief the NGOs and seek their advice). Occasionally, an NGO official will serve as Canada’s sole representative on a subcommittee.
During formal plenary sessions, NGOs generally have unfettered access to the Foreign Affairs personnel who are the country’s official spokesmen, and they are invited to stand with the officials at the media briefings that follow.
Frequently during this process, negotiations come close to breaking down, or of going in a direction opposed by Foreign Affairs and the NGOs. Often at such moments, Canada and its NGOs will convene invitation-only meetings of like-minded national delegations and foreign NGOs to scheme about how to get discussion back on the desired track.
At last year’s negotiations in Rome for an International Criminal Court, Canada lead those delegations pushing for the most radical and powerful court. In his opening address, Mr. Axworthy called on delegates to approve a court with power to receive complaints from anyone and investigate any country or person it chose.
Canada also favoured a gender crimes division that would have enforced a feminist interpretation of the law. Failing to live up to feminist demands on rights for gays and transsexuals, or passing laws that restricted abortion in any way, would have made a national leader guilty of “crimes against humanity.” Canada further advocated that the court be free from review by the UN Security Council and that its judges and prosecutors be combined in a single enforcement arm.
When some countries, mostly Muslim and Catholic, objected to the creation of such a sweeping international vigilante, the Canadian chairman of the main session first tried to use procedural tactics to keep them from protesting. When that failed, the invitation-only plotting began. When that also failed, our delegates and NGOs took to smearing the dissenters, claiming they were complicit in the oppression of women and genocide.
In Rome, Canada’s bullying failed. But it doesn’t always.
In Istanbul in 1996, at the Habitat II conference on human settlements, the Canadian delegation endeavoured, as it always does, to turn discussion to population control and abortion rights, income redistribution, the environment and women’s equality.
Again, delegates from many developing countries objected. They were there to discuss housing and other shelter issues, not debate the western leftist-feminist agenda. “But most dissenting delegations were small,” says Gwen Landolt of the pro-family Canadian organization REAL Women, who attended Habitat II without Ottawa’s funding or approval. “So we, Canada, used our official delegation’s greater numbers to spell one another off until debate dragged into the middle of the night. Then with the dissenters in bed, we and the liberal delegations from western Europe added the agenda items we wanted.”
At the official gathering where politicians meet to debate final texts and vote approval, Canada often stacks the odds, too, by funding the most liberal foreign NGOs to attend as part of the country’s delegations, or separately. And following the ratification of UN agreements, Foreign Affairs works to ensure “progressive” officials are put in charge of compliance, so unrealized policy goals can be inserted by decree over the years to come.
Since the Vatican is often among the leaders of the pro-family, coalition seeking to curtail the international pro-abortion ambitions of Foreign Affairs and its NGO friends, Canadian NGOs, many of which receive federal funding, have been prominent in the current campaign to have the Vatican expelled from the UN.
And should all this fail, there is always the Supreme Court of Canada. Two years ago Antonio Lamer, outgoing Chief Justice, winked that he and his colleagues were willing to impose UN treaties on Canadian governments. “The charter can be understood to give effect to Canada’s international legal obligations, and should, therefore, be interpreted in a way that conforms to those obligations.”
Both in Canada and around the world, the emergence of this network of activist, ideologically driven NGOs, which likes to refer to itself as “civil society,” is a recent phenomenon, no more than a decade old.
Much of the credit for it is owed to a Canadian, Maurice Strong, who was in charge of both the UN’s main environmental gatherings before the 1997 Kyoto conference on global warming — the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm in 1972, and the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, the so-called Earth Summit, in Rio de Janeiro 20 years later. He remains a special advisor to Kofi Annan, the UN secretary-general.
Prior to the 1992 summit, 635 NGOs were accredited to the UN. The bulk represented professional and technical associations, business and labour federations, well-known international relief agencies such as the Red Cross and CARE, service clubs and churches.
Mr. Strong arranged to have the total increased by nearly 50%, to 928 (at present there are between 1,600 and 1,800). His move also changed the overall mix. The NGOs created for and since Rio — frequently nothing more than a handful of activists with a grant and a fax machine or Web site — have been preoccupied with human rights, environmentalism, gender equity and the alleged gap between rich and poor.
The Earth Summit also marked the advent of an enormous NGO conference to parallel the official one. At every UN conference since, NGOs have set up displays and lobbying command posts in vast tent cities surrounding the site. From there they have flooded the assembled reporters and reluctant national delegations with propaganda designed to bend them to the NGO agenda.
This parallel conference was Mr. Strong’s idea, too. He threw open the doors of the Earth Summit (or at least the public plazas and streets of Rio) to any interested NGO, approved or not. By some accounts as many as 30,000 activists attended, a sum that remains a UN record.
The NGO performance at Rio demonstrated to Third World leaders that these organizations could be useful allies in their campaign to extract more money from industrialized nations while simultaneously seeking to reduce the influence of those nations at the UN. Prior to Rio, many of these same leaders had been the most reluctant to embrace NGOs.
The Canadian government’s domestic relations with NGOs is mostly Mr. Strong’s baby as well. In 1968, Mr. Strong was the first president of CIDA, Ottawa’s principal source of funding for NGOs, both Canadian and foreign, to this day.
He created, at the behest of Lester Pearson, the International Development Research Centre, an agency that provides money to NGOs and helps train their agents and fund research that forms the moral underpinnings of their crusades, especially on population control and income redistribution from the North (primarily North American and western Europe) to the South (roughly, the Third World). Mr. Strong served as the IDRC’s third chairman. He was also instrumental in setting up the Canadian Development Investment Corp., which frequently funds projects in the developing world that are administered by NGOs, and served as its chairman.
There was a time when sewing a Canadian flag on one’s backpack was a good way to ensure welcome worldwide. Now, Mr. Kenney says, “At UN conferences, when many delegates learn you are from Canada, they roll their eyes or try to get away.”
Far from being the “soft power” about which Mr. Axworthy likes to brag, Canada is often the most intimidating cultural imperialist at the UN, demanding, sneaking, extorting and threatening in order to achieve as much of the ultra-liberal, western agenda as possible. The wants and needs of the Third World receive plenty of lip service, until they get in the way of Canada’s true objective: making the world safe for feminism and social democracy, whether it wants to be or not.
Lorne Gunter is a columnist for The Edmonton Journal.