COMMENT: Canada – not going along to get along
My colleague Paul Dewar, our Foreign Affairs critic, recently wrote an article where he talks about Canada’s pattern of disengagement and withdrawal from the international community. Paul mentions that our Minister of Foreign Affairs, John Baird likes to say that Canada will no longer “go along to get along” in reference to the Prime Ministers absence at the UN General Assembly in September.
So, according to Paul, what does this mean? It means that Canada will no longer ‘go along’ with the international scientific and political consensus that climate change is both real and a threat – not just to the environment, but also to the livelihoods of billions of people, including Canadian farmers and coastal residents.
The Conservatives demonstrated their denial of the science of global warming by withdrawing from the Kyoto Protocol. They confirmed it this year by becoming the only country in the world to quit the UN Convention on Desertification – without even telling the UN they were leaving.
It means that Canada, which once led the world to a nearly universal ban on landmines, will no longer ‘go along’ with international efforts to make the world a safer place. The Conservatives have refused to sign the UN Arms Trade Treaty, which would regulate the illegal trade in conventional weapons that kill millions of civilians each year. The Canadian delegation to the treaty negotiations, which included representatives from the domestic gun lobby, repeatedly sought to weaken and undermine the agreement during deliberations.
It means that Canada will no longer ‘go along’ with international engagement in Africa. While other countries recognize Africa’s growing economic and strategic importance, the Conservatives have closed Canadian offices in Niger, Malawi, Gabon, and South Africa. Canada is now a dismal 57th in its personnel contributions to peacekeeping operations, a fact that disproportionately diminishes our relevance and reputation in Africa. So did the closure of Rights and Democracy, a Canadian institution that was doing excellent and important work promoting human rights and democratic development in Africa and elsewhere.
It means that Canada will no longer ‘go along’ with international attempts to protect some of the world’s most precious resources from unsustainable and illegal exploitation. The most recent Conservative omni-budget cut funding to keep Congo’s mineral wealth in the hands of local people, rather than those of armed groups responsible for the bloodiest war the world has seen in over sixty years.
It means that Canada will no longer ‘go along’ with international efforts to protect the health of Canadians. We learned this spring that the Conservatives quit the Northern Dimension Partnership in Public Health and Social Well-Being, an international organization working to promote and improve the health of people in northern communities. When the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food advised the government to work to improve food security in Canada, the government responded with insults. And in September, after countries around the world – Switzerland, Norway, New Zealand and others – recommended that Canada launch a national review of violence against Indigenous women, the Conservatives dismissed the idea.
This is a time when Canada should be increasing its engagement with a rapidly changing world, and using its competitive advantages in diplomacy, democratic development, multiculturalism, and human rights. It is also a time in which multilateral cooperation – getting along – is more essential than ever before. Other countries are recognizing this, and increasing their responsible participation in the international community.
I firmly believe that it is time for Canada to once again step up to the plate.
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Alex Atamanenko, MP
BC Southern Interior