In 1999, when I packed for a month in the Middle East, I made a point of bringing my Huron-made, deerskin fringed jacket.
Nothing, I thought, screamed “I am not one of you” like that jacket, which was mostly too hot and too heavy for a month-long trip clambering over the desert rocks and ruins. Although I am not much into jewellery, I also wore a red maple leaf stick pin.
I was a proud Canadian, smug and self-confident that my country was all mountains, moose, maple syrup and peacemaker in the valley.
Boy, was that ever wrong.
And it’s even more wrong now.
It took a distinguished diplomat such as Robert Fowler, who made news last year after his kidnapping by Al Qaeda in Niger, to slap not only the Liberal Party last weekend at its Canada 150 conference, but also the Conservative government and those Canadians who, still, cling to that Trudeau-era belief that we are the Dudley Do-Right of nations.
He attacked Canada for all but abandoning Africa, where war, starvation, disease, overpopulation, Islamofascism and other plagues are mixing together to make a toxic soup of terrorism that will spill across the continent, while we waste blood and treasure on the lost cause of Afghanistan.
Pointing to those who support the war, Fowler said: “Look, they say, at the number of little girls we have put in school — at a cost of 146 Canadian lives, thousands of Afghan lives, and, according to the Government website, an incremental cost, since 2001, of $11.3 billion, including $1.7 billion in development assistance from CIDA’s budget.
“My ..... think of the number of girls we could put in school throughout the Third World — particularly in Africa — with that kind of money! And we could do so without having to kill and be killed to get that worthy job done.”
It’s not just Afghanistan.
Over the past few years, Canada has been shifting its foreign aid priorities away from Africa to Latin America, where new free trade deals will protect Canada’s business interests in, among other sectors, the mining industry.
Canada’s hands are not clean there are either, as human rights activists insist. They’re documenting how workers and the environment are being exploited and devastated.
It gets worse.
Canada is also heavily into the weapons trade, an industry we hardly ever see covered in the business pages.
According to the Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade, between 2003 and 2006, Canadian military exports totalled at least $7.4 billion, mostly to the U.S.Ö, where it went into the weapons used everywhere from Iraq to Gaza.
Fowler, who kicked open a can of foreign policy worms that, I hope, will crawl into Canadian’s consciousness and consciences, made it very clear that this country has lost its way. To simplify his message, there’s too much politicking, not enough policy.
But there’s no business like the war business, as the U.S. has demonstrated time after bloody time.
According to the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, in 2008, world “defence spending” hit $1.55 trillion (U.S.) — and that doesn’t count countries where the bombs are homemade.
Imagine how much misery that kind of money could eliminate.
Imagine how many terrorists would not be created as a result.
Fowler’s can of worms must not be put back under the rock where too many people in Canada would prefer to hide it.
But, if some initial reactions on Twitter and elsewhere are any indication, it’s only a matter of time before he gets slimed.