Did Canada do the right thing by walking out on the UN speech of the Iranian president?

Interviewed by Rex Murphy on the September 27, 2009 program

"Did Canada do the right thing by walking out on the UN speech of the Iranian president?"


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  • Peter Kent
    Minister of State for Foreign Affairs

  • Bob Rae
    Liberal Foreign Affairs critic

  • Anne Bayefsky
    Political Science professor at York University, Senior fellow at the Hudson Institute

  • Payam Akhavan
    Law professor at McGill and former war crimes prosecutor at the Hague

Rex Murphy's introduction to the September 27, 2009 program:

"Did Canada do the right thing by walking out on the UN speech of the Iranian president?"

Some drama in the UN this week.

President Obama presided over the Security Council and delivered an address. Libyan President Gadhafi spoke 75 minutes over his allotted time and exhausted his translator - who was heard to cry "I can't take this anymore."

But the dramatic moment concerned Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who, having stirred up international comment with a speech the week previous denying the Holocaust, saying it was a "pretext" for the founding of Israel, was met with a partial boycott or walkout when it came time for him to address the UN assembly.

Canada led the way on this response. The Canadian government's position was made clear by the Prime Minister: Stephen Harper said Ahmadinejad's "absolutely repugnant remarks" previously made about the Holocaust were reason enough for Canadian officials to boycott the Iranian president's address.

"There are times when things are being said in this world that it is important that countries that have a moral compass stand up, make their views known. And our absence there will speak volumes about how Canada feels about the declarations of President Ahmadinejad."

We'd like to get your view on that stand today, as well as on matters associated with it. Do you agree with the Canadian government's stand? How does one - or more properly one's country - express dissatifaction with another UN member?

What do you think? Should Canada be standing up and taking strong moral positions on the world stage ...or should Canada hang back and try to play the quieter role of go-between and concilliator between other countries, even if some of their practices do not meet UN standards?

Does the UN itself need to establish protocols for the handling of extreme or rogue states and leaders?

What about the UN itself ...has it become a venue where despots, dictators and human rights abusers promote their beliefs ....or is their voice the price we pay for a meeting place where all nations can exchange views?

Some of the world's response to Iran's president is undoubtedly conditioned by the recent contested elections results in Iran, as well as the putdown of mass protests that followed those elections. It was revealed, as well, Friday that Iran has built a secret nuclear processing plant soon capable of producing weapons-grade fuel ...while at the same time the country continues to test short and medium range missiles. Many world leaders are afraid Iran is on a path that will lead ultimately to a nuclear exchange ...most likely with Israel.

This latter revelation has increased international concerns, and brought President Obama together with Gordon Brown of Great Britain and Nicolas Sarkozy of France to issue warnings about severe sanctions unless Iran complies with international law regarding such nuclear facilities.

How should countries such as Iran (and North Korea) be treated on the world stage? Should they be accorded full status in the community of nations ...or should they be shunned and pressured in the hope that they change their ways? What is Canada's role?

This is a broad discussion ...and our question today to start it is:

"Did Canada do the right thing by walking out on the UN speech of the Iranian president?"

I'm Rex Murphy ...on CBC Radio One ...and on Sirius satellite radio channel 137 ...this is Cross Country Checkup.


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