When Parliament reconvenes on October 16, all eyes will be on Stephen Harper's "new" agenda as articulated in the Speech from the Throne. What role will international development play in this speech -- and will it matter? I believe that the most important decisions on the international development agenda continue to be made quietly and behind closed doors, with no public scrutiny.
The government of Canada knows that signing the UN Arms Trade Treaty will save lives by stopping the illegal flow of small arms. Minister Baird is faced with a choice then: does he take a meaningful step to prevent carnage like the Nairobi attacks or does he bow to the domestic gun lobby and their fallacious claims? Sadly, I suspect we know the answer to these questions.
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird's recent mission to Latin America cannot mask Canada's unprecedented diplomatic isolation in the hemisphere. Despite shifting 'aid' to the region and claiming to have made Latin America a priority, Ottawa is increasingly offside with a region breaking free from centuries of Western imperialism.
Over a 20-year period, the term of the lease now being renewed by ICAO and Quebec/Canada, ICAO will generate several billion dollars of revenue for the city of Montreal. This is a fight that Harper had to win. And he, Baird and the whole Team Montreal, won decisively. A huge international victory.
Secular Connexion Séculaire (SCS) and Centre for Inquiry Canada (CFI) have been tracking with dismay the Harper government's abandoning the defence of most human rights in order to focus exclusively on its concerns for the rights of religious minorities. Four of the six consultants to whom the government spoke were Christian and none were Muslim, Humanist.
Bravely, the Greeks forge on. Its leaders may, indeed, as the Foreign Minister said, be exploring and defining areas of potential foreign investment and fast-tracking new rules to eliminate much of the red tape surrounding these endeavors.
Newly appointed U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will meet on Friday with his Canadian counterpart, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird. If I were advising Kerry, I would suggest one question he should ask of John Baird to see if he is an honest broker. The question is: "Is Canada committed to confronting climate change?"
It was that kind of weekend -- for the permanent residents of the capital a combination of celebration and hassle. Flocks of circling helicopters thwack, thwack, thwacked overhead like noisy mechanical geese. The inaugural parties were no less gridlocked than the streets.
Apparently, American environmentalists have put huge areas of Canada off-limits to development as de facto trade barriers that enforce a U.S. monopoly on our exports, while at the same time as they want to drop our exports to the U.S. to zero. Or something. This supposed scandal has been hiding in plain sight for almost a decade, and almost none of the key facts holds up to scrutiny. A veritable cottage industry has grown up promoting one of the most politically convenient conspiracy theories in recent memory.
On an official visit to Canada last week, Rebecca Kadaga, the speaker of Uganda's parliament, found herself in a bit of a tiff with Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird. Speaker Kadaga protested Minister Baird's "arrogance" and "promoting homosexuality." She declared, "We are not a colony of Canada." But Canada will not be any better off if Uganda stops threatening its gays. Minister Baird called out Speaker Kadaga because today, in the community of nations, where we all theoretically equal, it is anathema to the concept of human dignity that a state should sanction the persecution of a group of its own citizens for no reason other than who they are. Standing up against that is not colonialism; it's decency.
On Canadian Thanksgiving Monday, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney gave a major foreign policy address to the faculty and students of the Virginia Military Institute. He did not mention Canada once despite the fact that his vision of U.S. global leadership is like the Hollywood-budget version of Canada's indie foreign policy sensation. Should Romney become the 45th president of the United States, it will be essential, though, for him to recognize that U.S. leadership must be exercised in a spirit of partnership for it to be successful. The message to Ottawa in January can't be "Thanks Canada for doing the right things in world affairs -- we'll take it from here."
In what has been described as a "broadside" and a "blistering attack," Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird criticized the United Nations in his speech to the General Assembly earlier this week. Whether these views are simply borrowed from conservative thinkers to the south, or whether they are motivated by animus at perceived snubs such as Canada's failure to win a Security Council seat in 2010, they were sufficiently offensive that former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney offered rare public censure of the Conservative government. If our government perceives that it is being snubbed by the United Nations, perhaps it should look at foreign and diplomatic policies instead of going to New York to pick up its proverbial marbles and return home.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper is making a trip to New York this week, but it isn't to attend a United Nations meeting to which Canada was extended an invitation. The Prime Minister will instead be in the glitzy hotel, where he is due to receive an award from the little-known Appeal of Conscience Foundation, an interfaith partnership of corporate and religious leaders. Between the successive fossil awards for environmental savagery and the unfortunate de-funding of reproductive health in foreign aid, the Harper government continues to slide Canada's international influence down to the gutter.
For many Iranian-Canadians, the marriage between defence minister Peter MacKay and Iranian-Canadian Nazanin Afshin-Jam was meant to absolve our alienated condition as distant participants in Canada's development. For Afshin-Jam and her cohorts, the closure of the embassy represents the full blossoming of this ancient but till now unrecognized unity. Is this unity actually real?
In years to come, every nation will have to create its own options because there will be no government with the muscle to drive an international agenda. Some countries are better positioned than others to prosper in this decentralized global order.
For the most part, UN resolutions never have any direct impact on the strategies of Israeli and Palestinian decision-makers. However, these votes remain important symbols because they are verbal images, telling other international actors 'who' Canada is and what its values are.