I felt it would be of interest to look at this little nugget of foreign policy news from both the Canadian side as well as the British. On the face of things, plans for the UK and Canada to share embassy space in several countries is hardly earth shattering in its implications. However it is important to remember that both countries are run by conservative governments and this move looks to align to some extent their roles abroad. Canada, under President Harper, has been extremely bellicose in its attacks on Iran and its unproven nuclear weapons programme and unflinching in support for Israel, despite the continuation and expansion of the occupation of the Palestinians. This, all the while taking a dismissive line toward the world body that is meant to aid peaceful development and diplomacy, the UN.
Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae criticized Prime Minister Stephen Harper for avoiding the UN General Assembly this week. “If we have such a wonderful independent foreign policy, why isn’t the prime minister of Canada discussing that foreign policy in front of the United Nations this week like so many heads of state?” he said.
In question period, Official Opposition Leader Tom Mulcair accused the government of being unable to represent Canada abroad.
“If the Conservatives won’t stand up for Canada in the world, why do they expect that the British will do it for us?” he said.
“It’s all very nice to be nostalgic for the great British empire, but there are limits.”
A lot of the above is no doubt the kind of political point scoring we see on a weekly basis in the British House of Commons. The reference to the British Empire seems like an attempt to appeal to the Francophone population in Canada who resent massively the Anglo-American dominance of the country.
From the UK’s position, a decision to align with a nation whose foreign policy on many issues do not line up with the UK’s is interesting. Under President Harper Canada has Pulled out of the Kyoto Protocol along with Russia and Japan. This is a protocol – designed as a framework to set binding obligations on a country’s greenhouse gas emissions – of which the UK, on paper at least, is a supporter
On Iran, in opposition to the the intelligence estimates of many countries including the US & despite hysteria from the Netanyahu regime, some in Israel that Iran does not have an active nuclear weapons programme, Harper stated in January this year that,
“I think there is absolutely no doubt they are lying. Absolutely no doubt,” Harper said of Iran’s claims its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.
“In my judgment, these are people who have a particular, you know, a fanatically religious worldview, and their statements imply to me no hesitation about using nuclear weapons if they see them achieving their religious or political purposes. And … I think that’s what makes this regime in Iran particularly dangerous.”
This kind of view is in step with Romney and much of the Republican establishment in the US, but not with those in actual power. Now in the UK we have a conservative lead coalition whose austerity measures appear to be failing and their support diminishing in the opinion polls. Foreign policy seems to hold little interest to Cameron, at least in comparison to under Blair’s tenure, leaving Hague more room for manoeuvre in his role as Foreign Secretary. Let’s however not be coy, the UK was fully involved in the military and special forces operation to overthrow the Gaddafi regime, and in the event of a US/Israeli joint strike on Iran I expect the UK to take an active role, at least in the realms of intelligence and possibly more. I suppose what this post is trying to point to, while searching for why the UK would align with an extreme view of the world such as exists under President Harper’s conservative government, that hypocrisy is rife in both countries in the way they conduct themselves abroad. Located in Canada’s pledge on furthering human rights around the world is this,
Millions of children around the world are exploited, abused, and discriminated against. They need special protection to promote their physical, mental, spiritual, moral, and social development. These children include child labourers, children affected by armed conflict, sexually exploited children, children in conflict with the law or in the care of the state, as well as children living on the streets, coping with disabilities, or suffering from discrimination because of their religious or ethnic-minority status.
Yet Palestinian children who reside in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are discriminated against because of their ethnicity and will never be able to fulfil any kind of potential or live without fear of external violence until Palestine is “allowed” to exist as a state and control its own destiny, something Canada rejects in their stand against the Palestinian statehood bid at the UN,
parroting the extreme administration in Israel under Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
In the UK, hypocrisy and cynicism, is almost institutionalised in some of our dealings abroad. The mass weapons selling to repressive regimes , the ridiculously hypocritical nuclear brow beating of those countries deemed to be seeking weapons, does not sit well with those living with the consequences of these decisions. Perhaps after all the sharing of British and Canadian floor space abroad will fit seamlessly.
Jonathan Woodrow Martin