Foreign politics or domestic minestrone?


The Hill Times June 26, 2017

I didn’t pay a lot of attention three weeks ago when Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland delivered a speech heralded as the “new blueprint” for Canadian foreign policy.

However, later, reading the media reports, considering the increasing tension in the world and the dangerous lack of leadership, I read it many times hoping to find new ideas to help the world find peace and for Canada a prominent role in the process.

Unfortunately, the speech is only a masterpiece in gerrymandering domestic and international issues to manufacture a vision that doesn’t exist yet.

The minister is eloquent like Stéphane Dion, but contrary to her predecessor, she is also a good politician who knows what is right, what is wrong, and how to own the former and brush away the latter.

She starts wondering if Canada is “an essential country, at this time in the life of our planet,” and the answer is positive. But the case she makes is wobbly.

Let me be more specific.

The fight to defend the environment is at the top of the agenda, but she only commits to international accords to be implemented in the future, but the truth is they are likely to collapse before producing results. Basically, it’s a commitment to fight, not a plan for reality.

The Paris agreement has essentially been mutilated by Donald Trump, and before that, Kyoto failed because our governments (Liberal and Conservative) did not respect it. The only truly successful international agreement Canada has struck on the environment has been the bilateral acid rain agreement with United States signed by Brian Mulroney’s Progressive Conservatives in the ‘80s.

Freeland promotes free trade, but the Liberals fought against it when the Conservatives negotiated free trade with the U.S., only to sign on later and defend it now.

She opposes the “put America first policy” of Trump stating, that “Humankind had learned through the direct experience of horror and hardship that the narrow pursuit of national self-interest … led to nothing but carnage and poverty.” At the same time, she says that “by definition, the path we choose must be one that serves the interests of all Canadians and upholds our broadly held national values.

She preaches peace but, at the same time, defends the spending increase for our military. Why, she asks, “do we spend billions on defence, if we are not immediately threatened?” Because, she says, “Climate change is by definition a shared menace, affecting every single person on this planet.” Are we sending the troops to fight pollution?

She mentions that “civil war, poverty, drought, and natural disasters anywhere in the world threaten us as well—not least because these catastrophes spawn globally destabilizing mass migrations.” She mentions North Korea’s “crimes against humanity,” in Syria, the “monstrous extremists of Daesh”, and Russian “military adventurism and expansionism.

A list of problems, but where is the list of solutions?

She says that we don’t have to count solely on U.S. to defend us. But in dealing with NORAD, and we have to do our “fair share.” Can someone explain how our “fair share” is going to be different from the past.

She promotes new global partners in the G20 like China, India, and others, but to defend the G7 that excludes them.

And then on multiculturalism: “Canadians know about living side-by-side with people of diverse origins and beliefs, whose ancestors hail from the far corners of the globe, in harmony and peace. We’re good at it. Watch how we do it.” However, she doesn’t explain why Quebec is still not a signatory of our Constitution and separatism is still an issue.

She mentions “that we also have problems of our own to overcome—most egregiously the injustices suffered by indigenous people in Canada.

Basically multiculturalism works between me and my Portuguese neighbour, but not with the founding cultures of this country and in dealing with our aboriginals.

And, by the way, does she really believe that the refugee problem in other continents has been solved by rushing 40,000 of them into Canada as a window dressing gimmick?

Freeland is an intelligent, educated, and respected politician, and I hope that she will soon give to us a real gourmet foreign policy, instead of the political domestic minestrone served three weeks ago.

Angelo Persichilli is a freelance journalist and a former citizenship judge for the Greater Toronto Area. He was also a director of communications to former prime minister Stephen Harper, former columnist for Toronto Sun, Toronto Star and former political editor of Corriere Canadese, Canada’s Italian-language newspaper in Toronto. 

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