For the second time in two years, Paul Heinbecker, Canada’s ambassador to the United Nations, spoke about pressing international events to a crowd of mostly Canadian students Monday afternoon.
At a Berkeley College Master’s Tea, Heinbecker spoke about Iraq, the role of the U.N., the asymmetrical balance of power, and the lack of communication between the United States and Canada. The 90-minute off-the-record talk held the audience captive and produced a lengthy question-and-answer session. Heinbecker also made a similar on-the-record speech to a smaller group composed mostly of adults Monday evening.
At last year’s talk, Heinbecker spoke about Sept. 11, 2001, giving a North American perspective on global security following the terrorist attacks. This year, he spoke about the U.S. initiative to invade Iraq and the 12-month exemption U.S. citizens have received from the International Criminal Court’s jurisdiction.
Heinbecker was appointed as Canada’s permanent representative to the United Nations in June 2000. From 1989 to 1992, he served as the then-prime minister’s chief foreign policy adviser and assistant secretary to the cabinet for foreign and defense policy. He was named ambassador to Germany in 1992, a position he held until 1996. Since 1996, he has served in the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade as assistant deputy minister for global and security policy and as political director.
In the evening speech, Heinbecker came out strongly in support of a multilateralist foreign policy that worked through international law and networks bound by treaties. He stressed the need for the United Nations to “be united and be clear,” recognizing the difficulties that this would present, since he said he believes that 50 percent of the member states would not support a war against Iraq even with a Security Council resolution.
Heinbecker also touched on the “anti-Americanism” that Americans often associate with the United Nations. He argued that the United Nations sometimes reflects more of an “anti-American foreign policy” than an aversion to the United States itself.
Heinbecker described the United Nations as being “engagingly human, maddeningly frustrating, and at the same time particularly representative.”
Before the tea, Heinbecker discussed his critique of the exemption the United States received from the International Criminal Court.
“We are pro-court, not anti-American or pro-Europe,” Heinbecker said. “The fundamental issue is nobody is above the law.”
He said he does not think that the United States should not have to worry about the United Nations persecuting war criminals.
“[I don’t] think that the U.S. has a lot to worry about, presuming it is willing to live by international law like the rest of us,” Heinbecker said.
After the tea, students praised the Ambassador enthusiastically.
Sadiq Abdulla ’05, a Canadian student, said that Heinbecker gave a perspective many Canadians have but might not always say.
“He was probably more willing to put forth his opinions than others are,” Abdulla said. “He tells it like it is, especially his point why we think we deserve the respect that we should.”
Another Canadian student, Matt Schlenker ’05, also said he found the talk insightful, especially regarding the greater need for Canadian-American communication.
“I also really liked his final comments when he said we should look at American foreign policy and the world around us and think about its results for ourselves,” Schlenker said.