Canada will not take part in events marking the 20th anniversary of the World Conference Against Racism in Durban, known as Durban IV, because of the antisemitism and anti-Israel nature of the original event.
The announcement came soon after Australia said it would not attend, and several days after the US also said it would boycott the conference.
“Canada remains committed, at home and abroad, including at the UN, to advancing human rights, inclusion and combating antisemitism, islamophobia and systemic racism in all its forms,” Global Affairs Canada spokesman Grantly Franklin said.
“Canada opposes initiatives at the United Nations and in other multilateral forums that unfairly single out and target Israel for criticism.
“Canada is concerned that the Durban Process has and continues to be used to push for anti-Israel sentiment and as a forum for antisemitism. That is why we do not plan to attend or participate in events surrounding the 20th anniversary of the Durban Declaration and Program of Action,” the spokesman added.
The conference is scheduled for September 22 in New York.
Canadian MP Anthony Housefather tweeted that he is “very pleased” by the decision.
“The Durban process has and continues to be used to push anti-Israel sentiment and as a forum for antisemitism,” Housefather wrote. “We join our allies the US and Australia in saying a firm ‘no’ to attendance.”
The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), the advocacy agent of the Jewish Federations of Canada-UIA, said it “appreciates the decision by the government of Canada not to attend Durban IV.
“Since Durban II (2009), the Durban Process has been tainted by antisemitism and anti-Israel sentiment,” CIJA stated. Now that Canada has joined the US and Australia in reiterating its rejection of the Durban Process, we hope that other allies will follow suit. Racism and antisemitism should never be given any platform,”
Jaime Kirzner-Roberts, Director of Policy at Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Center said that “by publicly stating it will not participate in Durban IV, Canada is making it clear that it stands against the ugly antisemitism and anti-Israel hate the conference is known for.”
B’nai Brith Canada CEO Michael Mostyn said he’s “encouraged” that the government is sticking to its past policy of “boycotting the profoundly flawed Durban process.”
“Antisemitism must never be dismissed or ignored, no matter what forum it’s coming from,” Mostyn stated.
On Thursday, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said his country would not participate in Durban IV.
“We will not associate Australia with one-sided and contentious language that singles out Israel or an event that champions such language,” Morrison said at an event of the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce in Melbourne.
“This is entirely consistent with my government’s very strong voting position on UN General Assembly resolutions, in the Human Rights Council and elsewhere. We will continue that same approach to Durban IV later this year.”
The 2001 World Conference Against Racism, also known as Durban I, after the South African city in which it took place, was a hotbed of antisemitic and anti-Israel messages, and is thought to mark when anti-Israel activists began using apartheid as an accusation against Israel.
An early draft of the resolution adopted at the Governmental Conference at Durban equated Zionism with racism, leading the US and Israel to withdraw from the conference. The final draft did not condemn Zionism as racist, but the Israel-Palestinian conflict is the only one listed specifically under the section on “victims of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.”
The NGO Forum at Durban approved a resolution calling Israel a “racist apartheid state” and accusing it of genocide. Antisemitic materials, such as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, were distributed at the event. Durban Conference secretary-general Mary Robinson refused to accept the document over the language, saying “there was horrible antisemitism present.”
A US State Department spokesperson told The Jerusalem Post last week that it would not take part.
“The United States will not attend or participate in any events commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Durban Declaration and Program of Action or the World Conference on Racism, which preceded it,” the State Department spokesperson stated on Monday.
“The United States stands with Israel, and has always shared its concerns over the Durban process’s anti-Israel sentiment, use as a forum for antisemitism, and freedom of expression issues.”
France is also expected to pull out, a diplomatic source said, but has not yet issued an official statement.
A German foreign official said Berlin had yet to decide on the matter.
Responding to a Parliamentary Question from Baroness Deech last Month, UK Minister of State for the Commonwealth and UN, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon noted “the antisemitic actions and speeches in and around” Durban III.
He said the UK will consider its attendance at Durban IV in light of developments between now and September, to gauge how likely the conference is to host antisemitism again.
The US did not participate in the Durban II and III follow-up conferences in 2009 and 2011, respectively, because as US president Barack Obama explained in 2009, the original conference “became a session through which folks expressed antagonism toward Israel in ways that were oftentimes completely hypocritical and counterproductive.”
Israel, Canada, Italy, Australia, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Poland also boycotted the conference. In 2011, for Durban III, the number of countries boycotting rose to 14.