The so-called Durban II conference "has gone completely off the rails" and Canada wants no part of it, said Jason Kenney, secretary of state for multiculturalism and Canadian identity.
"Canada is interested in combating racism, not promoting it," Kenney told The Canadian Press. "We'll attend any conference that is opposed to racism and intolerance, not those that actually promote racism and intolerance.
"Our considered judgment, having participated in the preparatory meetings, was that we were set for a replay of Durban I. And Canada has no intention of lending its good name and resources to such a systematic promotion of hatred and bigotry."
The 2001 World Conference Against Racism in Durban turned into "a circus of intolerance," Kenney said.
One government official on Wednesday called the conference "a gong show."
Arab and Muslim countries ganged up in their criticisms of Israel. Israel and the United States walked out in protest; the Liberal government of the day remained in an effort to decry the attacks.
With Libya elected to chair the next gathering, Cuba appointed vice-chair and rapporteur, and anti-Israel rhetoric and actions building, Kenney said his government was left with no choice but to abandon the preparatory process for the followup meeting.
B'nai Brith Canada applauded the government, saying Durban I "degenerated into a hate-fest directed at Israel and the Jewish delegates attending the conference."
The group's executive vice-president, Frank Dimant, said Ottawa has acted "clearly and decisively by refusing to participate in a venue that pays lip service to anti-racism but in fact provides a platform for the promotion of hatred and bigotry."
Kenney noted important preparatory meetings have been called on Jewish high holidays, preventing Israeli officials from participating.
The UN gave planning oversight for the conference to its Human Rights Council, which has targeted Israel in 14 of its 15 resolutions charging human-rights violations in its first two years of existence.
"We've tried to influence it so that we would not revisit the overt expressions of hatred which came out of the original conference," said Kenney. "But we unfortunately ran into a brick wall.
"The process has been hijacked by those who would seek to replay the terrible experience of the first Durban conference."
Iran was named to the organizing committee, Kenney noted.
"This is a country whose government has publicly expressed its desire to eliminate the only Jewish country in the world," he said.
Furthermore, all of the non-governmental organizations invited to the first conference have been invited back to the second, including those that were at the "forefront of the hatred," some of which posted pro-Hitler posters at the 2001 gathering.
Concluded Kenney: "If we felt there was any realistic chance that Canada could help to positively influence the process, we would stay involved. . . . By making this bold decision, Canada may send a wake-up call to the Durban organizers and other countries."