FACE TO FACE: Is Canada on the right track with its approach to foreign policy?
This week, my colleague has his knickers in a knot over a Liberal suggestion that Canadian military action should only be undertaken with United Nations approval - you know, the policy Canada has proudly followed for 40 years?
With Arizonian outrage, he insists that he doesn't want China, Russia or other international riff-raff to tell us what to do.
Geez, where is Lester B. Pearson when you need him to re-evangelize the country, to remind us of Canada's long and unwavering commitment to the United Nations? Sadly, under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, instead of being a champion of international arbitration, Canada now looks southward for foreign policy direction (and perhaps an appreciative pat on the head).
A minority Harper government steadfastly moved us toward a foreign policy focused on supporting "our friends" (read: the U.S. and NATO). He wanted Canada to join the "coalition of the willing" in Iraq. He decried Jean Chretien as "anti-American" for criticizing American refusal to repay repeatedly arbitrated softwood duties. At the behest of the U.S., he extended Canada's involvement in Afghanistan. He publicly takes Israel's' side in the Middle East conflict. He supports the U.S. "North American" missile system and continues negotiating the "harmonization" of Canadian and U.S. customs practices and military services.
Stephen Harper has always had a pro-U.S., Fortress North America approach to security and foreign policy. With a majority government and the assassination of Osama bin Laden, where will Harper take Canadian foreign policy? He has given every indication that Canada's historical commitment to the United Nations is less important than is our support of U.S. aspirations.
The United Nations is often ponderous and ineffective. Its main problem, however, remains a lack of support from its strongest member nation. If it is to be an arbiter of international disputes, the mandate of the UN has to be accepted, not just when it's convenient. The U.S. does not accept the UN's mandate, Canada does - or at least we have up until now.
This is not just knee-jerk anti-Americanism, as my colleague may suggest. It's pride in the legacy of Canadian peacekeeping that Lester Pearson and Canada gave the world.
Canada's strength lies in our international contribution to peace, not in being a military handmaiden to "our friends."
Face to Face columnist Jim Nelson is a retired Tri-City teacher and principal who lives in Port Moody. He has contributed a number of columns on education-related issues to The Tri-City News.