Canada: International relations and foreign policy

Written by  //  January 17, 2014  //  Canada, Foreign Policy  //  2 Comments

Jeffrey Simpson: Cozying up to Saudi Arabia: How can that be ‘principled’?
(Globe & Mail) The Harper government boasts of conducting a high-minded, “principled” foreign policy. In that case, could someone in government explain why Saudi Arabia is Canada’s second-largest export market for military sales? Where’s the principle in that?
Could that same person explain why the Harper government cozies up to a regime whose decision to drive down the world price of oil is crippling Canada’s oil industry and hurting the economy; whose government-sponsored support for a Wahhabi/Salafist form of Islam has spawned terrorism in many places; whose government opposes any attempt to curtail greenhouse gases; whose government oppresses its Shia minorities; and whose government has beheaded more people in 2014 than any other in the world and sentences a blogger to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison for insulting Islam.

2014

William Marsden: U.S. opens diplomatic relations with Cuba; Canada host of negotiations
Ending more than five decades of, at times, terrifying Cold War politics, the United States has announced steps to establish an embassy in Cuba and open negotiations to normalize relations with the struggling communist country.
U.S. President Barack Obama made the announcement Wednesday and at the same time thanked Canada for being host of the negotiations that broke the decades-long impasse between the two adversaries.
White House officials said that while Canada helped bring both parties together and was host of a series of meetings beginning June 2013, Canadian diplomats did not participate in the talks.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said that at the request of the Americans, “Canada, on a number of occasions, hosted private conversations between senior members of the American delegation and senior members of the Cuban delegation.”
He said the conversations took place in Ottawa.
10 November
Why is Harper in China? The ethnic vote. And money
(Globe & Mail) Prime Minister Stephen Harper certainly had valid excuses for initially deciding to skip the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in China, and cancel his pre-summit official visit to China.
For one, APEC conflicted with Remembrance Day ceremonies at home, just weeks after the murder of two Canadian soldiers on home soil. Not going to China also made sense in light of Beijing’s lack of response to Ottawa’s concerns over significant issues in the Canada-China relationship. And anyway, the Prime Minister will see most of the same world leaders at this weekend’s G20 in Australia. He could just as well sit down with the President of China and try to sort things out then. Finally, Canada has not had an official visit from the president of China since 2010; it’s their turn to come to us.
But at the 11th hour, the Prime Minister’s Office announced he would travel to China after all. As Mr. Harper put it, the Chinese government “really wanted me to be here” for the opening of the APEC summit.
Of course, not insignificant factors of money and ethnic voters also contributed to this change of heart. Lobby groups – representing Canadian businesses with relationships with Chinese communist state firms, as well as associations largely composed of recent immigrants from the PRC – predicted dire consequences for Canadian interests in China if our PM showed “disrespect” by not attending APEC in Beijing. They compared it to the offense Mr. Harper purportedly caused when he decided not to attend the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
PM Harper tells China’s political leadership of Ottawa’s concerns about a Canadian couple being held as suspected spies
“I am not going to enumerate them all,” the prime minister told journalists. “But I will just say you can rest assured that every single item that is important in the area of consular issues, human rights, governance, the rights of minorities — I have raised every single one of those.”
China has complained in the past about investment rules that prevented them from putting as much money as they wanted to into developing Alberta’s oilsands. But senior Chinese officials did not raise the issue this weekend, the prime minister said.
3 October
Robert Fowler: Half measures in fight against Islamic State will only make matters worse
We got it wrong in Iraq, then again in Afghanistan, then in Egypt, then in Libya, and since the outset in Syria. Our values are not their values, nor are they universal (which is why Stephen Harper’s and John Baird’s trumpeting of a “values-based foreign policy” is ignorant and pretentious).
It is a time of ruthless beheadings – and ill-conceived responses. Many Western commentators seem confident that the atrocious behaviour of the Islamic State is certain to build, legitimize and strengthen the anti-IS coalition, while weakening the authority of the IS itself. Such thinking, though, reeks of Western bias. What is reasonable or viable or even rational to us may not be, indeed is likely not, how the IS sees it; and, I’m afraid, not how many others in the world will see it, particularly throughout much of the Muslim ummah.
23 September
The 2014 edition of The United Nations and Canada: What Canada has done and should be doing at the UN will be released on September 24th, the day before Prime Minister Stephen Harper addresses the UN General Assembly for the first time since 2010.
10 September
Can’t wait for the commentariat to weigh in.
Harper to change tack, address the UN General Assembly
Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who has tended to skip the annual gathering of world leaders at the United Nations, has decided to attend the high-profile event later this month and deliver a speech to the UN General Assembly. … It will … break a pattern in recent years that saw Harper shun the General Assembly and instead travel to New York at the same time as its meeting to appear at other events.
The UN will also hold a climate summit in New York in the same week to discuss key environmental issues pertaining to global warming.
Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq will represent Canada at that summit, but Harper will take part in a dinner with the secretary-general to discuss climate issues, said MacDonald.

cover_A Diplomat's HandbookA Diplomat’s Handbook for Democracy Development Support
Jeremy Kinsman and Kurt Bassuener
(CIGI) A Diplomat’s Handbook for Democracy Development Support presents a wide variety of specific experiences of diplomats on the ground, identifying creative, human and material resources. More broadly, it is about the policy-making experience in capitals, as democratic states try to align national interests and democratic values. The Handbook also documents the increasingly prominent role of civil society as the essential building block for successful democratic transitions, with each case study examining specific national experiences in the aspiration for democratic and pluralistic governance, and lessons learned on all sides — for better or for worse.
In recent decades, the conduct of international relations among and within states has been very considerably altered. Today, the content of these relations relies as much on international professional and civil society networks as it does on state-to-state transactions.
The role of the Internet has been fundamental in widening communications opportunities for citizens and civil society, with a profound effect on democracy transition. In consequence, diplomacy has taken on a much more human and public face. Twenty-first century ambassadors and diplomats are learning to engage with civil societies, especially on the large themes of democratic change — an engagement that is often resisted by authoritarian regimes. (September 9, 2013)

All aid short of help is not policy.

J.L. Granatstein: Canada needs a realistic foreign policy

In other words, our foreign policy must be cut to fit our national-interest cloth and our limited resources. Every government needs to think seriously about what Canada can do and where it should do it.
Is the Middle East the right place for us to commit our resources, even if they are only rhetorical resources? Is Central Europe?
Very simply, the harsh reality is that Canada will not go to war for Israel or Ukraine, even if we any longer had a military that was capable of doing so. We will not even go to the wall for such countries. It helps no one to pretend otherwise.
Except perhaps potential voters in Canada. But even these Canadians cannot be gulled forever. Certainly our friends abroad know that Canadian rhetorical flourishes have no power behind them and, indeed, scarcely deserve (or receive) notice. A little realism, a recognition of the limitations on Canada’s ability — and willingness — to act abroad is long overdue for both our leaders and their client groups. (7 March)

Canada’s Middle East policy
According to the Government of Canada’s website, Canada’s official policy towards key issues in the Israeli-Palestine conflict and relevant international law is as follows:
Support for Israel and its Security
“Israel has a right under international law to take the necessary measures, in accordance with human rights and international humanitarian law, to protect the security of its citizens from attacks by terrorist groups.”
Support for the Palestinians
“Canada recognizes the Palestinian right to self-determination and supports the creation of a sovereign, independent, viable, democratic and territorially contiguous Palestinian state, as part of a comprehensive, just and lasting peace settlement.”
Support for a Comprehensive Peace Settlement
“Canada is committed to the goal of a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East, including the creation of a Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel.” More

30 July
Prime Minister Stephen Harper continues to blame Hamas after Israeli shells hit UN shelter in Gaza
An unflinching Prime Minister Stephen Harper reiterated his government’s hard line on Wednesday on Hamas, Russia and Chinese cyberattacks.
Harper said Hamas is solely responsible for the death and destruction in Gaza following almost a month of fighting between Israel and Hamas militants.His remarks … came as the United States and the United Nations condemned the shelling of a UN school that was sheltering displaced Palestinians on the Gaza Strip.
29 July
Sergio Marchi: We’ll pay for Harper’s ‘hit and run’ diplomacy
Previous Conservative and Liberal governments followed a shared foreign policy approach. Recall Brian Mulroney’s leadership on the issues of South African apartheid, free trade with the United States, and the environment. That common ground was founded on four pillars: A fundamental belief in multilateralism; a vigorous engagement with friends and foes alike; a partnership with civil society; and thinking big.
The current government has pivoted away from all of these, particularly the second point, which was clearly evident in the Prime Minister’s weekend Globe and Mail op-ed on Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukraine.
This kind of “hit and run” foreign policy is a losing strategy. It will never bring opposing sides together, nor will it permit Canadian diplomacy to make a difference. It ensures that Canada is not a player, and this is a huge cost when we consider our country’s once-cherished and valued role.
Moreover, as a small open economy, the best leverage Canada has is by being an honest broker. With removal of that avenue, our economic size alone will never influence international affairs, which ultimately affects our prosperity.
So, Mr. Harper is left writing speeches and op-eds. But those are not enough to move a man like Mr. Putin one inch, even if they were to find their way into his morning clippings, while he enjoys his breakfast of cottage cheese and quail eggs.
A reset indeed.
22 July
Andrew Cohen: Canada’s absolutist foreign policy
Oh, to be Canada in the world today, the country that is right about everything.
(Ottawa Citizen) If one were looking for a word to describe our foreign policy this anxious summer, it would be absolutist. Our view of the world is black and white, right and wrong. It suggests extra-sensory powers of perception.
It is not new to call Canada a moral superpower. The well-worn term has been around for decades, a byword for a self-righteousness that inclines us to lecture and declaim.
This is now the fashion among the Conservatives. It is megaphone diplomacy – utterly confident and remarkably free of tentativeness.
Consider the three leading international issues today: Russia and Ukraine, Israel and Hamas, and Iran and the Bomb. On each, Canada has taken a position that is loud, strong and unequivocal.
19 June
John Ibbitson: Harper’s Foreign Policy Reflects His Values
(OpenCanada) Why a bipartisan, consensual foreign policy based on Pearsonian values is now a relic of the past
Conservative foreign policy is very different from Liberal foreign policy (or from what NDP foreign policy would be if that party ever came to power) because it reflects conservative values. So Mr. Harper was an early and earnest critic of Mr. Putin. The Harper government staunchly defends Israel. It places little stock in being a good environmental citizen. There will be no foreign-aid funding for abortion services. And on, and on.
There are a great many people who believe this is wrong, just as they believe the Harper government’s dedication to tax cuts and oil pipelines is wrong. Eventually, there will be enough of them to defeat the government. The new government will bring in progressive domestic and foreign policies. Eventually it, too, will be defeated and the Conservatives will return to power, restoring conservative domestic and foreign policies. And on, and on.
8 June
Harper sinks to new lows with cold war posturing
(iPolitics) The dumbing down of Canadian politics has surely hit rock bottom with Stephen Harper’s cynical exploitation of the tumultuous events in Ukraine. … It’s Steve Versus Communism; Steve standing tall against the Russian Menace. Steve sending war planes. Steve … the only member of the G-7 making a complete fool of himself over the whole sad mess.
What you are seeing is a professional politician doing the only thing he knows how to do — extract crass political advantage back in Canada from the tragic events unfolding elsewhere. It comes from having never had a job in his entire life other than political marketing. When this guy’s brain gets into high gear, it sees billboards and 15-second spots. …
But in these days of comic book politics, fact-free arguments, and phoney commercials, the most laughable part of the prime minister’s recent ranting is his Lead Hawk stand against communism. Harper appears to have forgotten a few things. For one thing, Russia is no longer a communist country; like us, its an oligarchy.
As for the biggest Communist country of them all, China, Harper’s tough stand has amounted to selling off Canadian resource companies to Chinese state-owned entities, and renting the odd panda bear from them. Not much talk of standing up for Tibet, or tough sanctions for human rights violations.
30 May
Harper Attacks ‘Evil’ Communism In Lengthy Keynote Speech
(HuffPost) Prime Minister Stephen Harper launched into a full-throated attack on the evils of communism at a fundraiser on Friday for a monument to its victims.
In a lengthy key-note speech to the dinner, Harper took aim at Russian President Vladimir Putin and past adherents to communism.
“During the 20th century, communism’s poisonous ideology and ruthless practices slowly bled into countries around the world, on almost every continent,” Harper said.
“The result was catastrophic. More than 100 million souls were lost — an almost incomprehensible number.”
The evening’s goal was to help raise money for Tribute to Liberty, which aims for a permanent memorial in Ottawa to communism’s “hundreds of millions” of victims.
9 May
Gerald Caplan: Even nations can be tossed under Harper’s bus
Under Mr. Harper’s foreign policy, who gets to ride inside the bus? Israel first and foremost, of course, and its great military pals in Cairo. Saudi Arabia, great mid-East rival to odious Iran; indeed the Saudi tyrants get large shipments of Canadian arms. And those with lots of voters in Canada – Ukrainians and Tamils from Sri Lanka, for example. So significant military support goes to the unelected government of Ukraine with its anti-Semitic cabinet ministers, and none at all to the critical UN peacekeeping initiative for the Central African Republic, since few CAR citizens vote in Canada. And in order to punish the Sri Lankan government for human rights abuses against Tamils, Mr. Harper childishly cuts funding to the valuable Commonwealth Secretariat which has no responsibility whatever for the policies of the Sri Lankan government.
But at least the Commonwealth Secretariat will find a great deal of congenial company under Stephen Harper’s bus.
23 April
Canada’s response in Ukraine and Africa is a lesson in foreign policy priorities
Canada’s international priorities were on stark display Wednesday as the federal government announced new measures in response to the situation in Ukraine, while sidestepping calls to help prevent another genocide in Africa.
Up to 500 observers will be sent at a cost of $11 million to help monitor Ukraine’s presidential elections next month, the latest in a string of commitments the government has made in relation to the crisis in the European country.
Canada has been slowly moving away from peacekeeping as the Conservative government focuses instead on responding to requests from NATO. Canada currently ranks 61st out of 122 countries when it comes to the number of people deployed on peacekeeping missions.
The Conservatives have also shied away from any significant Canadian military presence in Africa, declining to send peacekeepers to the Democratic Republic of Congo several years ago and committing only a military transport plane when jihadists threatened to take over Mali.
7 April
The Big Break: The Conservative Transformation of Canada’s Foreign Policy
John Ibbitson
(CIGI) In the years since the January 2006 election, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s three Conservative governments have pursued a foreign policy so unlike what came before that it could be called the big break. The big break — or the Conservative transformation of Canada’s foreign policy — has been heavily criticized by academics, former diplomats, politicians and journalists, but it has also had a few defenders. This paper examines how the big break came about and what it looks like. It also seeks to place the transformation within the context of a foreign policy that was already in flux. The paper divides the arc of Canada’s engagement with the world from the end of World War II up until today into four periods: Laurentian coherence; Laurentian incoherence; Conservative incoherence; and Conservative coherence. Future governments may seek to reverse this Conservative reversal of the Laurentian approach, but given the breadth and depth of the Conservative coalition, at least some of the big break is likely to endure.
John Ibbitson is a CIGI senior fellow for a one-year appointment, on leave from The Globe and Mail as its chief political writer.
1 April
Paul Heinbecker: Harper’s Cold War mindset diminishes his global credibility
(Globe & Mail) PM Harper’s frankly Manichaean mindset diminishes his credibility. In condemning the Russians, he ignored the awkward fact that Russian intelligence had caught the Americans red-handed meddling in Ukrainian internal politics. Remember the tape in which the US Ambassador and Assistant Secretary of State Nuland were heard discussing which Ukrainians should get which jobs, while dissing the EU? The PM also gave short shrift to Russia’s legitimate concerns about a Ukrainian government whose first impulse was to abolish existing law on the status of the Russian language, and which numbered among its members a party with a Swastika-derived logo. Similarly, the Prime Minister’s condemnation of Russia’s violation of international law would have carried more moral weight if he had not previously so strongly supported the illegal U.S. invasion of Iraq (see the Wall Street Journal, March 28, 2003) and consistently turned a blind eye to the illegal Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the 550,000 Israelis illegally settled there. Outside the alternative universe of Ottawa, forgiving your friends and condemning your adversaries for violations of international law is not principled foreign policy. And it is not leadership.
28 March
Grant Dawson: Canada’s new foreign policy is a response to a changing world
(Ottawa Citizen) Canada no longer has an over-arching interest to be generous in aid, and so it is not. After the Cold War, before the Harper government, Canada’s aid program did not always function as a foreign policy instrument.
The Harper government has done the controversial but overdue work of linking aid to Canada’s prosperity and values — i.e. economic security, human rights, and poverty alleviation. Canada’s aid budget also serves as an esteem indicator in the 21st-century world order, where the capacity to act internationally confers standing among states. There is a reciprocal relationship between interests and identity. Canada’s interests and self-perception change and evolve
27 March
macdonaldhouse-Posh properties available as Canada sells off several diplomatic digs
The federal government’s sale of the Canadian High Commission offices and residence in London — for $564.5 million — is the latest of more than 80 diplomatic properties around the world the Harper government has sold, for more than $720 million, since taking power.
Several properties valued at more than $1 million, including a chancery in Madrid and official residence in Lisbon, were sold in 2013 alone. And there are several more on the block.
The government announced Thursday it has finalized the sale of the 150,000-sq.-ft. Macdonald House (High Commission), located in the swanky Mayfair District of London, to an India-based developer. It’s part of a government plan to consolidate its diplomatic presence at Canada House in Trafalgar Square.
Macdonald House is among a number of lucrative government assets (not all diplomatic properties), worth billions of dollars, that the federal government has been looking at selling as it moves to balance the books by 2015-16.
Other diplomatic properties have been up for sale in recent months, including in Europe, Mexico, the Caribbean and the United States.
Harper: Vladimir Putin Wants To Be Rival To The West, Not A Partner
(HuffPost) Prime Minister Stephen Harper and German Chancellor Angela Merkel say they are united in their view that Russia has grossly violated Ukrainian sovereignty by annexing the Crimean peninsula.
Following a meeting Thursday between the two G7 leaders, Harper also opined that chances are slim that Russian President Vladimir Putin could ever be welcomed back to the G8.
24 March
Shannon Gormley: Harper might make Canada the butt of Russia’s joke
(Ottawa Citizen) On his touch-down-and-jet-off visit to Ukraine, our dark-suited prime minister struck an indelicate balance between gravitas and a lot of gravitas.
“All of us who desire peace and stability in the world must recognize that the consequences of these actions will be felt far beyond the borders of Ukraine, or even the European continent itself,” Harper warned. “The consequences of the actions of the Putin regime are obvious, and can only be remedied by their complete reversal.”
There will be “no return to business as usual with Putin until such time as the occupation ends,” he said.
The trouble is that it’s looking very much as though the occupation won’t end. And for most Western nations — especially for the European ones dependant on Russian gas — there seems to be little choice but to carry on with business more or less as usual.
Not that this unfortunate fact actually does pose much trouble for Harper at home. The microphone had scarcely picked up his voice in Kiev before he pointed out that Canada is home to the third largest Ukrainian population in the world, a population he’s actively courting. Harper may suppose — and may be correct in supposing — that vague but truculent threats against Russia sound like sweet nothings in the ears of many Ukrainians. And Harper can feel confident that the opposition parties will echo, not interrupt, his sonnets of bellicosity: they’re wooing the same Ukrainian voters that he is.
22 March
Harper signals he wants Russia out of G8 during trip to Kiev
(Globe & Mail) Stephen Harper used a brief visit to Ukraine Saturday to signal he wants Russia kicked out of the Group of Eight and to warn that Moscow’s seizure of Crimea could trigger an arms buildup in other parts of the world as countries grow more anxious about the security of their borders.
Mr. Harper … also announced he will restart free trade talks with Kiev, a show of support for the beleaguered country’s government.
18 March
Hillary Clinton says Canada has key NATO role in dealing with Putin
Tells Montreal audience Crimea annexation a Putin effort to redraw boundaries of post-war Europe
“I think Canada and the United States can inject some real thoughtful analysis as to how we can deter further aggression against free people,” Clinton said during a question-and-answer period that followed her speech to the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal.
17 March
John Ivison: Crimea crisis forcing Harper to rethink NATO, Arctic defence
There is a growing consensus the Harper government’s hard line over events in Ukraine is going to require a radical new defence doctrine
Canada slaps sanctions on Crimean, Russian officials
The sanctions are in response to Crimea’s referendum held Sunday to break away from Ukraine and rejoin its former political master Russia, which the West has denounced as illegal.
Harper is scheduled to travel to Ukraine on Saturday to meet with Ukrainian interim prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk.
He will be the first G7 leader to visit the country since tensions broke out between Ukraine and Russia over the Crimean peninsula
12 March
“Our Environment Division was eliminated and all expertise has long since left”
(Press Progress) Canada’s department of foreign affairs admits it no longer has any in-house expertise on multilateral chemicals conventions to which Canada is a signatory.
The blunt admission, found in newly released internal records released to PressProgress under Canada’s access to information law, was made just as the department was set to dispatch a senior departmental official to head the Canadian delegation at a United Nations summit in Geneva in June 2011 to derail efforts to list chrysotile asbestos as a hazardous material under the Rotterdam Convention.
5 March
Ukrainians in Canada could be game-changers in federal election
Federal political parties have been staunchly showing support for pro-Western aspirations in Ukraine and condemning Russian aggression in the Crimean peninsula. The fact there are more than 1.2 million Canadians of Ukrainian descent may help explain this.
An Ottawa Citizen analysis shows that Canadians identifying themselves as being of Ukrainian represent a potentially game-changing voting bloc in dozens of federal ridings. The fact ridings with large Ukrainian-Canadian populations in Toronto, Winnipeg and parts of Saskatchewan were hotly contested in 2011 speaks to the importance of each party being active on Ukraine.
3 March
Ottawa reduced to ‘gestures’ on Ukraine, say former top envoys
Ex-diplomats and experts divided over Canada’s recall of ambassador
(CBC) Those scathing reviews came from two of the county’s most distinguished ex-diplomats: Jeremy Kinsman, who has served as Canada’s senior envoy to Russia, Britain, Italy and the European Union, and Paul Heinbecker, the former ambassador to the United Nations and an adviser to past Conservative and Liberal prime ministers. … Kinsman said that recalling Canada’s ambassador and suggesting the Russia’s envoy to Ottawa could be next is “silly” and that the government simply wants to be “seem to be doing something.” “That’s just childish,” he added. “Georgiy Mamedov is the dean of the diplomatic corps. He’s being there for 11 years, he’s been dealing with Canada for 30. He’s a professional.”
1 March
Doing a deal in Ukraine
By Christopher Westdal
We have no decisive role to play, but by expressing our solidarity, promising our help, restraining radicals, urging active respect for Russian-speaking Ukrainians and disavowing further NATO expansion, all while urging Russia and the Europeans to make peace, space and better choices for Ukraine, Minister Baird might help ease Ukrainians’ precarious passage. That would be good. They need all the help they can get.
(iPolitics Insight) … Amid the maelstrom, it may be difficult for the Minister to conduct much real business. Beyond expressing our genuine solidarity and promising to sustain our technical cooperation, flexibly, creatively, and to contribute to the IMF-led financial rescue, generously, I see two main contributions we might make. The first I expect we will; the second maybe not.
First, playing to our strength, our credibility on the Maidan and in western Ukraine, Minister Baird can urge Ukrainian nationalists to go out of their way to respect their Russian-speaking compatriots. It is surely troubling that one of the first acts of the new authorities was to strip the Russian language of its official status.
Second, to counter eastern Ukrainian and Russian suspicion and invite cooperation, we should urge Ukrainians to recognize and continue to accommodate Russia’s enduring security interest in Crimea, where its Black Sea Fleet is based (on land Russia leases, respectfully, from sovereign Ukraine). To this end, the 2010 Ukrainian law prohibiting membership in any military alliance should be upheld.
Canada recalling ambassador from Moscow over Russian intervention in Ukraine
Prime Minister Stephen Harper is recalling Ottawa’s ambassador to Moscow and suspended Canada’s preparations for the G-8 Summit planned for Sochi, after speaking with U.S. President Barack Obama amid fears of all-out war in Ukraine.
On Friday, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird met in Kiev with the new technical government, and threw Canada’s support firmly behind a political transition he said marks a path to European integration.
27 February
Kelly McParland: Tories don’t owe the opposition a free flight to Ukraine
Novice Liberal MP Chrystia Freeland was a guest on CTV’s Power Play on Wednesday and was clearly getting on the nerves of Conservative MP James Bezan, who was there to defend his leader’s decision to keep Liberals and New Democrats off a high-profile mission to Ukraine. Freeland has only been an MP for a few weeks and evidently hasn’t been fully trained in the standard robo-tron approach to public appearances, in which the party line is spouted like cultists chanting their mantra. She kept getting passionate. “I have to say as a Canadian member of Parliament, as a Canadian Ukrainian who has been working on Ukrainian issues for more than 20 years, am really ashamed about the way the deaths of Ukrainians…are being turned into this cheap partisan football,” she said.
28 January
Kyle Matthews: Canada’s New Religious Obsession On Display in Ukraine
(OpenCanada.org) It is far better (and more stable for Canada’s national unity) if Canada refocuses on promoting international norms like the Responsibility to Protect, which speak about equality and justice for all. This would be more productive than broadcasting a message that conveys foreign policy is simply an extension of domestic electoral politics and a tool to be used to mobilize key constituencies with simple rhetoric.
27 January
MPs debate Ukraine after Harper warns of slide into ‘Soviet past’
Amid ongoing protests in Ukraine, Prime Minister Stephen Harper pledged Canada will “take all appropriate actions necessary” as the country heads towards what he called its “anti-democratic Soviet past.”
The demonstrations prompted the opening query during Question Period on Monday, the first sitting day of the year for Canadian MPs. Mr. Harper was among the many MPs of all political stripes to speak on the subject, though he offered no specifics on what, if anything, Canada may do to intervene.
Several MPs, including Liberal foreign-affairs critic Marc Garneau, noted Ukraine’s deep links to this country, which in 1991 became the first western nation to recognize Ukraine’s independence and which is today home to an estimated 1.2 million Ukrainian-Canadians.
NDP foreign-affairs critic Paul Dewar remarked on the Ukrainian-Canadian community’s desire for government action, citing the Ukrainian Canadian Congress’s calls for Canada to act as a mediator to bring peaceful resolution, to impose sanctions and travel restrictions against those responsible for human rights abuses, and to roll out expedited visas for vulnerable people seeking to flee. …
In her first address to Parliament since being elected in a recent Toronto by-election, Liberal MP and Ukrainian-Canadian Chrystia Freeland urged Canada to not only “talk the talk, but walk the walk” – to take action in a situation that, she said, represents a fight between democracy and dictatorship.
26 January
Chrystia Freeland: Why Canada should support Ukraine’s democratic protesters
Democratic values are rarely challenged as directly as they are being today in Ukraine. Their victory will be a victory for us all; their defeat will weaken democracy far from the Euromaidan. We are all Ukrainians now. Let’s do what we can — which is a lot — to support them.
(Globe & Mail) We have both a moral and a geopolitical interest in the victory of Ukraine’s democrats. Fortunately, Canada can act to support them – and we must.
Ukrainian opposition leaders have already called on the west to moderate talks between the protesters and the Yanukovych administration. Canada should play a leading role in that effort. … Our moral support for the demonstrators is powerful. We can help them further by offering a safe haven in Canada. Democracy activists who have been injured or fear persecution because of their political opposition should be offered special, expedited visas to Canada.
24 January
Why Harper’s ‘Jewish state’ demand is a word too far
(Globe & Mail) As several commentators have said, Mr. Harper’s visit served to strengthen his government’s support for Mr. Netanyahu – but not for the Israeli people. In endorsing language that seems sure to destroy any hope for a lasting peace, he may have pleased the Prime Minister and a handful of his colleagues, but he did no favour at all to eight million Israelis.
22 January
In Tel Aviv, Harper offers gloomy view of Syria’s war and Egypt’s democracy
Prime Minister Stephen Harper is painting a dark picture of the Middle East, saying Canada doesn’t want either side to win a Syrian civil war fuelled by sectarian forces from across the region – and that its most populous country, Egypt, is not ready for democracy.
Mr. Harper said the government will offer assistance for Syrian refugees and for Jordan, but that Canada views Syria’s civil war as a broader sectarian conflict between an Alawite-Shia government that is backed by Iran and its allies and a Sunni insurgency that is “increasingly extreme and dangerous” and backed by countries that come from that side of the spectrum.
“I don’t see how the victory of either of those forces could be in the interests of Canada, or Israel, or anyone else,” The only hope, he said, is “accommodation and conciliation” between them. “I don’t think any of us know how we do that, but that is the only way to move forward.”
In Egypt, where an army coup displaced elected Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July, Mr. Harper said that his government welcomed the “return to stability.” Mr. Morsi, he said, was trying to use a tool of democracy, an election, “to achieve what was in fact going to be an authoritarian Islamic state.” Canada must now encourage Egypt to “transition toward democracy,” Mr. Harper said, but argued it’s not really ready.
Mel Cappe: Harper could be a force of Mideast peace (assuming he’s not serious)
A Globe editorial on Tuesday said Canada’s influence is in the Middle East is approximately nil.
Thinking about that led me to a slightly different conclusion. Rather, Stephen Harper has the opportunity to become a new cliché about working for peace.
Only Ariel Sharon could withdraw from Gaza and withdraw settlers and settlements from the West Bank. Only Richard Nixon could go to China.
Jonathan Kay: Even some Zionists should find the Tories’ Israel zeal to be disturbingly manic
Speaking on CBC’s The National on Sunday, former Liberal speechwriter Adam Goldenberg declared Harper’s Israel trip to be all about winning votes, and ticked off a list of ridings where Jewish voters may play a kingmaking role. That theory is consistent with the gargantuan size of Harper’s Judeapalooza entourage — chock full of Conservative donors, as well as rabbis who will return to their congregations full of Conservative milk and honey.
But there is more to it than that: In politics, Israel is always about more than just Israel. Among hawkish gentile voters, supporting Israel is a proxy for larger principles, including: taking a hard line against Islamist militancy, standing tall in the war on terror, rejecting moral relativism, and sticking it to the United Nations. As Sarah Palin correctly intuits in her own unique way, Harper’s massive Israeli love-in is a great big bear hug to Judeo-Christian civilization and its ongoing fight against (as she puts it) evil. For Jews and gentiles alike, that’s the real $1-million shot.

Can’t top Adam Goldenberg’s comment: The Prime Minister flew 21 rabbis to Israel with him, which seems like a very expensive way of saying, “some of my best friends are Jewish.”

The Baffling Politics of Stephen Harper and Israel
A country that could lead globally is mired in a leader’s myths from the 19th century.
(Al Jazeera )When Mr Harper moves on, Canada, its people and its public servants may well return to a more natural role but, in the meantime, the cost is paid by the diminishing of an exceptional country: Harper’s positions on the Middle East matter less than the opportunity cost to Canada’s role as a catalyst of solutions. A country that could lead globally through its highly educated population, and its past excellence in multilateral diplomacy (not only on the Middle East but on climate change) is mired in a leader’s myths from the 19th century, while the realities and challenges of the 21st rage on.
‘Jeremy, Jeremy, can I get in?’: Tory MP pleads with Harper aide during photo op at holiest of sites for Jews
Prime Minister Stephen Harper, a Christian who rarely speaks publicly of his own faith, went Tuesday to the holiest of sites for Jews to pay his respects and say a prayer. And as the media captured every image, one of Harper’s own Conservative MPs in the large Canadian delegation — Mark Adler, of Toronto — urged the prime minister’s staff to let him get closer to the action.
20 January
‘Through fire and water, Canada will stand with you,’ Harper tells Israelis
Prime Minister Stephen Harper spoke fiercely in defence of Israel Monday, accusing critics of anti-Semitism, vowing to stand with the country, and drawing heckles from two legislators who eventually stormed out of his speech to the Knesset.
18 January
Harper and his sizeable entourage head to Middle East
(Globe & Mail) Prime Minister Stephen Harper and a sizeable entourage [See List] left Saturday for the Middle East on a six-day trip that will include a visit to Israel, the West Bank and Jordan.
Mr. Harper will address Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, on Monday, making history as the first Canadian prime minister to do so. It will be the prime minister’s first visit to Israel since winning power in 2006.
Mr. Harper is a passionate supporter of Israel and is expected to receive a glowing reception from Israeli leaders.
“We have been challenged many times in the region, by Iran, by Syria, by the attacks of terrorists, and each time he presents his position and we feel it’s the right position; it’s not a partisan position,” Israel’s ambassador to Canada, Rafael Barak, said in an interview from Jerusalem in the days leading up to the visit. GROAN!
Gerald Caplan: Harper should see more of Israel than his hosts will show him
Israel is an immensely complicated country, and it takes a great deal of time for an outsider to begin grasping its many facets. So when you just pop in for four days for your first-ever visit, as Prime Minister Harper is about to do, your itinerary is critical. Mr. Harper and his team will return confident that they now have a good grasp of Israeli realities. They will be deluded. All they will see is one particular dimension of Israeli reality, the one their Israeli government hosts want them to see and which, as it happens, is also the one they want to see. The entire West Bank and Gaza are to receive a hasty meeting in Ramallah with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Why complicate the Prime Minister’s simple one-dimensional view of Israel by exposing him to the larger picture?
Time for Canada, Israel to stop living in fantasy world: Burman
Canada’s reputation in significant parts of world will sink ever lower as a result of PM Stephen Harper’s vanity tour of Israel, writes Tony Burman.
(Toronto Star) As Stephen Harper’s vanity tour of Israel begins, we can be confident about two eventual outcomes.
For Canada, its reputation in significant parts of the world will sink ever lower as a result. And for the State of Israel, it will have even more reason — with friends like Canada’s prime minister — to fear for its future.
Last month, Harper described Israel as “the light of freedom and democracy in what is otherwise a region of darkness.” He said this even though, at the age of 54 and after eight years as prime minister, Harper has never found the time until now to spend even one day visiting Israel or anywhere else in the Middle East.
14 January
Paul Heinbecker: In Israel, Harper needs to be a statesman, not a partisan
(Globe & Mail) The status quo in the West Bank will not endure eternally whatever some Israelis might wish and neither side will get all it wants in negotiations whatever some Palestinians might hope. Partly because there are people including cabinet ministers on both sides, not just among the Palestinians, who do not believe the other side has a right to exist, Mr. Harper ought to reiterate publically Canada’s long-standing support for a two state solution – based on the pre-1967 lines and mutually agreed land swaps. To be taken seriously by Israelis, Mr. Harper will want to demonstrate publically as well as privately that he understands Israel’s need for security and its right to defend itself when threatened. To be taken seriously by others, he will need to accord greater importance than heretofore to the Palestinians’ desire for a state of their own. He should spend some of the political capital he has amassed from unwavering support of the Israeli government to urge Israel to cease building settlements, which are illegal under international law and render a two-state solution moot. Mr. Harper should program enough time in the West Bank to see for himself how difficult life there is.
Harper’s strong pro-Israel stance not matched by official polices: former Israeli ambassador
(National Post) The Foreign Affairs website refers to the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights as ‘occupied territories’ and calls Israeli settlements there illegal
Former Israeli ambassador Alan Baker and the six lawyers have written to Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird demanding the website be changed “to align it with statements and policies publicly expressed by the Prime Minister, yourself and other government representatives.” They are particularly incensed that the website refers to the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights as “occupied territories” and declares the construction of Israeli settlements and a large barrier inside those areas illegal.
10 January
A fascinating interview with one of Canada’s outstanding public servants
The Making of Summitry — An interview with Sylvia Ostry
(OpenCanada.org) In the forward to the book The Sterling Public Servant, David A. Dodge writes, “Perhaps no Canadian economist’s contributions to public policy have been as wide-ranging as Sylvia Ostry’s.” Sylvia’s long and storied career took her from academia to Statistics Canada to the Economic Council of Canada to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development to the Department of External Affairs and many other positions besides. Five times she served as Canada’s sherpa – the personal representative of the prime minister – at the G7 summits. OpenCanada sat down with Sylvia to talk about the creation of that institution, Canada’s place within it, and the future of global economic governance.
Canada to cut aid to Sudan
The Globe and Mail reports Canada is considering scaling back on its foreign aid to Sudan. The newspaper obtained an internal document by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) that recommends cutting or ending aid because Sudan is not of “strategic importance” to Canada.
Aid to South Sudan should however continue, says the report, to avoid “future, more costly interventions.”
There is increasing concern about changes in Canada’s foreign aid policy. The current conservative government has disbanded CIDA and merged it with the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. Aid is increasingly linked with Canada’s trade interests and private corporations.
9 January
Canada and the Middle East: a reality check
Derek Burney and Fen Osler Hampson
(Globe & Mail) It is time to set the record straight on Canada’s policies toward the Middle East as we anticipate Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s official visit to Israel, which begins Jan. 20.
Critics have unfairly lambasted the government for a one-dimensional, Israel-centred policy.
Mr. Harper’s government has worked hard to strengthen its relations with the Arab world as a complement to its strong and principled position on unilateral Palestinian statehood and unabashed support for Israel, the region’s only genuine democracy. (Our previous United Nations record on issues affecting Israel had been one of persistent abstention.)
We are activists in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, not sitting on our hands as some allege. Canada supports the Palestinian Authority’s efforts to build the institutions and infrastructure for a viable Palestinian state. We have opened our wallets with a $5-million contribution to support economic growth and job creation in the West Bank and Gaza and another $25-million for humanitarian assistance, security reform and assistance to the Office of the Quartet Representative. We favour a settlement that confers both legitimate statehood for Palestinians and recognition of Israel’s right to exist in peace.
Foreign Minister John Baird has developed strong relationships with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the West Bank. Canada has launched a strategic dialogue with the Persian Gulf’s key regional body, the Gulf Co-operation Council, which includes co-operation on counterterrorism and other initiatives to counter extremism.
8 January
Pro-Israel, non-diplomat, appointed Canada’s ambassador to Israel
(RCInet) Vivian Bercovici, a lawyer and supporter of Israel, has been appointed as Canada’s ambassador to Israel, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird announced Wednesday (January 8).
“Having lived in Israel and written extensively on the region, Ms. Bercovici has an excellent understanding of the challenges facing the country and deep insight into the opportunities provided by the strong links between our two countries,” said Minister Baird in a press release.
Asked by a journalist what signal Canada was sending to the Middle East with Bercovici’s appointment given her known pro-Israel views, published in opinion columns in the Toronto Star newspaper, the Minister responded: “I don’t think it will be a huge shock to anyone that Canada is a strong supporter of the state of Israel, that won’t be news or surprise to anyone.”
2 January
Peter Jones: Canada’s bitter, small-minded foreign policy
A foreign policy comprises many things. Interests, however defined, often dominate. But values must also be present if that policy is to be more than a series of transactions. Canada has always been a curious country when it comes to foreign policy. Blessed with abundant resources and not specifically threatened, we have always had more scope than most to indulge in ideas. But core interests have traditionally underpinned our foreign policy.
A predictable world order where things like trade and security play out according to rules (admittedly something observed more in the breach in many parts of the world) is a world in which smaller countries have a better chance of advancing their interests. This is quiet, patient, painstaking work that rarely generates headlines. Progress is incremental and measured in years. It is less emotionally satisfying to some than yelling at the world from the rooftops. But it makes a contribution, over time, to creating a world that serves Canada’s interests.
The Conservatives have stood this on its head. In making foreign policy a reflection of their domestic approach to governance – finding wedge issues with which to detach segments of the population and play to their fears and angers – the Conservatives have given us a bitter, small-minded foreign policy. There are a few notable exceptions, such as the promotion of gay rights internationally, but most of the Conservative approach is centred on angry assertions of simplistic moral absolutes that play well to certain domestic constituencies, but contribute nothing to the world or to unifying Canadians behind a positive vision of their place in it.
1 January
Affaires étrangères: revue de l’année 2013 par Marc Garneau
Pour 2014, j’espère que le Canada assurera une présence accrue sur la scène internationale, et qu’il y contribuera d’une façon plus positive. Laissons de côté notre discours moralisateur sur les échecs des Nations Unies ou sur la supériorité inhérente des valeurs canadiennes, et prenons des mesures concrètes pour faire de ce monde un lieu où règnent la sécurité et la paix. Voici quelques suggestions qui nous permettront d’y parvenir: …
Surtout, le Canada doit changer son attitude au chapitre de sa politique étrangère. Les Canadiens se préoccupent de la façon dont nous contribuons au reste du monde, et ils se soucient de la perception du reste du monde à notre égard. Le gouvernement actuel ne le comprend pas ou choisit de ne pas en tenir compte. Pour reprendre les propos de l’ex-premier ministre Joe Clark : on ne mène pas la politique étrangère comme s’il s’agissait de politique intérieure. Nous devons réfléchir non seulement à ce que nous pouvons obtenir du reste du monde, mais aussi à ce que nous pouvons lui offrir.

2 Comments on "Canada: International relations and foreign policy"

  1. Nick's Gleanings January 11, 2014 at 12:55 am · Reply

    Nick’s Gleanings 544
    Prior to his week-long, first-ever trip, along with 170+ people retinue, to Israel, Jordan & the West Bank later this month Prime Minister Harper appointed Toronto insurance lawyer & former CBC director Vivian Bercovici to be Canada’s Ambassador to Israel. Among her utterings in the op-ed pages of the Toronto Star in the past year was one that called the belief in some quarters that Israel was the main obstacle to peace a “misguided fantasy” & another that referred to Prime Minister Netanyahu as a “respected leader” who had “enhanced national security immeasurably”. Being Jewish herself these are understandable sentiments, but what cast doubt on her common sense was her comparing Foreign Minister John Baird to Churchill when in September 2012, while on a visit to Russia, he announced, to the dismay of many Iranians living in Canada & the surprise of Iran experts, and without giving any particularly good reason, he announced Ottawa was breaking diplomatic relations with Iran & kicking the Iranian diplomats in Ottawa out. And one must wonder whether he might be delusional when, in announcing her appointment he said “we have a good relationship with the Palestinian Authority (PA)… (and) the state of our relationship with the Arab world is strong and getting stronger every day.

  2. Former Canadian diplomat March 29, 2014 at 10:13 pm · Reply

    Re “Posh properties for sale” 27 March
    Some of them area reasonable, like the sale of Dublin. Others, like Macdonald House, are a disgrace. Some of the money goes toward other chanceries and repairs, as I understand it. In that sense, the article is right that this is short-term budget balancing with long-term consequences which will fall to others. But more to the point, and here is where we lose public sympathy, the massive sell-off puts us in the second tier of representation abroad. We’ll be living in rental quarters, unable to entertain if we wanted to, without the money to do so unless we pay for it ourselves, when the fat cats come to town, waiting for handouts. … The damage will take years to unwind. And some of these properties can’t ever be recovered…ever!

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