Thursday, July 30, 2009

A Foreign Affairs Directive to Remember

You do all remember that this man once said we wouldn't recognise Canada when he got through with it right? Well, he certainly is doing his damnedest to prove himself right.

Sadly, while most us of get caught up in the little things, many of which are tossed out as shiny objects, a much more serious shift is taking place in this country and too few imo are paying attention.

Now, before I go off on a tangent, let me be clear. I am under no illusion that every government that comes to power has both the right and a need to put their own mark on the country. What gets to me in this case though, is just how little Harper's philosophy has been examined and because of that much of what he is doing flies under the radar or is dismissed as politics or government as usual. It's not though, not with this man. In fact, I'm certain that the a good portion of his supporters really have no idea what he is all about.

That said, let me get to my point and that is the subject I've been focused on lately, Foreign Affairs.

I've focused on some individual cases here of late, but inferred that there was a bigger issue and yesterday, we gained a little clarity on that.

Two articles in Embassy speak to the issue and make it pretty clear that this Government is changing who we are as a nation.

Fearful that political staffers are severely diluting Canada's foreign policy through alterations to policy language, senior Foreign Affairs officials have begun pushing back against their political masters.


With subtle strokes of the pen, it appears the Conservative government has been systematically changing the language employed by the foreign service and, as a result, bringing subtle but sweeping changes to traditional Canadian foreign policy.

This is not minor stuff people. Yes, this can be changed back, but the damage done in the meantime is not minor.

Since 9-11, the culture has changed here and elsewhere. That is certainly true as it relates to CSIS, but in that case, I suspect it was simply an opening that some in that org. had been waiting for.

Changes were also necessary in Foreign Affairs. In my view, there was a strong reaction initially. Fear drove everything in those days, but as time moved forward, we began to see that some of the actions taken were in fact an over-reaction. No one is saying that vigilance isn't needed in today's climate, but caution based in fact, not ideology, is what must prevail.

Now, I have to say it's difficult for me to understand why the Harper government places such a low value on human and women's rights, but there is no denying that they do. By difficult to understand I mean I can't imagine what it is to value some, more than others, yet that is what is becoming more and more evident. Equally as disturbing is the ongoing evidence that this government is happy to assume people are guilty, without the benefit of trial. Essentially based on hearsay. Consider the revelations from the Abdelrazik case.

Here is some more from Embassy:

In an email communication obtained by Embassy, staff at the Department of Foreign Affairs express concern about frequent changes being made to commonly used terms, particularly where such changes are not consistent with accepted Canadian policy, and which may be carried out to minimize international obligations on issues as complex as the Omar Khadr case.

For many observers of Canada's foreign policy, these are distressing language changes that water down many of the very international human rights obligations Canada once fought to have adopted in conventions at the United Nations. As one source said, in the international world of diplomacy—where officials often focus detailed discussions on the language included in documents and policies—wording makes a big difference.

There it is right there. We are watering down the international human rights obligations that we previously fought for. I haven't done the research but I would wager that both Mulroney and Clark (if we are speaking recent history), also fought for these principles.

I'm so sad that this doesn't get the coverage it deserves. There is more ink spilled on will there or won't there be an election than real issues that just might just get Canadians thinking, regardless of where they come down.

These are issues that an election should be fought on. The tone of our country in the world relates directly to so many other policy areas. Immigration, investment, trust in negotiation, to name but a few.

In today's world though, how on earth would you fight an election on a complex issue when your opponent, Harper, has reduced the dialogue to school yard taunts?


HeatherAre said...

I'm a big fan of your thoughts and I'll start and hope this discussion takes off so that something's done about it. Maybe our Foreign Affairs critic will dust off his indignation and aim it pointedly where it belongs.

George Carlin did a piece a few years back -- quite angrily, I'll add -- about how we sanitize the language so that things sit well with us. Shell shock has, after millions of deaths and countless wars, been watered down to PTSD. If we were still calling it shell shock, he argues, veterans would be getting attention they deserve.

And so it goes with our government and international human rights. The tone of our country in the world absolutely relates to every policy area and that, of course, relates directly back to each of us as a citizen.

As an aside, I'll tell you all I'm seeking the Liberal nomination in a rural riding in Eastern Ontario and I hear about this from constituents. The Chuck Cadman affair -- where'd it go? A fundamental change has to take place where we just don't give up and move on. We need to TAKE our country back one issue at a time. It's about our souls and there's nothing juvenile about that.

Karen said...

Indeed Heather. Your last line is poignant.

Your comment about Carlin is apt. I don't dismiss PTSD in a real context, but there is a point to be made in terms of how we've watered down what things are and the impact they have.

This is a country with a proud record of fighting for rights and justice. The current government is flushing that.

It's my opinion that Canadians do not know this. I get that they don't follow dense issues, but surely to gawd the press could put this in context and do it well.

No opinion, just...this is how it was, this is how it's changed...and here we are.

Anonymous said...

I read this and it nearly made me shake my head..what is Harper trying to do? You won't recognize Canada, is is starting to feel like we are losing what took many many years to accomplish. My god,what people vote for this. many have no idea what he is up to..or do not understand, I presume in other words..stupid

Anonymous said...

My god,what people vote for this. many have no idea what he is up to..or do not understand, I presume in other words..stupid.

The prbiggest problem lies with the Media. They spread the lies and the people read this and take it as fact because the Media in the past stood up for truth and Canadians but this is no longer happening. If the media went bankrupt which they deserve to be, we would not miss them. They are so embedded with Harper and his Reform party that they can't see the forest for the trees. Unless this changes, the idea Harper had about not recognizing Canada willcome to pass with their shoddy reporters and editors who support those editots.


Anonymous said...

OOPs, typo's in my 10:29 post. I apolizise. Sorry

Anonymous said...


I read that stuff with interest as well.

Harper is continuing to try and dismantle the Liberal apparatus of government.

When he was elected in 2006 there were many stories about how Mulrooney did not do that, instead he used the Liberal machinery to preserve his own power and that is why it became so easy for the Liberal's to re-entrench themselves. Harper's supporters spoke about ripping the Liberal gears out of government, disabling the machinery and stripping the bureaocracy back to what is a simpler more directed state.

It seems to me that this is certainly part of what is occurring.

The Liberal's have been watching Harper do this and simply bayed at the moon for 2.5 years now. The only time they pulled the election lever was to save their own financial skin.

They only have themselves to blame. The LPC has propped the Harper government up some 40 times so far.

Aren't you getting tired of supporting a party that is this self serving?


Anonymous said...

You probably want me to address the CPC moral issues you bring up.

This government clearly sees radical Islam as a world wide threat and doesn't want the Canadian government or its people to get complacent or soft. That would explain Kadr as well as Abdelrazik. He has shown no truck with terrorists. That explains the responses in the Middle East and Sri Lanka. He has tried to protect Canada from a soft fuzzy vagueness on refugees. This explains the new rules and the Czech and Mecican visa requirements.

His strength with the military is also changing this nation. He is doing all of this using the sense of morality he has which clearly differentiates him from the previous Liberal path.

He is dismantling it. And as I said before, the Liberal's have been letting him. It's never too late to grow a pair, perhaps in September the Liberal's will find the internal fortitude to force a vote.

But I'm cynical. They will look at the polls and their war chest and make the decision not based on what they tell the media is best for Canada, but what they feel is best for the Liberal Party of Canada.


Karen said...

Well Tomm, for all your bravado, it seems that you have seen the error of his ways.

Could we all lose the term, grow a pair, or, if he had cojones or testicular fortitude, my fave.

Yo! We who do not share that anatomy are just as strong in our conviction.

Now to say that the Lib's have let this go on is not true. Access has been brutal, in spite of claims, so the party, the LPC, has about as much knowlege as the general public. Ignatieff may be briefed on immediate security issues though.

You and others have to stop blaming the Lib's for this government's inability to run and stand up for this country.

Anonymous said...


My apologies. I should be wise enough to stay away from gender references.

With respect to Abdelrzik, I hear what you are asking. You are asking the questions such as... Why isn't this government helping this individual? There appears to be literally no information that condemns him.

I understand the position and quite frankly, I agree with the sentiment. But is this truly the case? While Abdelrazik was in the Sudan, I never heard anything about his name being on the UN list. The media seemed to have suppressed this info. Knowing of course that the Canadian government was held by confidence not to present it either. Everytbody waits until he arrives in Canada and then we are told that he is unable to work because of this UN list. It seems to me that there is at least a reasonable position that more shoes are likely going to drop. And of course, that our views are being manipulated.