OTTAWA – In a series of interviews with The Jerusalem Post at last week’s Conservative Party convention in Ottawa, leading politicians from the newly reelected Conservative government discussed support for Israel and Western values, and opposition to the scheduled Durban III conference within Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s administration.

When asked about Harper’s government taking the lead in rejecting the UN Durban Review Conference in Geneva (Durban II) in 2009 and the Durban III event slated to take place in New York City on September 21, Jason Kenney, the minister of citizenship, immigration and multiculturalism, said: “Under the previous liberal government, Canada participated at Durban I [in 2001], and I think there was a pretty broad recognition after the fact that it was mistake for Canada to lend its good name to that circus of hatred at Durban I.”

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Human rights groups and the US and Israeli governments said the UN World Conference against Racism 2001 held in Durban was marred by rabidly anti-Israel and anti-Semitic groups’ protests and a resolution that singled out and attacked Israel.

When “our government came to office, we were the first country in the world to announce that we would not participate in the Durban II review conference. We did so because our assessment was that a repeat of the some of the most egregious aspects of Durban I was likely... because countries like Iran and Libya were on the organizing committee for Durban II, which was all we needed to know,” Kenney, 43, a charismatic MP and gifted public speaker from Calgary, Alberta, said.

The organizers of the Durban II conference invited all of the NGOs from the Durban I event, including some of the most “egregious anti-Semitic” groups, and scheduled meetings on Jewish High Holy Days, “presumably to limit the participation of Jewish NGOs,” he said.

According to Kenney, Canada decided that the Durban process was “basically irredeemable” and the “UN should drop it.” It has become a “sick joke and sullies the reputation of the UN,” he said.

Canada was the first country to announce, on November 25, 2010, that it will not participate in the Durban III conference in New York.

“Navi Pillay and her crew should stop the process and realize that the poison at Durban I” has placed “the entire process under a permanent cloud,” Kenney said. Pillay is the UN high commissioner for human rights and oversees the Durban conference process.

“A conference that gives a platform to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to advocate genocide is a sick joke,” and advocates of Durban should stop defending the process, Kenney said.

He pointed to Canada’s multicultural system as the “most successful model of pluralism” and said Canada is always keen to participate in a legitimate process to address xenophobia, hatred, prejudice and racism.

Canada has set a example for the world on how “to deal with diversity in a positive way” and “the official policy of multiculturalism is an example to other liberal democracies, he said. Canadian multiculturalism rejects cultural relativism, Kenney said, citing such “barbaric cultural practices” as “honor killings,” female genital mutilation, and forced marriages.

When asked about Harper’s speech at the Ottawa conference, Linda Frum, a senator representing Ontario for the Conservative Party and a prominent journalist and author, told the Post, “The PM’s remarks that Canada is no longer in the business of ‘pleasing every dictator with a vote at the United Nations’ produced some of the most ecstatic applause at the convention.

Canada has a government and a leader with the courage to uphold our values. The prime minister appreciates that those who would attack Israel would attack all democracies if they could.”

Frum continued, “This prime minister’s stance against moral equivalence clearly resonates with Canadians.

Stephen Harper has said repeatedly that he will support Israel ‘regardless of the political cost.’ “But when put to the test at the ballot box, there was no cost, because Canadians see the best principles of our society reflected in the foreign policy of this government,” she said.

Harper’s robust support for Israel captured international media attention at the Group of Eight summit of leading industrial nations in Normandy in late May. He rejected a mention of a return to the 1967 armistice lines in the summit’s final statement. His position conflicted with those of, for example, US President Obama and German Chancellor Merkel, who have said the negotiations’ departure point to be the June 4, 1967, lines with land swaps.

Robin Shepherd, a leading UK expert on European-Israeli relations, wrote, in a commentary in last week’s London Jewish Chronicle that Harper is the “most pro-Israeli head of government in the Western world.”

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