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Justin Trudeau’s Quest for a United Nations Security Council Seat

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Part of the Canada and International Affairs book series (CIAF)


This chapter seeks to determine why the Trudeau government seeks a seat on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) for the 2021–2022 term despite so many uncertainties and challenges. First, there is the lack of a guarantee of a win against Ireland and Norway for one of the two seats. Next, there is the significant cost to campaign and hold the seat. Third, there is the fact that the Liberals may not be in power come time to hold the seat. Moreover, the dysfunction of the UNSC and the clear disdain Canada’s closest neighbor and ally, the United States, holds for the UNSC seem reason enough to avoid the seat. Is campaigning for a seat a Liberal dynastic imperative? Or a Canadian one? This chapter examines the powers and importance of the UNSC, Canada’s history on the Council and the costs, benefits, and challenges of mounting a Canadian bid for a Council seat.

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  1. 1.

    For a list of member states never elected to the UNSC, see United Nations Security Council, (n.d.-a). I am grateful to a number of excellent students from the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs for their ideas, including Geneviève Fauteux, Uriel Marantz, Alysha Pannu, and Erika Schneidereit. I particularly thank Alayna Jay from the Royal Military College of Canada for her outstanding research in calculating every Canadian vote in the UNSC’s history.

  2. 2.

    Note, however, that Minister Freeland’s foreign policy priorities speech on 6 June 2017 did not make reference to the UN Security Council, although mention was made of peacekeeping, the 2030 Sustainability Goals, and other UN programs (Freeland 2017).

  3. 3.

    United Nations Charter (1945). Article 24 (1).

  4. 4.

    There have been cases of states only serving for 1 year. For example, Italy and then the Netherlands are sharing a two-year term (2017–2018). It is also something for Canada to consider—perhaps splitting a two-year term with Ireland.

  5. 5.

    For a full list of all of the regional group arrangements for the UNSC, see

  6. 6.

    The Military Staff Committee was to be made up of the five chiefs of defence of the P5 to advise on military matters. Cold War dynamics and the lack of a UN military meant that the MCC, while it continued to meet, was of limited value.

  7. 7.

    Chapnick (2005, 138). See, also, Mackenzie (2009, 454).

  8. 8.

    The original quote was from a letter from Holmes to Riddell, July 24, 1947 (Hilliker and Barry 1995).

  9. 9.

    Panetta (2016).

  10. 10.

    Riddell-Dixon (2006/2007); von Riekoff (2002).

  11. 11.

    I argue that national interests are not the same as values. Vital national interests speak to the continued survival of a state; values describe the aspirational conduct of a state within its borders and in its relations with other states.

  12. 12.

    Bosco (2009, 4).

  13. 13.

    Security Council Report (2016).

  14. 14.

    S/20757, which became S/RES/638 (1989).

  15. 15.

    The impetus for the resolution was the hanging of US Marine Lt Col William Higgins by pro-Iranian Shiite Muslim extremists in retaliation for the Israeli abduction of a Hezbollah spiritual leader. Lt Col Williams served on the UN Lebanon mission (UNOGIL) (United Press International 1989).

  16. 16.

    United Nations Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect, (n.d.).

  17. 17.

    Malone (2009, 8).

  18. 18.

    Malone (1997, 403).

  19. 19.

    Security Council Report (2015).

  20. 20.

    United Nations News Centre (2016).

  21. 21.

    Bosco (2014).

  22. 22.

    Ibbitson and Slater (2010).

  23. 23.

    Blanchfield (2015).

  24. 24.

    Norway is only a Sectoral Dialogue Partner of ASEAN.

  25. 25.

    Hampson and Paris (2010).

  26. 26.

    CTV News (2016).

  27. 27.

    The sixth organ of the UN, the Trusteeship Council, discharged its final trust territory Palau in 1994. The Trusteeship Council, therefore, is now dormant.


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Cite this chapter

Charron, A. (2018). Justin Trudeau’s Quest for a United Nations Security Council Seat. In: Hillmer, N., Lagassé, P. (eds) Justin Trudeau and Canadian Foreign Policy. Canada and International Affairs. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

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