Diminishing Value for Canada to Join UN Security Council

June 10, 2020 Updated: June 10, 2020

News Analysis

There’s now less than a week to go in the race for seats on the United Nations Security Council that Ottawa has been pursuing since shortly after the 2015 federal election.

The council may be the U.N.’s ultimate arbiter in making war, peace, or levying sanctions against recalcitrant members, but is it worth the investment for Canada?

“[UNSC] has been guided by naked political interest,” says J. Berkshire Miller, a senior fellow with the Macdonald-Laurier Institute.

Canada has already taken the route of pandering to leaders in Africa with bad human rights records as part of the pursuit to secure votes. Africa’s 54 voting members are important for Canada and others vying for membership in the organization.

“[C]osying up to African states mere months before the vote reeks both of desperation and (in the case of countries like SenegalRwanda and others with significant human rights concerns) a moral compass adrift,” Miller writes in a paper.

What’s more, Miller says, a United Nations that has not pushed back in a “meaningful” way against regimes such as China’s for violating international rules in the South China Sea or suppressing human rights, or the growing authoritarian influences in countries like Russia, may not be deserving of having Canada on the council.

“While we may deserve a UNSC seat, it is not worth sacrificing a strong and uncompromised Canadian voice on the world stage to get it,” he says.

Ken Coates, a professor at the Graduate School of Public Policy at the University of Saskatchewan, says politicization is rampant in the entire U.N. body.

“The United Nations is perhaps the most political institution in the world right now, in a snappy political sense,” Coates told The Epoch Times. “It’s not values-driven and it doesn’t have a huge amount of assured integrity in it.”

What diminishes the value of membership in the council further is the uncertainty of the United States’ appetite for participation in the body.

“If Mr. Trump is re-elected, then I think the United Nations is for all intents and purposes going to be emasculated or disempowered. And it will be defunded in a whole bunch of different ways,” Coates says.


U.N. member nations will be voting on which countries can join as non-permanent members of the council on June 17.

The body consists of five permanent members: the United States, U.K., Russia, France, and China. The permanent members retain veto power over any resolution while rotating members switch out every two years.

Altogether, seven members will contest five available seats allocated to different regions in the upcoming contest.

To win, Canada needs a two-thirds majority of permanent member support and must beat out either Ireland or Norway for one of two seats up for grabs in ‘Western nations and others’’ category.

Both Norway and Ireland have outspent Canada in foreign aid as a percentage of their GDP, making the competition for votes tougher for Ottawa.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau travelled to Africa in February to secure votes at the annual African Union Summit before flying to Senegal. Masai Ujiri, president of defending NBA champions Toronto Raptors, accompanied him on the trip.

Trudeau has also been speaking with leaders of a number of African countries over the past month, including leaders of Liberia and Bostwana.

Membership on the rotating council have included most member states, from tiny island nations like current member Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, to despotic regimes such as Libya under dictator Muammar Gaddafi between 2008 and 2009.

Canada’s last term as a member of the council was in 1999-2000.