So it seems Canada joined many other countries in boycotting this minute of silence requested by the DPRK representative.
As shown in the article, this move had the full support of Canada’s major parties – and in my opinion, was completely appropriate. Some may question whether this was diplomatically correct and whether we were needlessly insulting Pyongyang – and in turn harming any engagement efforts that may take place in the future.
In my opinion, this particular boycott, as well as our own government’s official response to Kim Jong Il’s demise, may, perhaps theoretically do some damage. Yet one has to wonder what exactly we are damaging by taking such a principled stance. Are we at the brink of dismantling North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs? Are we negotiating some grand deal to allow humanitarian aid into North Korea and close the prison camps? Are we in some major trade talks with North Korea that the rest of the world is not aware of? Is Pyongyang going to turn down food aid through the WFP because most of its major contributors walked out on this moment of silence?
The answer to all those questions is no. At this point of time, the world has very little to lose. In fact one has to wonder how many countries in the world we have to negotiate extensively with so that we can give humanitarian aid to the citizens of that said country. But that’s for another post.
Having a bit of a realist bent in me, I can say that I appreciate when being overtly principled can do damage to achieving a greater goal that may help support the very principles one wishes to be vocal about. For instance, the introduction of a transition program to wean North Korea off what has been a cycle of humanitarian aid in the past ten years could be one example where keeping quiet would benefit the people of North Korea in the long term. Yet this is not such a time. There are no greater goals that are at stake here. And simply put, to pay respects to a man who brutalized his own people violates every principle that Canada stands for – to the point that I would grumble, “political benefits be damned.”
So going back to this moment of silence. A suggestion for the future. What the countries who boycotted this should have done is request another moment of silence: for all those who have been beaten, who have been persecuted, who have been tortured, who have been killed at the behest of Kim Jong Il and his regime.
It only seems fair that if we are to pay tribute to a dictator, we should pay tribute to his victims as well.