This House believes that the UN headquarters should be located in Toronto. This resolution opened the Third Annual CIC-Toronto Student Foreign Affairs Debate – a lively and intelligent face-off between Toronto’s two downtown universities – Ryerson University’s History Society and the University of Toronto’s Hart House. Ryerson’s team of Videsh Brijpaul and Jane Hoysak spoke in favour of the resolution, arguing that the UN should, in fact be headquartered in Toronto. Mr. Brijpaul, a witty and confident speaker, opened his speech by stating that the UN is a casualty of the decline of America, which he believes is still living in a post-WWII era. As a result, world powers hold a distasteful view of both the US and the UN. Mr. Brijpaul believes that engaged citizens must push for more than simply relocating the UN – it must be reformed.
To make a meaningful change, Mr. Brijpaul argues the UN must be surrounded by people with similar goals and characteristics as are envisioned for the UN to be an example. Unwavering in his speech, he argues that Toronto is just the place for the UN because it is a global mosaic, and can contribute to Canada’s global role in international policy. Mr. Brijpaul voiced hope that this would encourage Canada to be more involved and accountable in global affairs.
A dynamic and well-spoken Sarah Millman opened the arguments from the University of Toronto team. She stated that it was arrogant to assume Toronto is the best option for relocating the UN’s headquarters, based only on its history of peacekeeping. Ms. Millman urged her opponents to be more pragmatic, arguing that there are other viable location options within the US. She then warned her opponents to be careful not to confuse US domestic issues with international issues when criticizing the role of the US in global affairs. Ms. Millman reminded the house of the history and legacy of the US in international affairs, and stated that the US has an interest, responsibility and willingness to continue hosting the UN’s headquarters.
Ms. Millman astutely pointed out that Canada is not the global leader that Mr. Brijpaul claimed, but in fact, Canada tends to follow the lead of the US in treaties and alliances. She further contended that Canada does not necessarily have a stake in this battle since it is not the diplomatic leader it claims to be. She then moved on to highlight the logistical issues of hosting the UN headquarters in Toronto, such as a lack of infrastructure, making it unfeasible to host the UN safely, and the exorbitant economic costs it would take to fully prepare a Canadian city.
Ryerson’s second speaker, Jane Hoysak, was right on the mark in offering up intelligent thoughts in support of the resolution. Ms. Hoysak iterated that the relocation of the UN is not an argument of finances, but an argument of principles – the UN needs reform. Ms. Hoysak brought attention to the possibility that there could be an underlying bias in having the UN headquarters located in one of the same countries that sits on the Security Council, leading to what she has called a paralysis in response to global issues.
Ms. Hoysak restated her partner’s thoughts that Toronto symbolizes progress, diversity, and multiculturalism, boldly stating that American cities do not support these values due to their melting pot approach. Alex Smith, the second speaker on the University of Toronto team brought a reflective tone to the end the evening, further echoing his partner’s incisive arguments. Mr. Smith argued that having the UN headquartered in New York, a city that naturally and regularly draws the world’s attention, already made the UN more conducive to reform. He then went on to reaffirm his partner’s earlier rebuttal – criticism of US domestic policy should be evaluated independently of UN foreign policy.
Mr. Smith also took the time to refocus the scope of the debate, pointing out that this was not a debate about the UN’s success, but a debate about where its headquarters should be located. He also warned that removing the UN from the US runs the risk of offending the US. This could result in decreased funding and uprooting a part of history.
The judges and audience were split after hearing the two well-spoken teams. After a tie-breaking vote by the CIC representatives, the University of Toronto team walked away victorious.
By Rhianna Hardy, CIC-Toronto Social Media Correspondent