Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Please Don't Hate Me. Canadians are Still Nice. It's Our Government That's Horrible.

Canada has been getting a lot of bad press lately, most of it deserved. The same games that the Harper government has been playing at home, they are also playing on the international stage, and it's beginning to take it's toll.

From war crimes to dirty oil, the name Canada is now poison. I just read that they even cut our flag down at the Canadian High Commission in London. The US doesn't want to have their picture taken with Jim Prentice, and Obama left Harper out of the loop in his plans for Afghanistan.

I was saddened when I learned that Canada was now considered irrelevant, but am appalled that we are actually now reviled. How much lower can we go?

I wrote a piece for our local paper 'What Happened to our Canada?' that was published:

That this country has taken a sharp right turn, is no longer debatable. Our neo-conservative government, that's had more name changes than Elizabeth Taylor, is now in full throttle; and political discourse has changed from what is good for Canadians to what is good for a monster named 'Economy'.

We can't feed our hungry, shelter our homeless, or retrain our jobless; because Economy must come first. Even dealing with climate change cannot be a priority, because Economy is in the corner threatening to devour us if we dare try.

Yet Economy's masters are not as concerned with his well being as they expect us to be. Tens of millions of dollars on TV ads, signs and mind numbing ten percenters. And that's because Economy is not their priority. 'Majority' is, and we will buy that for them, or die trying.

But as we see what this sharp right turn has done to us, it's devastating what it has done to our reputation.

According to Star reporter Brett Popplewell "The word "Canada" is so reviled in some places that travelling Canadians mask their citizenship by wearing American flags on their caps and backpacks."

British journalist George Monbiot wrote recently: "When you think of Canada, which qualities come to mind? The world's peacekeeper, the friendly nation ... decent, civilised, fair, well-governed? Think again. This country's government is now behaving with all the sophistication of a chimpanzee's tea party."

Canadian journalist, Heather Mallick, now working abroad; wrote in the UK Guardian recently, in an article entitled It's embarrassing to be Canadian now: "Out of something as misty as mere indecision, Canadian voters have turned their country into a political freak show."

I feel like we are all living in a huge bunker, and the outside world is trying to slip warnings under the door, but we've been lulled into a trance by a Beatles song, and can no longer think for ourselves. And as we wander aimlessly, chanting 'guns, super prisons, photo-ops, war crimes, dirty oil and big cardboard cheques', the world is passing us by.

At the end of her article Ms Mallick suggests that all is not lost. "We have shamed our better natures. But we Canadians will rid ourselves of Harper and rise again to be the decent and intelligent nation you Brits once patronised with such delight."

I can't believe that I now aspire to be patronised, but I'll take that over being reviled any day.

That was more than a week ago, and since then things have gone from bad to worse. Macleans also posted a similar article.

Suddenly the world hates Canada
How did a country with two per cent of the world’s emissions turn global villain?
by Jonathon Gatehouse
December 15, 2009

For decades, Canada has taken pride in punching above its weight on the international stage. Now it appears we’re the ones absorbing the body blows. As scientists, activists, diplomats, and political leaders gather in Copenhagen for the United Nations’ 15th convention on climate change, Dec. 7 to Dec. 18, the northern hemisphere’s “helpful fixer” is undergoing a radical—and unrelentingly negative—image makeover.

Canada “is now to climate what Japan is to whaling,” George Monbiot, a columnist for the U.K.’s Guardian newspaper, thundered late last month, citing the Harper government’s go-slow negotiating stance as “the major” obstacle to a new global agreement on curbing greenhouse gas emissions. “Until now I believed that the nation that has done the most to sabotage a new climate change agreement was the United States,” wrote Monbiot, a green campaigner and bestselling author. “I was wrong. The real villain is Canada.” ...

Kinsman sees a disturbing trend, where a government with a “disdain” for diplomacy has undercut Canada’s traditional international role.There’s a general impression that Canada is not very engaged in the world anymore, except in Afghanistan,” he says. But even then, from a seasoned diplomat’s perspective, there is never an excuse for the way Canada has been acting at the climate change table. “In the end, it’s not your position, it’s how you behave,” says Kinsman. “Influence is an asset and we’ve run it down.”

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