On November 29 Canada was one of eight countries to vote “no” at the United Nations on whether or not Palestine should be granted “non-member observer” status. The absolute incredulity most Canadians felt at this decision demonstrates the growing disconnect ‘The Harper Government’ has from ordinary multicultural loving, peaceful Canadians. It serves to reinforce worldwide perceptions that Canada is no longer the gentle giant of the north, the country that could be relied upon to step in with aid and a helping hand; but rather, an increasingly hard-line minion of the United States.
It is shocking how much Canadian foreign policy has changed since The Harper Government has been in office. Previous Canadian leaders have recognized Canada’s lack of ability to be a true power player on the world stage due to the small sizes of our economy and population, and pursued foreign policy strategies accordingly. They have acted with respect to Canada’s multicultural heritage, and the fact that we are not only a nation built by immigrants, but we continue to welcome millions into our fold every year. After all, it was one of our own prime ministers who ended the Suez Crisis of 1956 and established the United Nations peacekeeping force. Over the past fifty years they have shaped Canada into that peacekeeping, aid-generous nation the world had come to love and respect, until Harper took it upon himself to change all that.
Harper seems to be pursuing a twofold foreign policy. Firstly, he continues to strengthen ties with Great Britain, a colonizing power of yore that has been bereft of influence since World War II. With taxpayers’ money he funds trips for members of their monarchy to tour our state. He has returned the “Royal” title to our military regardless that most Canadians are completely indifferent to the fact that the Queen of England is the technical head of state. We have had full control over our government since 1982 and our future can only entail Canada and Britain moving further away from a colonized/colonizer relationship – there is no reasonable explanation for this longing for the past.
Secondly, while attempting to redefine our national identity as longing for the grand imperialist days, he is drawing Canada closer and closer to the US. There is no denying that Canada has always been the US’ best friend, and indeed, follower – except, thankfully, to Iraq (though this writer is in doubt that Harper would have made the same decision as Chretien not to follow the US there had he been prime minister). Canada’s economy is still dangerously reliant on the US’ and his attempts to diversify Canada’s trade portfolio have been, despite campaign promises made, lacking and, frankly, embarrassing – will anyone ever forget the temper tantrum he threw on a trade mission to Brazil in 2011? By relying so heavily on Canada’s relationship with the US, Harper forgets his place. As Canada’s prime minister, he is supposed to look out for the interests of Canadians, not Americans, and is supposed to help uphold Canada’s formerly positive image worldwide – not help the US bully Palestine in the name of protecting Israel.
Within the framework of this new identity of a Britain-loving and US-worshipping nation, Harper’s foreign policy decisions have become increasingly shameful and baffling. From closing embassies worldwide, in particular Iran, to butting into issues where he does not belong, many of his actions have been completely without merit. In the name of saving costs at home, he has cut funding abroad – and thus done serious damage to the state of Canada’s international relations. His decision not only to vote ‘no’ to Palestine, but also to send Foreign Affairs Minister Baird to New York to campaign for the no vote, has only served to empower extremists, and distance Canada further from the rational and self-deprecatingly understanding foreign policy decisions it has made in the past.
Immediately after the more reasonable members of the UN voted that Palestine did deserve its “non-member observer” status, Harper immediately recalled all Middle Eastern ambassadors to Ottawa, where they will await further instructions. Regardless of what one’s views are on the Middle East, it seems fair enough to say that the place of Canadian ambassadors is in their embassies, protecting Canadian interests and citizens abroad, whereas Harper’s is not at the center of the conflict, where he would apparently like to be; but back at home minding his own business. He would do well to remember that Canada’s title as a peacekeeping nation was hard-won – and that he shouldn’t squander it for extremist ideals that are not representative of his kin and country.
– Clara Bonnor