Richard Drew archives La Presse canadienne/Associated Press L’ex-ambassadrice Louise Blais s'adressant au Conseil de sécurité des Nations unies en 2018.
By voting for a ceasefire in Gaza, Canada broke with a decidedly pro-Israeli record at the United Nations (UN), a “principled” stance that has long reduced its influence around the world. believes former ambassador Louise Blais.
“I think that the vast majority of member countries would have thought that we were going to abstain,” confides the former number 2 of the Canadian delegation to the UN regarding the historic vote of the Last December 12.
The Trudeau government took a position before the United Nations General Assembly in New York in favor of a non-binding motion that demands an “immediate humanitarian ceasefire” in Gaza. In total, 152 other countries voted in this way, 23 abstained and 10 opposed, including Israel and its closest ally, the United States.
“It surprised me since, since Paul Martin's government [from 2003 to 2006], Canada has voted against, or at least abstained, any resolution that seems to target Israel. Because [Canada's] position was that Israel is too targeted by these resolutions and that there is no balance at the UN,” explains in an interview with the Devoir Louise Blais, Deputy Permanent Representative of Canada to the United Nations from 2017 to 2021 and now diplomat in residence at Laval University.
A principle that cost a lot
Canada has thus not only changed the discourse it has been giving since the outbreak of hostilities in October, but also its voting habits at the UN. Over the years, the country has opposed “hundreds of times” motions favorable to the Palestinian cause and supported by the vast majority of countries, according to the ex-ambassador's estimate.
Often isolated with the United States in the face of this international consensus, Ottawa voted “on principle” for its Israeli ally, she explains. And the country paid the price, diplomatically.
“Often, we were told by the ambassadors of these other countries: ‘Why ? We don’t understand Canada,’” recalls Ms. Blais. She even argues that this attitude was “an undeniable factor” in Canada’s two failures to obtain a seat on the Security Council, in 2010 and 2020.
“It [became] difficult for Canada to advance its positions internationally, at the level of international law, humanitarian law, and to have the reputation of being coherent […] The cost [of being opposed to the consensus on Palestine] is huge, huge. And I think it is now more appreciated by Canadians. »
The Assembly becomes militant
Canada's unique voice on this issue before the UN fell until recently to a certain general indifference among public opinion. The Hamas attacks against Israel on October 7 and the major conflict in Gaza that followed changed things, notes Louise Blais. All eyes are now on the Canadian position.
“We must give credit to the mobilization of the General Assembly this fall in the face of the paralysis of the Security Council. [The institution becomes] more militant, more activist, to reflect a position that is generalized across the planet,” she says, drawing a parallel with the consensus on condemning Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.
“And I think that’s good news. Because, somewhere, the supreme organ of the UN is the Assembly, it is the most democratic, in which each State has a vote. »
Louise Blais believes that the motion passed on December 12, although non-binding and “symbolic”, has the power to put pressure on the United States and remind it that opposing international consensus carries a diplomatic cost.