TORONTO — Canada will not attend Durban III, a United Nations conference on racism next September in South Africa because the event has negatively targeted Israel, the country's immigration minister said Thursday.
Minister Jason Kenney said Canada has lost faith in the Durban process, a conference that began in 2001 to develop strategies to defeat racism.
"Canada is clearly committed to the fight against racism, but the Durban process commemorates an agenda that actually promotes racism rather than combats it."
Next year's event commemorates the 10th anniversary of the initial Durban conference that saw the United States walk out in protest over texts branding Israel as a racist and apartheid state.
The initial conference, which ended days before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks against the United States, produced the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.
The 62-page document raises 122 "general issues," among them "concern about the plight of the Palestinian people under foreign occupation." It "recognizes the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and the right to an independent state."
But most offensive to Canada and several other countries were speeches laced with anti-Israeli rhetoric. Canada led a boycott of Durban II in Geneva last year, where Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad railed against the Jewish state.
This week, a UN committee adopted a resolution calling for the commemorative meeting next Sept. 21 to "reaffirm that the (original Durban declaration) provides the most comprehensive UN framework for combating racism."
"We voted against this because we believe that the proposed meeting will only perpetuate the kind of divisive rhetoric that led Canada to boycott this process in the past," said Kenney.