In recent years, Canada on the international stage has become like the socially awkward, border-line retarded cousin who gets invited to Thanksgiving out of courtesy to grandma (Great Britten). You know the one he bums a ride with his cooler big brother (USA) and then stands in the corner with a face full of cheese puffs so nobody asks him anything important. He just smiles and nods at whatever big brother says half the time not understanding a word of it.
Gone are the days when Canada could take the lead on any international issues of note. Not since Lester B. Pearson was Prime Minister in the 60s have we led a major UN project, the UN Peacekeeping force. In more recent years we squandered our chance to lead the way on land mines even though the movement was spearheaded by a prominent Canadian business man. In fact we almost failed to sign the treaty at all.
In the last few weeks international headlines about Canada have made us look like a nerdy, dithering, buffoon.
I first noticed when Prime Minister Harper announced he would not be attending the UN Climate Change meetings in Copenhagen. He cited the fact that it is really supposed to be a meeting of environment ministers, not heads of state. A reasonable enough excuse but two days later Barak Obama said he would be there and in a pathetic bid to seem relevant, Harper changed his mind. The situation got worse a few days later when, as the only Commonwealth country not to have signed the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change a proposal was put forth to suspend our membership in the 53 member group of former British colonies. Never in the history of the Commonwealth Organization has a country been suspended over environmental policy. The proposal was ultimately defeated but the president has been set nevertheless.
Prior to the current climate change brouhaha, news broke that back in the early days of the Afghan mission our soldiers had turned prisoners over to local authorities with full knowledge that they would likely be tortured. It was a clear violation of the Geneva Convention done more to prove a point to George W. Bush that we were serious about role after having refused to send troops to Iraq than for any real militarily relevant strategy.
This week Prime Minister Harper is in China. It is his first state visit to that country in 5 years. China is our second biggest trading partner and Chinese authorities have called it a snub to the importance the two countries place on each other that it has taken so long for Harper to make the trip. I cannot say I blame them.
And finally yesterday, after the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) had already approved a $7 million funding request KIAROS, a faith based development agency, the minister responsible refused to release the funds. The reason, after nearly 30 years of helping to represent Canada in the developing world, KIAROS, which has been critical of the government on climate change, no longer fits with the government vision of international development. This is hitting below the belt. Now every organization that relays on tax payer funds, no matter how well established and respected has to be careful not to offend the governing party or risk their entire existence. Way to go!
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