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A retreat from the world stage

A retreat from the world stage
Here is an article drafted by my uncle Daryl Copeland in the Ottawa Citizen. Discussing Canada’s role in foreign affairs, he says: “ in other words, the once familiar helpful fixer, honest broker, provider of “good offices” and Boy Scout to the world is no more. Canada’s image, reputation and brand are being radically reconstructed. As underscored so painfully by last year’s failure to win an elected seat on the UN Security Council, the rest of the world has finally taken notice.”

Copeland states an obvious fact. It is no secret that Canada’s influence abroad has waned. Yet who seriously cares? He affirms that reduced diplomatic influence will have grave consequences for Canada. Yet he does not state them, nor propose what can be done to counter such a trend.
Moreover, DFAIT’s stance on the Palestinian-Israeli issue, on cooperation in the Arctic and on the environment has been criticized by many as being counterproductive. Can someone tell me what benefit Canada’s involvement in Afghanistan has brought to the country? It has given us some more importance within NATO and given our armed forces some valuable experience. Yet where has more than one billion of our dollars gone? Was it worth the lives of our soldiers? Libya apparently was a success, but much needs to be done and the mission seems to have been steered by DND, not by DFAIT.
I simply believe that Foreign Affairs has little constructive work to show for its work during the last five years. It is seems, as Copeland affirms, subordinate to the centralized policy of the Conservatives with the PMO calling the shots. It is therefore normal that it is not receiving as much funds as it would like to.
If it really wants to prove its worth, shouldn’t it concentrate on more involvement in the international community? Create and participate in the shaping of future policy and concepts? Or if it has trouble justifying its role with the Canadian electorate, why not engage the public to a greater extent, or collaborate with domestic universities, social groups and NGO’s?
Flexibility is not the strong suit of government, yet if it really wants to prove its worth, DFAIT must get out of and play in the real world more often.
But it will depend on if the Conservatives really want Canada to have a constructive, and not a obstructionist, role in international affairs.


2 thoughts on “A retreat from the world stage

  1. The Conservative government doesn't seem to care about foreign policy and the role and image of Canada in the world. It seems to me that the Prime Minister is a control freak, hardly giving any leeway to his ministers, and only ONE thing matters to him: power. Everything he does is related to ideology and how he sells it to the people, which in turn provides him with power come election time. He does not carry himself like a true statesman, but rather like a scheming, machiavellian, radical hawk. I'm ashamed of being Canadian…Philippe, Montreal, Canada

    Posted by BigPhil | December 9, 2011, 2:43 pm
  2. Yes good point Mr.BigPhil.
    Well some might argue that “we” actually voted them and therefore have to share some responsability as a people. It is you compatriot Churchill that once said:”No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”
    So I guess we are stuck with an inefficient system, which breeds “scheming, machiavellian, radical hawks”, especially with a majority.
    However, I don’t think we can only blame this on Harper. I believe that Harper represents a traditional side of Canada that we tend to brush under the rug and ignore. Maybe Canada is not as forward-looking as we like to believe, especially here in Quebec.
    The next elections will really tell if this is just a fluke ( albeit on the long-term) caused by inefficient oppositionpolitics and particular conditions (recession, etc) or if the Conservatives truly represent the Canadian people.

    Posted by duntonj | December 13, 2011, 3:48 pm

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