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. This United Nations snub follows a continuing malaise between the Harper government and the international organization committed to maintaining international peace and security. Sadly, the snub is not the first diplomatic faux-pas the Harper government has committed during its tenure.
Even before he was Prime Minister, Harper showed disdain for the U.N. when he penned an editorial for the Wall Street Journal in 2003 to champion the pending Iraq war despite the United Nations Security Council's clear disavowal. The open letter, co-authored with fellow Canadian Alliance Party alumni Stockwell Day addressed the then-George W. Bush-lead United States with the words, "Canadians Stand With You."
A number of conservative MPs have since made regrettable remarks about the U.N., the most recent one coming from MP Larry Miller who clumsily suggested Canada consider divorcing the organisation.
Since Harper took office, he has spoken to the group twice. In 2006, the fledgling PM attempted to bolster his foreign policy credentials, asserting that "Canada's back, as a vital player on the global stage." Four years later, Harper would squeeze the few drops of charm he possesses to lobby for Canada's traditional seat at the prestigious U.N. Security Council. "As a founding member of the UN and the seventh-largest contributor to its finances, Canada has been a consistently reliable and responsible participant in UN initiatives around the world," Harper boasted before listing off several of those initiatives for UN voters. There wasn't enough Canadian beer or maple syrup to wine and dine foreign diplomats into forgiving Canada's international gaffes for, in October 2010, Canada lost its bid to sit on the prestigious United Nations' Security Council in what was called "a stunning swipe at Canada's foreign policy shift under the Conservative government." An inelegant Harper would lay blame at the feet of the Leader of the Opposition, thus compounding the appearance of diplomatic ineptitude.
All hat, no cattle
While PM Harper attempted to present the image of strength and power via the opulence of the G20 summit and the proverbial "big guns" in the form of the F-35 military fighter gets, some suggest that the Emperor has no clothes. When it comes to pivotal sovereign decisions such as cross-border security and diplomatic judgment, Harper prefers to lean on other countries.
Earlier this year, Canada went a step further than the existing intelligence-sharing agreement by allowing U.S. agents to creep onto Canadian soil under integration scheme. Offering U.S. law enforcement officers the power to make arrests in Canada in a cross-border policing measure provoked sovereignty worries nationwide.
Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird announced plans this week to merge a number of British and Canadian embassies in an open exchange of diplomatic duties across international jurisdictions. In what might very well be an omen, the announcement was made in London a day before Canadians were told the news. It doesn't take much imagination to deduce which nation would have the upper hand in this unequal partnership.
Culture Budget Siphoned Towards Outsiders
The Harper government slashed the arts and culture budgets destined to support home-grown artistic talent, yet found 28 million tax dollars to celebrate a 200-year old war between two foreign nations (the War of 1812 opposed England and the USA), and more untold amounts renaming the Canadian Forces to salute its colonial past in a hat tip to Great-Britain. More millions were spent multiplying royal visits as the monarch's children and grandchildren were repeatedly paraded around the country, eclipsing domestic investments.
Relinquishing Corporate Sovereignty
Under Stephen Harper's watch, Canada has relinquished its corporate sovereignty by encouraging the tentacles of foreign-owned corporations to appropriate Canadian entities. Most notably the oil sands which are subject to numerous interests. The potash boom has garnered take-over lust, while the portions of the agricultural sector have also fallen to foreign hands. Foreign ownership bids have engulfed the Canadian landscape, and Canadians now wait to see if the Harper government will approve China's CNOOC bid to acquire Calgary-based energy company Nexen Inc.
The Harper government is poised to allow corporations, domestic and foreign-owned, to pick and choose our immigrants, in yet another half-baked policy to handing over sovereign decisions to unelected, unaccountable entities.
Dragging Canada Down
Between the successive fossil awards for environmental savagery, the unfortunate de-funding of reproductive health in foreign aid, as denounced by none other than U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and the discharge of Canadian interests in Iran to Italy following the embassy shutdown,the Harper government continues to slide Canada's international influence down to the gutter. PM Harper's foreign policy follies and his off-loading of our natural jewels, our Canadian pride and our Canadian diplomatic independence. So much for "Standing Up for Canada," eh.
Follow Rachel Décoste on Twitter: www.twitter.com/RachelDecoste