OTTAWA — The Trudeau government is planning to use next week’s United Nations General Assembly to try building momentum against states using people as pawns in diplomatic spats, with the help of former detainees such as Michael Kovrig.
“We’re in the midst of an international security crisis. That’s the reality in which Canada and the world is right now,” Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly told The Canadian Press in an exclusive interview.
“Now is the time to reach out to a wide group of partners,” she said.
Joly will co-host a meeting with her counterparts from Costa Rica and Malawi, as well as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, on ways to prevent states from arresting foreigners on political grounds.
It’s part of an effort Canada launched in February 2021 to try creating a norm against arbitrary detention, with an action plan that aims to prevent states from placing people in harsh conditions and denying them legal council.
A meeting next week to touch base on those goals will include people who have been arbitrarily detained, including former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig, whom China imprisoned for more than 1,000 days.
Also slated to join is American journalist Jason Rezaian, whom Iran jailed for 18 months.
The work against arbitrary detention involves a range of countries, Joly said, particularly smaller ones that Ottawa isn’t in frequent contact with, such as Panama, Tonga and Benin
Joly said Canada still relies on its traditional friends in the G7 or NATO, but Ottawa is also looking for like-minded countries beyond those groups. The UN General Assembly is a prime place to meet heads of government and foreign ministers from those countries, she noted.
“We need to develop new relationships in order to find the right partners to reinforce the importance of the rules that have kept us safe since the Second World War,” she said.
“My goal will be to engage with them, to listen to them and to work on finding solutions together”
The face-time will also help Canada’s campaign to join the UN Human Rights Council, Joly said. “We will be advocating for our bid in every single meeting.”
Joly will join Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in New York City, and the two will touch base with countries trying to help Haiti establish security, after brazen gangs have sowed violence across the Caribbean country.
Canada is leading an effort to co-ordinate Haiti’s policing needs and what resources other countries can offer, and Joly said the meeting in New York will help Ottawa push for more countries to help Haitians restore normalcy.
“The goal is to bring more countries to the table,” she said, noting that more civilians have been killed in Haiti this year than in Ukraine. “This is something that should attract much more the interest of countries around the world.”
Joly will also take part in a session of the women and girls in Afghanistan, which she said involves both assessing humanitarian needs and advocating against United Nations organizations working the Taliban until they ease a brutal crackdown on women.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 15, 2023.
Dylan Robertson, The Canadian Press