Friday, August 21, 2009

"Canada has changed"

The Norwegian Ambassador is leaving Ottawa at the end of the month and offers, among others, this parting thought on how he views Canada:
"[The past four years in Ottawa] leaves me with an impression that Canada has changed," Mr. Naess says. "Canada is not the same as it used to be. I feel, personally, that politically it was [once] closer to Norway['s] thinking than it is today. I dare say that we feel Canada...used to be [a] more like-minded country to Norway. But that is always changing. Next year we may have another government in Norway."
Nice little diplomatic save there at the end but he made his point. It's probably a fair representation of what many nations are thinking about us these days. What's frustrating is that it's not really that Canada has changed so much, it's our Conservative minority government that has changed our face to the world. There are approximately 70% of us who do not share their views. But that really doesn't matter to the world that is interacting with us and is seeing us drop terms like "gender equality" from out international diplomatic efforts. That is seeing us repeatedly not standing up for our citizens abroad. That has seen us dragging our feet on global warming efforts. That really has seen us hew to a Bush-like version of foreign affairs for years now. 

Whenever that next election comes, the question of how we conduct our foreign affairs may finally be a more important consideration than in recent elections. What kind of face do we want the world to see when they think of Canada? Is it the one that baffles the world? Or the one that the ambassador was getting at above and that most of us connect with...the engaged, multilateral, peaceful, progressive and thoughtful nation on the world stage?

A wistful parting remark that provides plenty to think about.