About Me
Canada and the UN
Canadian Facts
Canadian Myths Revealed
Canadian Statistics
Canuck Abroad
Citizen Rights
Election 2004

Finance Information
Foreign Policy (History)
Foreign Policy (Organizations)
Flag and Symbols

Government of Canada
Immigration Information
Political Parties
Prime Ministers
Provincial Government
Regions of Canada
Toronto/CN Tower
The Soapbox
Top Ten Lists
Trudeau Remembered
What's New?

Canada and the United Nations

Canada and the United Nations (Information from DFAIT)

The United Nations is the only multilateral organization whose membership approaches universality and whose agenda encompasses all areas of human activity, in every region of the world. It is, in effect, the marketplace at which much of the world's multilateral diplomacy is conducted, the mechanism through which the views of the international community are given expression, and the forum in which grievances are aired and, when Member States are so inclined, resolved. The UN's ability to live up to its founders' ideals, and to its potential, is almost exclusively determined by the 188 countries which, collectively, constitute the United Nations. Our successes are its successes; our failures, its failures. This Organization can accomplish only that which its Member States allow.

Canada has been an active and committed participant in the United Nations since its founding in 1945 in San Francisco, where Canada played a key role in the drafting of the Charter. Individual Canadians have served vital roles within the United Nations, and many of the Organization's great accomplishments have had a Canadian dimension. For example, fifty years ago John Humphrey was the principal author of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; Lester Pearson helped to invent the concept of peacekeeping, winning the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to resolve the Suez Crisis of 1956; and Maurice Strong chaired both the 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, in Stockholm, and the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, in Rio de Janeiro, and also served as founding Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme. Canadians have occupied key positions within the United Nations System, including the Presidency of the General Assembly (Lester Pearson, in 1952-53) and Canada served on the Security Council in 1948-49, 1958-59, 1967-68, 1977-78 and 1989-90. In January 1998, a Canadian, Louise Fréchette, was appointed the first-ever UN Deputy Secretary-General.

As set out in the Charter, the purposes of the United Nations are:

- to maintain international peace and security;

- to develop friendly relations among nations; and,

- to co-operate internationally in solving economic, social, cultural and humanitarian problems and in promoting better standards of living and respect for human rights.

These and other objectives underlying the United Nations have animated Canadian foreign and defence policy from the outset. Over the past fifty years, Canada has made a significant, constructive and sustained contribution in all areas of UN activity: peace and security, development assistance, human rights, and social, economic and environmental affairs.

As the cornerstone of a rules-based international system, the UN has remained throughout a vital forum through which we have sought to influence world affairs, to defend our security and sovereignty within a stable global framework, to promote our trade and economic interests, and to protect and project Canadian values such as fairness, equal opportunity, and respect for human rights. Living, as Canada does, in the shadow of the most powerful and influential nation on earth, the UN has been of prime importance in our efforts to counterbalance continental attractions, to establish a clear, independent identity and to have a sustained and long-term impact on the evolution of world affairs. But to describe the UN merely in terms of counterbalance is to greatly underate its importance to Canada. Quite simply, the international political and social issues that matter most to Canadians are those that individual countries, acting on their own, are powerless to address effectively. The promotion of human rights and justice, the prevention and reduction of environmental degradation, the alleviation of poverty and the promotion of development and human security on a global basis -- these can only be achieved through multilateral discussion and negotiation. The only global forum available is the UN. It is therefore no surprise that support for the UN is deeply entrenched throughout Canadian society. The UN remains as relevant to Canada today as it was in 1945. Possibly more so. The 1995 Foreign Policy White Paper, Canada and the World, stated unambiguously that

The UN continues to be the key vehicle for pursuing Canada's global security objectives. Canada can beset move forward its global security priorities by working with other members states. The success of the UN is fundamental, therefore, to Canada's future security.

Canada has participated in virtually every major UN peacekeeping operation. The Organization remains a vital instrument through which Canadians and others are working to achieve bolster "human security", by ridding the world of antipersonnel mines, by halting traffic in small arms, by putting an end to the conscription of children as soldiers and, most recently, by helping to end impunity for war criminals, by chairing the negotiations leading to the creation of an International Criminal Court.

Canada is investing particular effort in the ongoing process of UN reform, in order to help to ensure that the Organization remains responsive to the interests and concerns of its membership and remains capable of dealing with threats to global security. To this end, Canada is pledged to work to strengthen the UN's capacity for preventive action, to enhance the UN's rapid reaction capability, to improve the functioning of the UN's decision-making bodies, and to restore the UN to a sound financial basis.

We are the seventh largest contributor to the UN budget, at US$28.6 million, or 2.754% of the UN's budget, after the U.S., Japan, Germany, France, the U.K., and Italy. We always pay our annual assessed contributions in full, on time, and without condition.

Canada is a member of all the UN Specialized Agencies and major programs and is actively engaged throughout the United Nations System. We have seven diplomatic missions accredited to the United Nations, in New York (Permanent Mission of Canada to the United Nations), Geneva (Permanent Mission of Canada to the Office of the United Nations at Geneva, to the Conference on Disarmament and to the World Trade Organization), Montreal (Permanent Mission of Canada to the International Civil Aviation Organization), Nairobi (Permanent Mission of Canada to the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements and the United Nations Environment Program), Paris (Permanent Delegation of Canada to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), Rome (Permanent Mission of Canada to the Food and Agriculture Organization) and Vienna (Permanent Mission of Canada to the International Organizations in Vienna).

The broad support for the UN that is manifest across Canada is well warranted. The Organization is not perfect; indeed, as noted previously, it is only as efficient and relevant as its 188 Member States allow it to be. The UN has, however, demonstrated the ability to adapt, institutionally and operationally, as new issues have emerged and as relations among countries continue to evolve. The United Nations remains crucial to Canada and, we believe, essential to the conduct of diplomacy in an ever-more globalized world. As such, it constitutes a precious resource which we are committed to preserving and protecting.



SRDPLW.JPG (415644 bytes)

This is a gift from the Soviet Union to the UN. It represents "Turning their swords into plowshares," which is kind of like the underlying philosophy of the UN.

Many Canadians will tell you that peacekeeping is a Canadian invention. I think there was some French guy who thought of it first but it was Lester B. Pearson, Canadian diplomat to the UN and soon to be Prime Minister, who made the idea work in 1955-6 during the Suez Crisis.

In case you aren’t familiar with peacekeeping, in a perfect world it works like this: two sides in a conflict agree to stop fighting and soldiers from other countries representing the United Nations will come into that area to prevent anymore outbreaks of violence while a peaceful solution is being sought. Since this is less than a perfect world, it doesn’t always work out that way such as the recent cases of the UN Protection Force in Bosnia has shown. (Peacekeepers were thrown into a situation where they were lightly armed, ill-equipped to properly protect civilians where there was still active fighting and no one respected the UN enough to stop.  UNPROFOR was a disaster – but at least they’re working on it.)

Aside from that little rant on UNPROFOR, there have been some successful peacekeeping missions around the world such as the one in Suez. There is one in Cyprus that has been going on for years but at least hostilities haven’t broken out there in a while.

Canada is a really active participant in peacekeeping for a number of reasons – it was a

CNDMISS.JPG (8334 bytes)

The Queen's International Affairs Association and former UN Ambassador Fowler. (He's in the middle) - October 1999

Canadian plan, most missions are good for our forces (which are relatively small in number but well trained), and it's generally considered a humanitarian activity so it fits in well with Canadian goals.



Cool Canadians

Right now the current Canadian ambassador to the UN is Paul Heinbecker.  He sits in the General Assembly, Security Council and other committees. There are, however, a number of Canadians that are involved in the UN outside of the Canadian Permanent Mission. Louise Fréchette is currently the UN Deputy-Secretary General of the United Nations, which is the second most senior position in the UN bureaucracy. You can read all about her here:

Louise Fréchette Paul Heinbecker

This is what I got off of the Canadian Permanent Mission to the United Nations website about Canada and the United Nations. It's a lot more elegant that what I write. You can go here for their web page:



Thoughts on why Canada loves the UN                      

I while I was at Queen's, I made a friend from the United States. He's a really neat guy and we talk about Canadian-American and international relations a lot. Anyway, he told me how surprised he was to see how internationally focused we are here in Canada. I guess that is true for the most part. A lot of people I knew in my classes (especially in politics) planned to go abroad for at least a while and we pay a lot of attention to international politics - I guess more than the US.

Anyway, in case you haven’t read my bio I am an international-relations geek. After taking courses on the UN, International Organizations and Canadian Foreign Policy I have actually learned a couple things which I guess I can pass on - sparing you the tuition at Queen’s.

Canada is pretty much a middle power. This means that we aren't as powerful as the United States or some European countries - but we have more influence than, say, Botswana (No offence intended to anyone from Botswana, of course.)

We have a decent economy but this is because of the United States.  Compared to other nations in the world, we have a VERY small armed forces. (The statistic about there being more New York City police officers than Canadian soldiers is true. My friend always goes on about the low levels of military spending we have here– but again, this is because we have traditionally relied on the United States for our defence... but I digress.)

However, geographically we are in a good position. This has allowed Canada to get in on some neat organizations and have good ties with the US. More on this another time.

Anyway, because of our relatively small stature economically or militarily, Canadian foreign policy makers often depend on the United Nations (UN) as a place to conduct foreign policy. It’s a place where we can have a voice and initiate actions to combat whatever problem there is.  Since the US has such strong economic influence and military power, they can often speak out and other countries will listen. Since countries generally don’t fear our “mighty Canadian military” we have to find other ways of having a say.

One way is to sit on a heck of a lot of committees at the UN. I am not sure what the final tally is, but we sit on a lot of groups permanently (such as the Economic and Social Council) and temporarily (such as the UN Security Council – arguably the most powerful part of the UN.) While we have to share the table – it at least gives us a chance to speak and/or try to initiate policies or programs to deal with world problems and meet the goals of Canadian foreign policy.

Therefore, if you ever read statements of Canadian foreign policy principals and objectives, you will notice that much of it is directed towards the UN. Usually it says something about trying to make the UN work better and trying to solve world problems through the UN.

Here is a link from the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade's magazine Canada World View. It provides links to their articles from their issue largely focusing on the UN:


Unme.jpg (126980 bytes)This is me sitting on one of China's gift to the United Nations. I thought it would make a nice picture at the time but now I realize that China would probably not want me sitting on it. October 1999.