In recent decades, and especially after WW2, Canada was considered a ‘middle power’ on the international stage. Our European heritage, both politically and industrially, gave us a seat at any gathering of powerful countries. At times, Canada punched much above its weight, such as in both the world wars as well as global issues like taking a stand against the apartheid regime in South Africa.
However, from time to time, our leaders have tried to give a boost to Canada’s global image regardless of ground realities. For example, successive Prime Ministers Jean Chretien, Paul Martin and Stephen Harper attempted to increase Canada’s contribution to the military operations in Afghanistan to a level that was simply unachievable given Canada’s modest military capabilities. Taking a different route, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has tried to bolster Canada globally by means of targeted international aid that focuses on ‘progressive’ causes. If recent developments are any guide, this approach has not borne fruit. Over the course of the past four and half years, critics of PM Trudeau’s approach have been considered partisan, and so their criticism has resonated only among certain sections of people.
However, this week, two events happened that has left everyone wondering whether Canada still enjoys the respect of other countries to the degree that we believe it does. First, there was the unpleasant surprise that the two aircraft that Canada had sent to China to receive supplies of Personal Protection Equipment to cope with the Covid-19 had returned empty. The Prime Minister as well as Minister Ahmed Hussein tried to explain this away by saying that China has pretty strict rules about the length of time that aircraft are allowed to remain on ground at their airports. This raises even more questions. For example, if the aircraft had been specifically sent by the Canadian government to pick up PPE’s, why were they not able to load these on the aircrafts within the time allowed? Also, why would the Chinese authorities not relax their supposedly strict rules for the government of a country that claims to be friendly with them?
It should also be mentioned here the two Michaels have now been in Chinese prison for over five hundred days, allegedly in poor conditions. Many Canadians are now coming to the conclusion that Canada’s love affair with China may possibly be one-sided.
If that was not enough, former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull released a book this week in which he has described his experience with PM Trudeau in unflattering terms. The obsession that the latter has with themed socks has been much talked about, but when a former head of government, that too of a long-time ally country, brings this otherwise small issue to a higher level. Mr. Turnbull has also described how the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement almost got scuttled because Mr. Trudeau did not turn up at the meeting in time. While the agreement was salvaged some months later, what should concern us here is that Mr. Turnbull chose to make his experience with Canada’s Prime Minister public. In the world of diplomacy, language tends to be notoriously diluted, regardless of the differences that the parties may have. In that light, we have to think of Mr. Turnbull’s choice of words as a sign that Canada is not as much worthy of respect.
(Darshan Maharaja is an independent blogger and writes regularly on Canada’s social, political and financial issues at his website darshanmaharaja.ca. He can also be followed on Facebook (Darshan Maharaja) and Twitter (@TheophanesRex).