Canada in 2012 International Relations and Foreign Policy

Written by  //  December 19, 2012  //  Canada, David Kilgour, Foreign Policy, Kyle Matthews  //  1 Comment

Canadian International Council (CIC) and
Ottawa University Centre for International Policy Studies (CIPS) Blog
Canada’s Middle East Policy: The End of Fair-Minded Idealism or a New Beginning?
By Steve Hibbard
Released by Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East 22 November 2012

Paul Heinbecker: A modest proposal aka Some things a civilized country can’t do without
(Ottawa Citizen) A rumour is making the rounds that the government has directed that more of Canada’s diplomatic residences abroad be sold, and that the art on the walls be disposed of as well.
It occurs to me that the government could make a bigger impact and show accountable, indeed transformative leadership by putting some of its Ottawa properties up for sale. I propose starting with Government House. The Queen of Canada has several perfectly good palaces in the U.K. where she lives, and would scarcely miss the one she has in Ottawa, which she or her family only use two or three days a year anyway and which is otherwise occupied by a public servant. It exceeds Treasury Board space guidelines in any case. More, just think of what Ottawa’s public-spirited development community could do with such acreage. Imagine the density that could be achieved at the anchor of the Ceremonial Route by creating a mixed-use area that included high and low rise condos, offices, stores (Whole Foods?). Perhaps the skating rink could be transformed into another stadium to attract Ottawans downtown. And there would be ample room for parking. “Governor General’s Walk” would be the ultimate brownfield.


19 December
Could foreign policy be Stephen Harper’s Achilles’ heel?
( According to a recent Leger Marketing poll, Canadians care a great deal about their country’s international standing. Sixty-four per cent of respondents said that “our country’s reputation in the world” was “very important” to them and 29 per cent said it was “somewhat important”.
After universal health care, Canada’s reputation was of second most importance among a dozen symbols, achievements and attributes (the monarchy and war of 1812 were at the bottom of the list).
Yet Harper’s policies have spurred an unprecedented international backlash against Canada. And, after nearly seven years of this government’s more belligerent and corporate centric foreign policy, displays of opposition are growing.
5 December
Harper’s support for Israel: Political, philosophical or both?
Personal convictions intersect with political advantage
(CBC) Whether Harper’s unwavering support of Israel is part of a cynical political strategy to gain votes among the Jewish community, or part of a deeply held conviction, he has ignored criticism that Canada has abandoned its role as an honest broker in the Middle East.
4 December
Ottawa softens position on Palestinian aid
Ottawa has backed away from warnings of reprisals against the Palestinian Authority for its move to obtain “observer-state” status at the United Nations, signalling it has no immediate plans to slash aid or take other punitive steps.
Instead, after a 90-minute meeting with four temporarily recalled Canadian envoys to the United Nations and the Middle East, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said Ottawa will keep an eye on what the Palestinians do next, and support a return to peace talks.
Canada votes against UN call to open Israel nuclear facilities
Canada votes with U.S., Israel on losing side of 174-6 vote
Israel refuses to confirm or deny it has nuclear bombs though it is widely believed to have a nuclear arsenal. It has refused to join the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, or NPT, along with three nuclear weapon states — India, Pakistan and North Korea.
3 December
Canada plays down Israeli settlement criticism
U.S., Europe condemn move to build in Palestinian areas as roadblock to peace talks
(CBC) On Friday, Israel announced plans to build 3,000 settler homes in the West Bank and east Jerusalem to punish the Palestinians for winning greater recognition at the United Nations General Assembly the previous day.
The United States, which joined with Canada, Israel and six other countries in opposing the Palestinian move at the UN, broke ranks Monday to directly criticize Israel. The White House and State Department said the Israeli announcement would hinder the resumption of peace talks.
In addition, five European countries pulled their ambassadors from Israel on Monday to protest the new settlement plan. Germany, meanwhile, said Monday it took a “very negative view” of the settlement announcement.
2 December
“More settler than the settlers”: Canada’s UN policy and Israel
Since Israel’s inception, Canada has been at the forefront in its unwavering support of the Jewish state
(Al Jazeera) Canada opposing resolutions dealing with Palestinian rights is not new, nor is it the effect of a particular government or another. Opposing such resolutions has been a core Canadian diplomatic tactic since the creation of the State of Israel in 1948 – by both Liberal and Conservative governments.
Canada’s diplomatic support for Israel is not limited to the United Nations. In September, Canada recalled its diplomats and shuttered its Tehran embassy, declaring it unsafe. The move prompted former CBC and AJE chief, Tony Burman, to quip: “Canada appears to have a new foreign minister. His name is Benjamin Netanyahu.” …
The consequences of the Harper government’s unconditional fawning of Israel have begun to surface. Perhaps most prominently, this one-sided approach played a central role in Canada being denied an elected seat on the United Nations Security Council – for the first time ever.
30 November
Chris Hall: What should be Canada’s role in the Middle East?
(CBC) … In fact, there’s no disagreement over the outcome Canada wants for the Middle East. The dispute is over how to get there, and the role this country should play.
Baird and Harper have both said they make no apologies for standing with Israel, reminding their political opponents at home that Israel is a Jewish state, in a neighbourhood of the world that’s hostile to its very existence.
In his speech Thursday, Baird sought to position the resolution granting the Palestinian Authority enhanced status as running counter to the UN’s own history.
He ran through the resolutions on the Middle East dating back to 1947, recognizing that the two parties — Israelis and Palestinians — need to work collaboratively to find solutions.
Canada votes against UN Non-Member State status for Palestine
(RCI) Canada was one of only nine countries to vote against giving Palestine non-member state status at the United Nations on Thursday (Nov 29).
The UN General Assembly vote passed easily … [The next day] Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird …  announced “Canada is bringing its heads of missions in Israel and Ramallah and its permanent representatives to the UN in New York and Geneva back to Ottawa temporarily to assess the implications of yesterday’s UN General Assembly vote and inform Canada’s response to it.”
22 November
Conservative foreign policy document vigorously criticized
(RCI) Opposition MPs, human rights experts and former diplomats are appalled by the contents of the highly classified draft document of a new “Canadian foreign policy plan”, obtained by CBC News.
19 November
Secret document details new Canadian foreign policy
Draft policy calls for closer economic ties ‘even where political interests or values may not align’
A confidential government document obtained by CBC News warns the Harper government has been slow to open new markets in Asia, leaving Canada firmly tied to the troubled U.S. economy for a long time to come.
The document prepared by Foreign Affairs and dated Sept. 6 is a draft of a highly classified new “Canadian foreign policy plan” the Conservative government has been preparing for more than a year.
The draft briefing paper for the federal cabinet states: “We need to be frank with ourselves — our influence and credibility with some of these new and emerging powers is not as strong as it needs to be and could be.
The document makes scant mention of Canada’s traditional roles as peacemakers in war zones like Afghanistan, foreign aid providers in disasters such as Haiti, and everywhere represented by a highly respected diplomatic corps.
It also drops any pretense of using trade deals to pressure countries such as China on human rights and other matters of democratic principle.
On the contrary: “To succeed we will need to pursue political relationships in tandem with economic interests even where political interests or values may not align.”
Instead, the draft doctrine is mainly about money, recasting Canada’s international role from aiding the world’s needy to reaping its riches. [See also The Ugly Canadian — Stephen Harper’s Foreign Policy By Yves Engler]
15 November
Paul Wells: A Canada-EU trade deal?
One of the longest-lasting stories in Stephen Harper’s tenure as Prime Minister will end this month. Unless it doesn’t end. But everyone’s going to give it a college try.
While the current issue of Maclean’s is on newsstands, Ed Fast, Canada’s trade minister, will travel to Brussels to meet his approximate counterpart, European Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht. The subject is an ambitious trade deal Canada is trying to reach with the European Union. Bureaucrats and negotiators from both sides have been meeting regularly for 3½ years. They left all the hard decisions to the end. This is the end. Fast’s meeting with de Gucht will be the first negotiation among politicians instead of civil servants. It comes six weeks before the New Year, the date Stephen Harper named during the 2011 campaign as the deadline for a deal.
Everybody connected to the negotiations assures me there will be a deal. Every public sign I see makes me think there won’t.
9 November
Terry Milewski: Harper leaves unanswered questions in India
(CBC) First, what happened to the hoped-for great leap forward in trade relations? Harper didn’t hide his frustration at the halting pace of negotiations, urging his hosts to “be serious” and warning that “time and tide wait for no man.
Harper softened the blow somewhat by noting that, after all, India’s a democracy and the government can’t make things happen overnight. It’s true that India’s ageing prime minister, Manmohan Singh, is struggling to keep his coalition government from collapsing. And Harper got a close look at how tough it is to make things happen here, even on a national priority.
The jewel in India’s crown — the Taj Mahal — was barely visible when Harper visited. It was shrouded in acrid smog which is eating away Shah Jehan’s priceless monument to love. And year after year, India’s politicians can’t or won’t do a thing about it.
Still, there’s something more going on than gridlock. Manmohan Singh refused to hold even the briefest joint news conference with Harper.
Besides that – what on earth was happening behind the scenes in the limousine affair? …
Another question that lingers is what, exactly, Harper is doing to assuage Indian concerns about Sikh extremism in Canada. Harper made it clear that he can’t abolish freedom of speech. So, if Sikh separatists advocate peacefully for their own state, fine.
But the Indians … argue, instead, that Harper could and should do more to slap down MPs — from his own and from other parties — who happily attend events where Sikh assassins and bombers are celebrated as heroes.
Peter Foster: Harper must tread carefully when dealing with state-owned enterprises
There is no doubt that the Chinese government is unpalatable and that SOEs are undesirable. The question is: Are they the wave of the future, or at least a necessary evil?
The fact that authoritarian governments hang on to control of the petroleum industry has little to do anymore with seizing the Leninist “Commanding Heights” of the economy. It is rather because conventional petroleum is the easiest, and most fruitful, resource to manage, particularly when Western companies are prepared to sell expertise either directly or via joint ventures.
SOEs definitely create a problem when it comes to investment rules because they cover a spectrum of potential political interference, all of which is bad.
29 October
Gus Van Harten: Canada-China free-trade deal requires more debate
(The Province) In the 19th century, China was subjected to unequal treaties at the barrel of a gun. This week, Canada will finalize an unequal treaty with China, at the option of the prime minister.
The treaty will not make us a colony of China, but it will be the biggest sacrifice of Canadian sovereignty since NAFTA, perhaps since our independence. It will put us in a position of economic dependence for 31 years, on five weeks’ notice to Canadians.
Chinese investors who own assets in Canada will no longer be subject to the absolute authority of Canada’s Parliament and legislatures. They will not have to submit finally to decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada or to the Constitution.
The treaty will freeze Canada’s open laws on foreign investment, alongside China’s closed ones. China will retain more tools to interfere with Canadian businesses than vice versa.
26 October
Diane Francis: Why some state-owned firms do not belong in Canadian boardrooms
Sovereign-owned or controlled enterprises from questionable countries have no business in the boardrooms of Canada or other free enterprise nations.
Indications are the Prime Minister and his government understand this and are devising nuanced “net benefit” criteria regarding foreign takeovers that would allow desirable companies into our economy and keep out the rest.
Undesirable SOEs are those that serve political not commercial agendas; do not offer reciprocal investment privileges to Canadians in their countries and believe they enjoy sovereign immunity from Canadian laws.
25 October
Andrew Nikiforuk: Five Reasons to Pause on Canada-China Treaty
US think tank lists inconvenient facts the Harper government ignores.
(The Tyee) Harper’s unseemly marriage with China’s authoritarian capitalists and state-owned oil companies has placed his government on a collision course with Canadian society. A new Angus Reid poll shows that four out of five responding citizens believe “foreign governments should not be able to control resources on Canadian soil.”
Moreover nearly 60 per cent say the federal government should block the sale of Calgary-based Nexen to China’s CNOOC, one of that country’s most powerful state-owned oil companies.
Tories defeat last minute push for hearings on Canada-China investment treaty
(Globe & Mail) NDP MP Don Davies asked the House of Commons industry committee to hear expert witnesses on the Canada China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement, but the committee handled the request behind closed doors. … Gus Van Harten, who teaches international investment law at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School, has been one of the more outspoken voices expressing concern about the treaty’s investor-state dispute resolution provisions.(See What if the Canada-China investment treaty is unconstitutional?)
22 October
Michael Den Tandt: Ready to be BFFs with China?
The Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA) has since been tabled in Parliament. After a mere 21 sitting days, it comes into force.
Here’s where things get sticky. This deal has not been debated in the House, let alone more broadly across Canada. There has been thus far, a total of one hour of committee time devoted to its study. Yet, once in place, it cannot be abrogated for 15 years. Once notice is given, it expires within one year – in theory. Article 35 states that, as regards any investments made “prior to the date of termination,” the agreement remains in place for an additional 15 years – extending its practical span to 31 years, at minimum.
Another clause that jumps out: A signatory “may not require that an enterprise of that party … appoint individuals of any particular nationality to senior management positions.” Forget about requiring Canadian representation, for example, in the executive suite of Calgary-based Nexen Inc., following a proposed $15.1-billion takeover by China’s state-owned energy firm China National Offshore Oil Co.
There is a provision in Article 7 to allow for such a requirement, for a corporate board of directors, but with this rather gigantic disclaimer: “provided that the requirement does not materially impair the ability of the investor to exercise control over its investment.” Determining this, of course, could be a subject of dispute – which is where this gets trickier still.
… And it is already creating pressure on the Harper government to approve the Nexen deal, which polls show a majority of Canadians oppose. The reason is simply this: How can Harper say no to Nexen, and still say he wants China to buy Canadian? For evidence, see reaction to Industry Canada’s nixing of Malaysia state-owned Petronas’s $5.9-billion bid for Progress Energy, at three minutes to midnight Friday. Already the Harper government is being accused of hypocrisy. And Canada has no FIPA with Malaysia.
16 October
LYSIANE GAGNON: French theatre of the absurd
(Globe & Mail) Ms. Marois sided with Mr. Harper in refusing to support French President François Hollande’s push for awarding Africa a permanent seat at the United Nations Security Council – an idea that would make the council even less functional than it is now. Canada didn’t have to sign on to the agenda of Mr. Hollande, who assiduously courts France’s former colonies in Africa to protect his country’s lucrative economic interests against the formidable competition of the Chinese, who are investing massively on the continent. (Later, though, in a speech in Paris, Ms. Marois criticized Mr. Harper’s foreign policy.)
… Why on earth are Albania, Austria, Cyprus, Thailand, Ukraine and Ghana in the Francophonie? And there are many more French speakers in Spain or Italy than in Serbia, Egypt or Estonia. The organization also includes former French colonies such as Vietnam, where the rare French speakers are now aging professionals. Even in Romania, which has a Latin-based language, one hears more English than French on the streets of Bucharest. On the other hand, Algeria, where French is still widely spoken, and Israel, where a quarter of the population has French as a mother tongue, are not members. The Francophonie is a weird club where entry rights are driven by arbitrary rules.
The most ludicrous case is Rwanda, a former French-speaking Belgian colony that’s been turned into an officially English-speaking country but is still a full-fledged member of the Francophonie. And the newest member is Qatar, which is anything but a francophone country.
12 October
Romeo Dallaire Slams Harper’s Foreign Policy
(HuffPost) Canada’s Senate is supposed to be a house of “sober second thought,” but as far as Liberal senator, retired general and widely -decorated war hero Roméo Dallaire is concerned, when it comes to foreign policy Prime Minister Stephen Harper isn’t giving either part of Parliament a second thought at all.
From closing the Canadian embassy in Iran to taking its time to repatriate Omar Khadr, Harper’s Conservative government has failed to engage Parliament and Canadians, according to Dallaire.
9 October
Harper heads to Congo despite boycott calls
(Embassy) Prime Minister Stephen Harper is gearing up to attend a Francophonie summit in the Democratic Republic of Congo despite calls for a boycott. His Francophonie minister says dialogue with the central African country is better than disengagement.
But some observers say the government’s decision to go to Congo for the summit, while it has said it could boycott another in Sri Lanka next year, shows a contradiction. Both countries have faced international criticism over alleged human rights abuses.
8 October
Canada officially joins Pacific trade talks
(Globe & Mail) After almost a year of waiting, Canada has formally joined major Pacific Rim trade talks – negotiations that will put pressure on Ottawa to ratchet back protections sheltering Canadian dairy, egg and poultry farmers from foreign competition.
5 October
Trans-Pacific Partnership: Canadian Content Rules Under Pressure From U.S. Lobbyists
(HuffPost) The Harper government finally managed to get Canada an invitation to join the talks this past spring, after several years of lobbying efforts. But critics argue Canada’s position in the talks is weak, because Canadian negotiators agreed to abide by all the treaty chapters that other member states had already agreed to as of Canada’s joining.
Internet law expert Michael Geist previously reported that the IIPA also wants to see Canada’s new copyright law rolled back because it doesn’t do enough to pressure internet service providers to cut off web users who engage in unauthorized file-sharing.
Besides being criticized by some observers for what they see as excessive secrecy in negotiations, the TPP has also come in for criticism from digital rights advocates, who say the deal would force harsh intellectual property rules on Canadians.
1 October
Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion And Protection Agreement ‘A Corporate Rights Pact,’ Council Of Canadians Says
(HuffPost) … the Harper government has been intent on expanding Canada’s trade relations with Asia, particularly China, in the wake of the weakening of the U.S. economy in recent years, and especially after the U.S. government’s temporary rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline last year.
The deal with China is designed to create a level playing field for Chinese companies operating in Canada, and vice versa, by eliminating barriers to foreign businesses in both countries. The Harper government has said the deal will spur Chinese-Canadian trade by removing uncertainty for foreign investors. But the Council argues the deal will simply be used to weaken Canadian regulations until they are more in line with what exists in China. It offers examples of other trade agreements that have had similar ramifications
26 September
New ambassador to China pledges frank dialogue on security, human rights
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird on Wednesday officially announced veteran diplomat Guy Saint-Jacques as Canada’s new ambassador to China, at a critical time in Canada’s political and economic relationship with the Asian superpower.
The new envoy is a well-respected public servant who is headed for what’s viewed as arguably the second-most important foreign posting next to the United States. According to his official biography, the new ambassador has a uniquely pertinent academic background for this post: a BA in Geology, Université de Montréal, and an MA in Land Planning and Regional Development from Laval – rare earths anyone?
25 September
Some see this step as yet another move by Mr. Harper to move Canada to a royalist stance,  for others (see Comments), it is not a major departure.
(CBC) Good panel discussion on The Current with Paul Heinbecker, Allan Gotlieb and Jennifer Welsh.(25/09)
Raising red flags: Plan to share embassies with Britain stirs up critics
(Globe & Mail) The Union Jack and the Maple Leaf may soon fly side by side at embassies and consulates around the world, as part of a new cost-saving foreign affairs agreement between Britain and Canada, prompting concern that a hybrid diplomatic channel could weaken Canada’s global standing.
The agreement, according to sources, will include not just sharing real estate, but working together in other areas – representing civilians abroad, providing passports and visas, and dealing with emergencies such as revolutions, disasters and evacuations. The two countries will not share diplomatic representation, sources said – so British diplomats would not present Canadian views to foreign governments, or vice versa.
Mr. Heinbecker also wondered how the decision will be perceived by Canadians – in Quebec, for instance, and among immigrant communities. “Domestically, it does raise the question of reinforcing this kind of British veneer that we are putting on Canadian foreign policy.” As usual, former Ambassador Heinbecker has a point.
13 September
Jennifer Welsh: The End of “Jaw-Jaw”
(OpenCanada) … Baird’s long list of reasons reveals the rather muddled way in which this government conceives of our core interests and the possibilities of diplomacy. Reason 1: Iran’s assistance to the Assad regime in Syria. Reason 2: Iran’s refusal to comply with UN resolutions related to its alleged nuclear programme. Reason 3: Iran’s continuing hostility towards Israel. Reason 4: Iran’s material support for terrorist groups. When combined, these transgressions make Iran, in Baird’s words, ‘the most significant threat to global peace and security today’.
They do not, however, constitute a clear case for the severing of diplomatic ties. As Churchill once famously quipped, to ‘jaw jaw’ is always better than to ‘war war’ – even when in a hostile relationship with another country. By withdrawing its embassy staff, Canada loses one mechanism for influencing Iranian policy (if it ever really had much influence).
More significantly, however, Canada forfeits channels of communication (including to opponents of the current government in Tehran) and key sources of intelligence. The latter are particularly vital, given that the U.K. has downgraded is diplomatic relationship and that the U.S. has not had an embassy on the ground since 1979. As a result, former Canadian ambassadors to Tehran, including John Mundy and Ken Taylor, have both criticized the Harper government’s decision as a strategic mistake.
13 September
Severing ties with Iran ‘stupid,’ Canada’s envoy from 1970s says
(Globe & Mail) The man who predicted the Islamic revolution in Iran more than three decades ago says he stands strongly opposed to the Harper government’s decision last week to sever diplomatic relations.
“It’s stupid to close an embassy in these circumstances,” said James George, who served as Canada’s ambassador to Iran between 1972 and 1977. “We need to keep an ear open there – our own ear.”
Stephen Harper’s democracy award a sad joke on Canadians
(Toronto Star editorial) With great fanfare, an international organization has announced it is honouring Stephen Harper as its World Statesman of the Year for his work as a “champion of democracy, freedom and human rights.”
Harper will accept the award from the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, which was created by a New York rabbi in 1965, at a reception on Sept. 27 in New York City.
Harper won the award largely because of his support for Israel and his criticism of Iran.
10 September
Canada-China deal belies APEC’s fading role
(Vancouver Sun) Canada and China’s use of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum summit to sign a bilateral investment deal is but one of many examples of how far the organization has strayed from its original vision as a carriage for regional free trade.
The Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement, which was announced in February and whose signing was witnessed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Chinese President Hu Jin-tao on Sunday, was only one of many tete-a-tete among the 21 leaders at the APEC summit in Vladivostok that overshadowed the meeting itself.
9 September
New Canada-China trade agreement will protect investors: Harper
Prime Minister Stephen Harper says a new trade deal between Canada and China has the potential to create thousands of jobs and strengthen important trading ties between the two countries.
The Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement was signed during the APEC summit in Russia on Sunday.
Harper said the new rules are designed to correct the currently lopsided trade relationship between the two countries as well as protect Canadians investing in China.
“It not only protects investments that are undertaken, but also provides greater certainty to investors looking at this kind of market,” Harper told reporters on Sunday.
Harper said his government is creating the right conditions for Canadian businesses to compete globally.
Israeli PM praises Canada for cutting ties with Iran
(CBC) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in an exclusive interview with CBC’s The National, says he is grateful for Canada’s “conviction” in suspending diplomatic relations with Iran
8 September
Iran may retaliate for Canada’s ‘hostile’ cut in ties
Canada closes Tehran embassy, tells all Iranian diplomats to go

(Reuters) – Iran accused Canada on Saturday of “hostile behaviour” under Israeli and British influence after Ottawa cut diplomatic relations, and it raised the prospect of swift retaliation. …
Ottawa cited Iran’s disputed nuclear work, which Western states see as a disguised effort to develop atomic bombs, its hostility toward Israel and alleged military aid to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Canada cuts ties with Iran, closes embassy, orders Iranian diplomats home
(Yahoo! News) Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird says he’s cutting ties with Iran amid worries about the safety of Canadian diplomats in the country. …
People seeking Canadian consular services in Iran are being directed to the embassy in Turkey.
Baird says Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism and has been spreading anti-Semitic hatred. Interesting that Minister Baird made this announcement in Vladivostok
Canada closes its embassy in Iran
Relations severed and Iranian diplomats ordered to leave after Tehran is accused of being a threat to world peace.
(Al Jazeera) … Unknown is the impact of severed diplomatic ties on the cases of Iranian-Canadians in trouble in Iran, such as blogger Hossein Derakhshan (currently serving a 19-and-a-half year prison sentence on spying charges), Hamid Ghassemi-Shall (who has been sentenced to death on charges of espionage and is awaiting execution) and Saeed Malekpour, a software developer accused of spreading indecent material online, who is also on death row. Canada’s cut ties with Iran: Who will pay? — In closing its embassy in Tehran, Canada flexes its muscles, inadvertently squeezing the Iranian-Canadian community.
31 August
Canada announces more sanctions against Syria
(RCI) Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird announced the sanctions on Friday, August 31, and outlined Canada’s concerns about the developments in Syria, and his concern for religious minorities. As well the Minister repeated Canada’s disappointment with Russia’s position on Syria.
22 August
If not Canadian Relief for Syria, then what?
(Embassy Magazine/subscription only) While some observers applaud the funding decision reversal, others say a partnership with a more well-established group is still possible.
While some humanitarian analysts applaud the government’s decision to reverse its plan to flow $2 million in medical supplies to Syria through Canadian Relief for Syria, they also question what “due diligence” was done to choose the group in the first place.
Meanwhile, others acknowledge that the Canadian government’s options to get the money where it’s needed are limited. A partnership between a group like Canadian Relief for Syria and an experienced organization could be a solution. …
Kyle Matthews, a former humanitarian emergency response operator for CARE Canada who is now the senior deputy director for the Will to Intervene Project at Concordia University, called the Canadian Relief for Syria organization “mysterious” and said it didn’t appear that the Canadian government “did their homework.”
If Canadian Relief for Syria “were solid and legitimate in the first place, then [the government] never would have backtracked,” he argued.
However, Mr. Matthews also said that in the Syria conflict, with so many ethnic, religious, and politically affiliated groups involved, “it’s been very difficult for humanitarian actors to access populations that are at risk, or are suffering and need protection.”
15 August
(Excerpt from the Wednesday Night Prologue) Despite general agreement that there is little that Canada can do to influence the war’s outcome, there is Canadian content for the humanitarian crisis that is an important part of this story (Canada pledges millions in aid for Syrian refugees). It comes in two parts. First, John Baird announced the pledge of $6.5 million to help Jordan cope with the huge wave of Syrian refugees. Second, the government has earmarked $2 million in aid to Syria through Canadian Relief for Syria (CRS), which is tied to a global organization channeling medical supplies into that country. While we do not question the authenticity of CRS, the openness of Mr. Harper’s government to this as-yet-unregistered Canadian charity is in sharp contrast with the relentless pursuit of well established Canadian environmental NGOs. Despite Mr. Harper’s assurances that due diligence had been carried out, it did not take Mr. Baird long to pull aid pledge from Syrian-Canadian group  Total lapsed time=4 days.
10 August
A thorough look at what makes John Baird tick and how he goes about his job as Foreign Affairs Minister
John Baird’s Canada: No longer content to ‘go along just to get along’
(Globe & Mail) After 15 months on the job, it appears that his penchant for bold steps and embracing strong leaders, his confidence in his own political compass, and the willingness he has displayed ever since high school to shrug off ridicule rather than abandon the task at hand make him the dynamic foreign minister Mr. Harper has long lacked.
And now, as he makes his first foray into one of the great conflicts of the day, travelling to Jordan to visit refugees fleeing the turmoil in Syria, Canadians have good reason to pay close attention to Mr. Baird.
19 July
Trade pact allows Canada to increase uranium exports to China
An agreement signed Thursday in Beijing will help Canadian companies export more uranium to China, said Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird.
The “supplementary protocol,” signed by Mr. Baird and Liu Tienan, head of China’s National Energy Administration, will expand a nuclear co-operation agreement that’s been in place since 1994.
10 July
Iranian embassy recruiting expats using embassy in Canada
U.S. terror experts warn of attack risk as outreach program in Canada mobilizes immigrants for ‘service’ to Tehran
United Nations — Absent diplomatic relations with the United States, Iran is using its embassy in Canada to recruit ethnic Iranians to “be of service” to Tehran — causing U.S. terrorism experts to warn of a possible attack from north of the border.
The mobilization effort is taking place under the guise of the embassy’s cultural outreach program, and Iranian-Canadians opposed to the regime in Tehran say the Islamic republic’s intentions are revealed in an interview that Hamid Mohammadi, Iran’s cultural affairs counsellor attached to the Iranian embassy in Ottawa, gave in Farsi to an Iran-based website directed at Iranian expatriates in Canada.
6 July
Canada’s new aid minister Julian Fantino has his work cut out for him
Fantino says he will focus on improving the “effectiveness and accountability” of our aid programs. Fair enough. But he can confound his critics by putting in a little heart as well.
(Toronto Star editorial) In a recent report, a panel of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development noted that we can do better. Fantino should make that case at the cabinet table, rather than acquiesce to mediocrity, or worse. Other countries that face austerity, Britain included, have protected their aid programs. We should rebuild ours.
At the same time, private Canadian agencies that are active abroad complain, with good reason, that Ottawa’s newly revamped program for funding projects lacks transparency, is overly bureaucratic and is bogged down with delays. That, coupled with the sudden and sharp cut in federal funds, has had a “profoundly destabilizing” impact, the Canadian Council for International Co-operation reports. There’s also concern that Ottawa is more interested in “partnering” with Canadian companies abroad on aid projects that burnish their images, than in funding non-profit programs.
3 things Julian Fantino should know about CIDA
(CBC) Julian Fantino, in taking over the Canadian International Development Agency, will helm an organization that observers and those inside the organization say has sinking morale and has strayed from its goal of helping the world’s neediest people.
The Legacy of Bev Oda
(CBC | The Current) The problem for Ms. Oda, and for the Prime Minister, is that she became known for the wrong reasons. … All missteps that take away from her legacy at the helm of the agency that decides where Canada’s foreign aid money goes. We talk about Bev Oda’s legacy as one of the most significant ministers for our reputation around the world.
4 July
Embassy Magazine reports European missions moving to hub-and-spokes model
The Harper government is moving to a hub-and-spokes model of organizing its European missions, meaning while no missions will be cut, some administrative support and regional co-ordination will be done out of larger missions, while a source said smaller ones will see staffing cuts.
Some observers say the plan to change structure of the network of European missions along with more than 400 job cuts at missions abroad will mean overworked employees, a shrinking Canadian network, and a reduced service level.
24 June
Conservatives made a ‘major mistake’ in their approach to the euro crisis, Paul Martin says
“The role of the G20 is to strengthen the financial institutions and the other global institutions that exist. And so, for Canada to turn its back on the IMF when the IMF is saying ‘we want more money, not simply for Europe, we want to be able to deal with the huge imbalances that exist around the world,’ I think that was a mistake.”
“The second thing,” he continued, “is that when you’ve got China, India, the United States, Europe and Canada and the others at the table, you’re going to have differences. … And for Canada to consistently say, ‘we want you people to be pragmatic, we want you people to compromise, but if we don’t get our way we’re going to take our ball and go home,’ I’ll tell you, that’s just not going to work.”
22 June
Senator decries decision to end RCI’s shortwave service
(RCI) Hugh Segal, a member of the Senate’s Foreign Affairs committee and chair of its special Committee on Anti-Terrorism, said the CBC’s senior managers will be called to explain the decision to a special Senate inquiry.
“This is probably the most destructive way the board of the CBC could find to manage the financial economies they have to face,” said Segal. “It is going to take the Canadian message out of the international marketplace.” Senator Segal said relegating RCI to an Internet radio station will block RCI from millions of people living under repressive regimes.
21 June
The Wrong Trade Agreement
By John Hancock (John Hancock works at the World Trade Organization in Geneva, Switzerland, where he has served as senior policy advisor to the Director-General, representative to the IMF and World Bank, and head of investment issues.)
(Open Canada) The suspense is over. After months of lobbying, bargaining, and pleading, the U.S. has finally allowed Canada to join its much-hyped Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade initiative. All that remains now is to figure out why we wanted in in the first place.
20 June
Canada’s speech to UNHRC: Commissioner Navi Pillay & her staff “failed to do proper due diligence”
19 June
Harper hails Canada’s invitation to join Pacific trade talks
Stephen Harper is bringing Canada into ambitious new Pacific free-trade talks, fulfilling a key pledge to reduce reliance on the United States but increasing pressure on protected industries to accept more foreign competition.
Secret documents show Canada’s aggressive campaign to be included in Trans-Pacific Partnership
New documents reveal Ottawa has for months been pushing the United States to allow Canada into Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade talks, telling the Americans it’s in their economic interests to do so and trying to assuage their concerns over supply management and intellectual property.
EU boss lashes out at Stephen Harper and other leaders: Don’t tell us how to run our economy
Weeks after delivering a hard-line message to the EU on the necessity of austerity, Prime Minister Stephen Harper found himself on the receiving end of stinging criticism from one of Europe’s most important politicians.
13 June
Jeffrey Simpson: Canada is ‘back’ on the world stage? Hardly
Everywhere, there is penny-pinching that makes no sense, a hectoring tone not appreciated by others, and a misunderstanding about how international affairs really work. For a government that has proclaimed Canada is “back” on the international stage, what is actually happening would be funny were it not serious.
7 June
UN and Canada have ‘good relationship,’ Baird says [Editor: We should all feel better now.
7 June
Harper’s refusal to help bail out Europe draws Germany’s ire
(Globe & Mail) Germany is expressing its irritation with Canada for refusing to contribute to an international bailout fund as Prime Minister Stephen Harper faces increased pressure from the G20 to show “solidarity” with countries tackling Europe’s financial crisis.
6 June
Canada ‘wakes up’ to Asian energy demand
(FT) Stephen Harper, the Canadian prime minister and avowed monarchist – last year, he restored the word “Royal” to the official name of the country’s armed services – is in London to mark the Queen’s diamond jubilee and, defying the blustery weather, is in a sunny mood.
2 June
Canada seeks to establish military post in Singapore

(National Post) Canada is seeking a deal with Singapore to establish a military staging post there as part of its effort to support the U.S.’s “pivot” toward Asia to counter a rising China.
14 May
Foreign Affairs in Disarray?
(The Mark) Through self-interest or disinterest, Canada has tarnished its reputation in Latin America, neglected Asia, and all but abandoned Africa.
For decades, Canada has put most of its economic and foreign-policy eggs in the American basket. However, the prolonged economic crisis in the U.S. makes it clear that the Harper government needs to make new friends and influence people beyond those in North America. So far, the government’s record in other important world regions is not encouraging.
11 May
Recommitting to R2P
(CIC online) Canada’s deviation from its R2P correlates with its deviation from our broader commitment to multilateralism. Instead, unfettered bilateralism with allies such as the U.S. is reflective of Ottawa’s new foreign-policy priority: national economic prosperity. Gone is soft power and norm entrepreneurship. Canada’s peacekeeping commitments, arguably one of our proudest global contributions, are today ranked 53rd in the world. Ottawa’s lost UN Security Council seat bid is another example of our diminishing clout in the international arena.
PM announces Canada’s new Ambassador to France
Prime Minister Stephen Harper today announced the appointment of Lawrence Cannon as Canada’s next Ambassador to the French Republic.
“The global economic recovery remains fragile and it is critical that Canada strengthen its trade linkages with nations around the world, including with France.” said Prime Minister Harper. “Lawrence Cannon’s appointment as Ambassador speaks to the importance of Canada’s relationship with France with whom we have important cultural, linguistic and historical ties. His experience in the private and public sectors, as well as his significant diplomatic skill, will help ensure that Canada-EU trade negotiations are brought to a successful conclusion.” Not in our opinion the best choice – surely a professional and skilled diplomat would have been better suited to accomplishing the purpose?
13 April
Stephen Harper At Summit Of The Americas: Rise Of South American Economies Means PM Faces New Dynamic
(Canadian Press via HuffPost) When Stephen Harper last met with the hemisphere’s leaders at a Summit of the Americas three years ago, his choice of adjectives for some of his counterparts wasn’t always so . . . diplomatic.
Antagonist, cold-war socialism, rogue nations — the prime minister didn’t hide his disdain for left-wing leaders like Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez.
Harper arrived in this historic seaside town on Friday for the sixth summit in a political and economic landscape that might require a shift in vocabulary that would resemble the change in his thinking and rhetoric on China.
Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Peru have largely weathered the global economic downturn and some are forecasting impressive growth this year. China has poured billions into projects in the region, becoming Brazil’s largest trading partner.
There is also more unity among Latin American countries than ever before — a new organization called the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) was born last December and specifically excludes Canada and the United States.
7 April
Haroon Siddiqui: Prime Minister Harper muzzles diplomats and foreign agencies
(Toronto Star) The Stephen Harper government was ready to splurge $25 billion or more for fighter jets. It’s spending $9 billion for jails we don’t need. But it has no money for programs and agencies it does not like. It has been axing or starving them — for example, the CBC, the Canadian International Development Agency, the foreign affairs department and the Montreal-based human rights group, Rights & Democracy, in this latest round of cuts alone.
Harper came to office in 2006 harbouring a deep distrust of the federal bureaucracy, which he considered a catacomb of Liberal sympathizers. He held a particular animus for foreign affairs, whose officials he thought of as elitist, having never travelled abroad. More crucially, he feared their resistance to his blind support of Israel.
Pruning and clipping Foreign Affairs
By Colin Robertson
(Ottawa Citizen) Foreign Affairs, like the rest of government, has come under the knife. The recent budget promises to sell some official residences, extend time diplomats spend abroad, review their allowances, cut back on cars and examine Canada’s membership in some international organizations to see that we are getting value for money. … Selling some residences could generate $80 million, but that choice must be made wisely as a residence is an important diplomatic tool. … Similarly, closing missions leaves a long-term bad taste in host countries. Far better to preserve a footprint. Keeping Canadian ears, eyes and a voice around the world is critical to our place in the world and, importantly, gives us standing in Washington.
5 April
Canada sinks lower on the list of foreign aid donor nations
Reduced overseas contributions reflect ideology and the changing times
(Maclean’s) … Patrick Johnston, former president of the Walter Gordon Foundation now working as a philanthropy consultant in Toronto … believes this reflects how Canada’s international aid agenda has shifted away the goals people typically associate with such activities—like the alleviation of poverty and the delivery of basic services. ”We’re using foreign aid to sort of serve our own foreign policy and security interests,” he says.
At the same time, Johnston contends that the rise of online microcredit organizations like (which allows anyone to send small loans to entrepreneurs in impoverished countries), aid organizations led by billionaire philanthropists and the increasing ease with which money is transferred electronically have changed the way international assistance is done in the years since CIDA was founded in 1968. There are more players on the aid scene, and that gives government room to back off.
Johnston points to money transfers from people in Canada to relatives and friends in the developing world. According to the U.S. Hudson Institute, US$12.2 billion in remittances were sent from Canada to recipients in developing countries in 2009. That’s more than twice the government’s total aid budget.
3 April
Andrew Cohen” A diminished Canada at home and abroad
(Ottawa Citizen) There are many words commentators have used to describe the new federal budget: conservative, cautious, humdrum, prudent, bold, visionary, revolutionary, transformative. It’s hard to find le mot juste but here’s another: small. … At root the budget reflects a disdain for diplomacy, particularly if it evokes the legacy of Lester Pearson. … As the budget will foster a diminished Canada at home, without ambition to address income inequity or embrace national projects, it will foster a diminished Canada abroad.
Oh, we’ll swagger in international forums and wag fingers in the United Nations and Davos. We will continue to talk about human rights in Burma but not China. We will continue to sell asbestos and challenge climate change. [Emphasis added]
Lee Berthiaume: Cuts reduce Foreign Affairs’ representation: Documents show cost-saving affected major summits
Colin Robertson: Americas strategy? It takes three to tango
The Harper government developed an Americas strategy with an emphasis on democratic governance, prosperity and security. We’ve made progress through a series of boutique trade agreements, but the grand strategy has been slow to take shape. As we approach this month’s Summit of the Americas, it’s ready for a “reset.”
It takes two to tango, and Latin American governments share responsibility for not taking advantage of Canadian interest and opportunities. During Stephen Harper’s visit to Brazil last year, he promised to be ambitious, saying that, for “too long a time we neglected relations. … Too much grass grows in the cracks on the road between out two great countries.”
Ambition is important. But so is perseverance.
Foreign Affairs budget cuts will start at the top
(Globe & Mail) The exotic image of international jet-setting will give way to the reality of hours spent on public transit to get to work as foreign-service officers move to more distant suburbs and, in some countries, potentially more dangerous neighbourhoods, as part of a plan by Foreign Affairs to save on rents.
Seeking ‘clean slate,’ Baird pulls plug on Rights & Democracy
(Globe & Mail) The Conservative government is moving to scrap beleaguered Rights & Democracy, citing the need to find savings and turn the page on the many challenges facing the Montreal-based agency.
Legislation will soon be introduced to transfer the non-partisan organization’s functions to the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, John Baird said in a statement Tuesday.
31 March
Conrad Black: A word for my old friend Hugh Segal. Senator Segal is absolutely right that Canada should assist and lead in helping the opposition in Syria. The Assad regime is a sponsor of terrorism, as Gaddafi was, and like Gaddafi, should be overthrown, whatever replaces it. The devil we know deserves to be ousted; we can deal with the devil we don’t know later. Eventually, they will become so attached to incumbency they will cease to be devils. [see Senator Hugh Segal: Canada should start playing a role in Syria]
The reason is certainly humanitarian, as the senator said, as well as punitive, as it was in Libya. But it is also part of the greater problem of Iran. Deposing its only real Arab ally and conduit to Hezbollah would help stabilize Lebanon, reduce the threat to northern Israel, reduce the Iranian potential for mischief-making generally and possibly even assist whatever forces of reason may still subsist in the Iranian theocracy to be more cautious about nuclear weapons. Stephen Harper has an excellent record in Middle Eastern affairs; he should not miss this opportunity to add to it.
Federal budget 2012: Foreign aid spending slashed
(Toronto Star) International assistance will shrink by more than 7 per cent by 2014-15 — a $377 million slice from Canada’s current $5.16 billion aid budget. That cut is part of a plan “improve the effectiveness of Canada’s aid by strengthening its focus, improving efficiency and increasing accountability,” according to the federal budget document.
The Canadian International Development Agency, the government agency that manages foreign aid programs in developing countries and supports Canadian aid organizations, will bear the brunt of the shrinking aid envelope. CIDA’s budget will be cut by $319.2 million by 2014-15.
29 March
Robert Greenhill: CIDA critics ignore improvements
(Ottawa Citizen) Prejudices aside: In 2012 Africa is stronger than ever; CIDA is more effective than ever. It’s a good time for a more up-to-date view on Africa, and a more sophisticated appreciation of CIDA.
21 March
Why did CIDA cut Development and Peace’s funding?
(Embassy Magazine) Its advocacy work and a Catholic campaign against it may have factored in, say observers. But the government says the decision was based on the proposal’s merits.
2 March
Israel’s prime minister, in Ottawa, warns of Iranian threat
(RCI) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says a nuclear-armed Iran would pose a threat to the whole world. On a visit to Ottawa Friday, Mr. Netanyahu said that even if Iran agrees to resume international talks on its nuclear program, it could just be a ruse to stall for time to complete a bomb program. While Prime Minister Stephen Harper agreed that Iran’s nuclear ambitions pose a danger, he said he wants to see a peaceful solution. Mr. Harper’ refused to either endorse or condemn the possibility of an Israeli pre-emptive strike against Iran.
Haroon Siddiqui: Prime Minister Stephen Harper echoes hawks on Iran
(Toronto Star) … Stephen Harper echoing Israeli and American right-wing warmongers who want Iranian nuclear facilities bombed by Israel or the United States or both, with the help of allies, if any could be roped in. Such a war would be illegal, outside the framework of international law, since it is not likely to have the approval of the Security Council. … He and his ministers have been parroting some of the most inflammatory rhetoric on Iran coming out of Israel and the extremist American Republican presidential primaries. By contrast, the U.S. government and the European Union have been counselling caution: Give economic sanctions a chance to work, which they seem to be.
29 February
Paul Wells — Rights and Democracy: The enemy of my enemy is a listed terrorist organization
(Maclean’s) … now, here’s the indefatigable Graeme Hamilton at the National Post noting that Braun, along with his fellow R&D board member David Matas, has been in Ottawa urging the government — which is, inexplicably, chock full of big big Aurel Braun fans — to consider the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK) as a potential replacement government for Iran.
15 February
Jeffrey Simpson: Canada risks being left empty-handed in Asia
(Globe & Mail) … forget a Canada-China free-trade deal any time soon, which leaves Canada holding an empty bag in the Asia-Pacific theatre. For all the government’s talk about Asia’s importance, and despite the Prime Minister’s China trip, not much is happening on the trade liberalization front for Canada in the Asia-Pacific region. … The TPP is the best trade negotiating table in the Asia-Pacific region, except that Canada lacks a seat. The Harper government says it wants one – Canadian officials were in New Zealand on Tuesday – but some of the participants don’t want Canada there, as explained in a recent C.D. Howe Institute paper by Laura Dawson. The major reason is Canada’s protectionist supply-management system for certain agricultural products (eggs, poultry, dairy), shielded behind astronomically high tariffs.
13 February
[Editor: Looks like someone is reading/listening to Diane Francis (see below)]
Canada wants membership in proposed regional grouping
(RCI) Canada’s trade minister is traveling to Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei this week to press for Canada’s inclusion in the Trans-Pacific Partnership future free trade zone.
Michael Den Tandt: Exercise caution in dealings with China [article no longer available]
PM playing hardball with U.S. comes with very real risks
(Ottawa Citizen) The bottom line on Canada’s shiny new “strategic partnership” with totalitarian China? Stephen Harper is playing hardball with the Americans in a way that neither Jean Chrétien nor Paul Martin would ever have dared. Because of the U.S. electoral cycle it’s a game he thinks he can win. But caution is warranted.
12 February
China trade mission alters economic future: expert
(CTV) Canada is not turning its back on the United States in favour of trade with China, but rather being prudent by diversifying its economy, a trade expert says.
“One thing that is absolutely certain is that at least for my lifetime and that of my son, the United States will be the number one economy for Canada,” Peter Harder told CTV’s Question Period Sunday.
“But the other new reality is that China will be number two,” the president of the Canada-China Business Council said. “The question is, ‘How big will number two be?’.”
11 February
[Editor: If the PM and his officials read only one column, it should be this one.]
Diane Francis: It’s time for Canada to play trade hardball
(Financial Post) There is no way that Canada should embark on a special relationship with China and, fortunately, the Canadian delegation did not bite when Beijing indicated that China would welcome a “free trade deal” between the two countries.
A special bilateral arrangement with China would be exponentially more dangerous than relying on the U.S. Congress or U.S. politicians to do what makes economic and energy sense.
China will eat Canada, or any other country, for lunch.
The Prime Minister’s trip to China should be followed up with equally prominent visits to the other major Asia-Pacific nations where Canada is on the short end of lop-sided trade relationships. The most asymmetrical relationships involve Singapore, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan and Thailand as well as China. Canada has a great deal of work to do in Asia: In the first nine months of 2011 Canadians exported $33.8-billion worth of goods to 16 Asia-Pacific nations and imported $64.8-billion in goods. A reversal of these figures must be a trade priority.
10 February
Harper in China: PM attacks ‘foreign money’ behind oil sands protest, refuses to trade human rights
(National Post) Prime Minister Stephen Harper delivered a pointed message Friday directly to the People’s Republic of China from the people back home: Canada wants to sell you its oil and gas, but won’t trade its principles along with it.
8 February
Harper hails ‘strategic importance’ of China deal
(Globe & Mail) A foreign investment promotion and protection deal, or FIPA, gives foreign investors assurances they’ll be treated the same as domestic companies and allows for arbitration at an international tribunal-type body in disputes.
Details of the agreement were not released. It still has to undergo legal review by both countries and be ratified before it can come into force. In Canada, that will include debate in the House of Commons.
Energy tops agenda for PM in China
(RCI) Mr. Harper is travelling with the presidents of several oil and gas companies, including those involved in major pipeline projects. One of those projects, the Northern Gateway, is considered key to helping Canada export more oil to China. He’s also bringing along leadership from the agricultural, transportation and education sectors, hoping to beef up Canada-China relations in those fields. Peter Goodspeed discusses Canada’s increasingly lucrative policy pivot on China while Mark MacKinnon (On China visit, Harper picks up where Trudeau left off) is somewhat less sanguine about the concrete results of the trip
Harper rejects calls to pull ambassador from Syria
The official Opposition wants Canada’s ambassador recalled from Syria, but the government says he will stay in the besieged country to blast President Bashar Assad for his attacks on domestic dissenters. Canada ‘disappointed’ in Syria resolution’s demise, Baird says
4 February
Canada has no idea what foreign activity is detrimental to its national security interests, much less how to stop it, writes Terry Glavin
(Ottawa Citizen) Sinopec has managed to get away with being Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s most reliable sanctions-busting ally. It succeeded as the protector of the genocidaire Omar al-bashir’s regime in Khartoum. It’s still getting away with being the guarantor of the mass murderer Bashar al-assad’s bottomless bank account in Damascus. And Sinopec is Canada’s new best friend.
… what Harper and Oliver inadvertently opened up was a nasty and troubling question that nobody in Ottawa is particularly happy to hear people asking. Just what legally constitutes a foreign activity in Canada that is detrimental to this country’s national security interests these days, anyway?
3 February
7 big topics for Harper’s China trip (including pandas)
Oil and gas, human rights and pandas among topics
(CBC) In 2009, Harper paid his first visit to China, where the country’s leaders chided him for having waited so long. Chinese President Hu Jintao repaid the visit in 2010 as relations continued to warm and trade continued to increase. He’s also bringing along the ministers most important to doing business with China — Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, International Trade Minister Ed Fast, Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz and Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver. With that in mind, here are seven topics that could come up during Harper’s meetings in the country.
Harper’s oil pitch to China faces big hurdles
(Financial Post) Though it appears a classic supply-demand match on the surface, the plan faces hurdles that range from how long it will take to build the pipeline to environmental dangers and questions about China’s human rights record.
1 February
David Matas & David Kilgour: Harper should stand against Chinese slave labour
On his trade mission to China this month, Prime Minister Stephen Harper should ask his hosts to stop exporting the products of slave labour to Canada, and to shut down their extensive network of slave-labour camps. Toward that end, he should begin negotiating an arrangement with China that would ensure Canadians do not unwittingly buy products made with slave labour.
31 January
John Baird: Iran’s threat is real, not rhetoric
(Special to Globe and Mail Update) Just last week, in his State of the Union address, President Obama declared: “Let there be no doubt: America is determined to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and I will take no options off the table to achieve that goal.” And, a few days ago, in Davos, Nobel laureate Shimon Peres averred that Iran was the single greatest threat to Middle East peace. … In my visit to the Gulf States last autumn, it quickly became clear that this concern is not simply a product of Western or Israeli bias. The Gulf States know better than I do – even better, I dare say, than Mr. Caplan – the threat Iran poses to the region, and the dramatic and destabilizing power shift that would occur if Iran were to develop nuclear weapons. The fear in the region was palpable.
29 January
Daniel A. Bell: Memo From Davos — Elites Within Elites
(HuffPost) … The leader of Mexico was put in a huge room that was filled to capacity, but I guessed that the real draw was Bill Gates, who interviewed the president.
My guess proved to be correct, because the Mexican leader was followed by the Canadian Prime Minister, and the room emptied. The Canadian leader is a right-wing conservative and I’m not supposed to like him, but my nationalist feelings kicked in. I really felt horrible, and his uninspired speech did not lift my spirits. The next day, the (Toronto-based) Globe and Mail reported on his speech with the headline “Prime Minister Harper unveils grand plan to reshape Canada” and I was reminded of the infamous award-winning entry for the most boring headline contest, “Worthwhile Canadian Initiative.” The article itself didn’t mention the sparse crowd.
27 January
Why foreign aid is not like making a zabaglione
By Ian Smillie*
We can’t just ‘fold’ CIDA into Foreign Affairs, and voilà. It needs a strong new mandate of its own, writes IAN SMILLIE.
The idea of merging CIDA with DFAIT assumes that foreign aid is really just a foreign policy tool, money to be spent in pursuit of Canada’s varied international objectives rather than on what government has told taxpayers it’s all about.
It is no secret that there are problems at CIDA, Canada’s international development agency. Editorialists, ambassadors, academics, NGOS and insiders have had a field day in recent years, criticizing its direction (scattered), its agility (sluggish), its systems (smothering), its obsessive measurement disorder and the way it has alienated the rest of Canada’s international development community. The naiveté in this recurrent suggestion, much favoured by many a DFAIT mandarin, is staggering. The assumption is that because diplomacy and foreign aid take place overseas, they are more or less the same thing. If CIDA is to be what the government tells Canadians, the United Nations, the OECD and developing countries it is, it requires clear policy direction from the very top. Is Canadian aid money just a slush fund for the government’s international priorité du jour, or do we understand that ending poverty in the world has to be a central objective for the 21st century? Do we understand that poverty and its accompaniments – disease, environment-al degradation, uncontrolled migration, despair, dangerous ideas and conflict – cannot be stopped any more at national borders? Do we understand that the results of our efforts to deal with this challenge will affect all Canadians in the decades ahead – for good if we succeed, and for ill if we do not?
*Ian Smillie, a member of the McLeod Group, is an Ottawa-based development consultant and writer. His most recent book is Blood on the Stone: Greed, Corruption and War in the Global Diamond Trade.
20 January
Slate: Saudi Arabia. Nigeria. Venezuela. Canada?
Is our neighbor to the north becoming a jingoistic petro-state?
17 January
Terry Glavin: Canada sells the oil sands to China. Then complains about ‘foreign interference’
During the 2008 election campaign, the vow to block the export of Canadian bitumen for processing offshore didn’t come from Leonardo DiCaprio in some underground command bunker of Hollywood eco-freaks. It was what the federal Conservative Party said. Back then, Ottawa’s very own Competition Policy Review made a series of recommendations about how to deal with takeovers of Canadian resources by foreign state-owned companies. Ottawa promptly ignored those recommendations. In last May’s federal election, the subject simply didn’t come up. And now it’s serious. Really serious.

One Comment on "Canada in 2012 International Relations and Foreign Policy"

  1. Retired Canadian diplomat September 25, 2012 at 2:06 pm ·

    The concept of sharing diplomatic premises, not foreign or trade policy, isn’t all that new. When the Canadian Embassy building in Belgrade was being massively overbuilt back in the 1980’s, [it was] suggested it be shared with the Aussies. I think that has come to pass, since what was Yugoslavia is in tatters and the embassy building serves Serbia only, perhaps with some cross accreditation..
    There are shared missions at the UN – South Pacific Forum countries and some smaller Caribbean ones under the aegis of the Commonwealth. The latter to keep countries like St. Kitts, Nevis and St. Lucia from quitting the UN ( and depriving us of some SC votes, back in 1988!) . I think the policy and practical lines could be kept straight. The public perception is different. Can’t say it troubles me much but some in the new Quebec regime may see things differently.

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