Now it can be told: CBC News revealed today that, back on Sept. 26, 2011, when Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird addressed the United Nations General Assembly, departmental staff added to his speech several paragraphs on the Palestinian people’s right to statehood, quite against the FM’s wishes. Catching the unauthorized changes in time, Baird altered the text one more time, to reflect his support for Israel.
The first draft of Baird’s speech noted that “Canada has been very clear that it does not support the recognition of Palestinian state.” It then urged the Palestinians to get back to the negotiating table with Israel.
But a lengthy paragraph that expressed positive Canadian sentiments toward the Palestinians was eventually cut altogether. It read:
“Our support for the West Bank and Gaza demonstrates Canada’s ongoing commitment to assist Palestinians in building the foundations of a viable, independent, democratic and peaceful Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel.”
Three days before Baird’s address, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas formally announced his intent to pursue the Palestinian statehood bid in his own general assembly speech. And two days before Abbas’s speech, Prime Minister Stephen Harper held a face-to-face meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the UN. The two leaders expressed their mutual admiration and friendship.
As you may recall, the Palestinian statehood issue dominated last fall’s session of the assembly, and Canada’s opposition — mirroring that of many countries, including the United States — was well known at the time.
In the speech he actually ended up carrying at the UN, Baird drew a parallel with pre-Second World War appeasers of Nazi Germany, saying: “Canada will not accept or stay silent while the Jewish state is attacked for defending its territory and its citizens. The Second World War taught us all the tragic price of ‘going along’ just to ‘get along.'”
The only direct reference to the Palestinian people in Baird’s address was to emphasize Canada’s opposition to the Palestinian Authority’s stated plan to seek recognition of statehood at the assembly.