Federal cabinet minister Jason Kenney has been given a Moral Courage Award by UN Watch, an NGO that monitors the United Nations and promotes human rights.
At a ceremony in Geneva on May 22, UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer said Kenney was being honoured “for demonstrating the courage to lead in upholding the founding principles of the United Nations, and defending the true principles of human rights.”
“When others have been silent while serial perpetrators of human rights abuses like Iran and Syria seek to hijack the UN’s human rights and anti-racism causes, Minister Kenney has been a clear and consistent voice for their millions of victims, opposing tyranny, hypocrisy, and injustice,” Neuer said.
As former Immigration Minister and now Minister of Employment and Social Development and Minister of Multiculturalism, Kenney has often spoken out against human rights abuses and anti-Semitism throughout the world.
During his prepared speech, Kenney praised Canada’s multiculturalism while condemning tyrannical regimes that have veto powers at the U.N.
“Human rights are not subject to interpretation—they exist by virtue of the dignity of the individual person,” he said. “They cannot be written off simply because a handful of particularly brutal regimes have been given veto powers in a bureaucratic body.”
He also spoke about an unexpected invitation from Zhou Yongkang, China’s former State Secretary for Public Security, to go for a drive together and have a chat.
“Zhou Yongkang was responsible more than anyone for the violent oppression, for example, of the Falun Gong, Falun Dafa practitioners, of Tibetans, of dissidents, of unregulated faith groups,” Kenney said.
He then described how Zhou asked him, “We understand that you are an expert on so-called human rights. Can you explain to me what are these human rights?”
Kenney replied, “Well, Minister, these human rights are a reflection of the innate inalienable dignity of the human person and they are the inalienable property of all human people, including the Chinese people. They are not the invention of Western liberal democracies—they are the birthright of all men and women.”
Kenney continued, “And for me to think that his government was represented on the U.N. Human Rights Council when he was essentially mocking the very principles upon which the United Nations was founded: the reaffirmation of the faith and fundamental human rights and the dignity and worth of the human person.”
Kenney talked at length about Canada’s support for Israel and “distortions of the Durban process” (high-level U.N. meetings to combat racism) that caused Canada to be the first country to decide to not attend the talks. It was Kenney who announced the withdrawal, claiming the conference “proved to be a dangerous platform for racism, including antisemitism.”
Canada’s lead in boycotting the talks was followed by several other democracies, including Israel and the United States.
The UN Watch website posted a number of congratulatory messages sent to Kenney upon his receipt of the award, including from Canadian Friends of Burma, African Diaspora Association of Canada, Vietnamese Canadian Federation, All Pakistan Minorities Association, World Uyghur Congress, Federation for a Democratic China, and the Dalai Lama.
“I have great admiration for your leadership, the concern and active support you have shown for the Tibetan cause, and your role in enhancing Canada’s diverse multi-ethnic and multicultural society,” the Dalai Lama wrote.
“I have been impressed by your efforts to support the rights of oppressed people around the world.”