A High-Water Mark in Canadian Diplomacy

 Guest post by John Baird, Minister of Foreign Affairs.

In this post, Mr. Baird responds to Bob Rae’s commentary on Canadian foreign policy. CIPS is pleased to provide a venue for this debate. To receive notification of future blogposts, subscribe to our newsletter or follow us on Twitter or Facebook.

I’m pleased that CIPS and Mr. Rae have taken such a keen interest in my work abroad in recent weeks. As I said in the House recently, I hold Mr. Rae in a very high regard and always welcome working with him across party lines to deliver results for Canadians.

During my most recent trip overseas, I visited more than a dozen cities in eight countries throughout the Middle East and Europe. Over and over, I heard of the real threat that Iran poses to regional stability and global security. Canada has taken a leadership role in listing one of Iran’s proxies, Hezbollah, as a terrorist organization. Through our tough economic sanctions, or our yearly resolution at the United Nations on Iran’s abysmal and worsening human rights record, Canada has led the way in applying increasing international pressure on Tehran; including naming Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism under the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act. We are leading the push to isolate this rogue and irresponsible regime and prevent it from weaponizing its nuclear program. I make the case for tough action on Iran at every international forum I attend, including last week’s meetings of our G8 partners. Canadians can be proud that Canada is taking such a leadership role on Iran—and I’m surprised that Mr. Rae seemingly downplays such a reality.

Our foreign relations record under the principled leadership of Prime Minister Harper has restored respect for Canadian principles and positions, and given us a stronger role on the world stage.

Indeed, it is Iran that comes up in conversations across the Middle East. Outside of Ramallah, Canada’s position on the Middle East Peace Process didn’t come up once. And in Ramallah, Palestinian Authority leaders not only thanked Canada for our contributions to economic growth and security, but said they looked forward to doing more with Canada to better the lives of Palestinians. They recognize what many partisans in this country refuse to: Canada remains committed to a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East whereby two states live side by side in peace and security. Our longstanding position is that a lasting solution can only be reached through negotiations between the parties, not unilateral actions. Frankly, any unilateral move is unhelpful to the cause of peace. I made this clear to leaders in Israel and the West Bank. Our government continues to promote our long-standing position with clarity and conviction. I welcome in particular the interventions of Liberal MP Irwin Cotler on this issue and others pertaining to the broader region.

I was pleased to demonstrate that a profound difference we had with the UAE is now firmly in the past. The Emerati Foreign Minister and I have developed a close and respectful relationship—one that is already producing real, beneficial results for Canadians and bodes well for future relations between our two countries.

In Bahrain, Qatar, and Iraq, we spoke of increased security, economic growth and a respect for human rights—something on which our international partners appreciate Canada’s moral clarity.

In Jordan, the UAE and Iraq, we announced important improvements to our diplomatic network in the Arab World. From opening a new embassy in Amman, to announcing a new Special Envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, to putting a chargé d’affaires in Baghdad on a permanent basis instead of a previous intermittent presence based in another country. (The Opposition seemed confused about that last point in particular, so I’m happy to clarify that for your readers.) Our new chargé will be working to promote and protect Canada’s interests and values in this important emerging market, which is already our largest bilateral trading partner in the region.

I don’t expect Liberals or New Democrats to endorse every action our government takes. Their job as the Opposition is to oppose. And there’s no doubt previous Liberal governments have treated international relations very differently. There were days where Canada would pander to every dictator with a vote at the UN, or simply go along with the crowd just for convenience and expediency’s sake. Happily, that is no longer the case.

In our international dealings, I’m pleased to say our Conservative government has not lost sight of our values nor do we compromise on our national interests. Our foreign relations record under the principled leadership of Prime Minister Harper has restored respect for Canadian principles and positions, and given us a stronger role on the world stage.

At a time of continued economic fragility and lingering security concerns, we are seen as true leaders in any number of fields. The world is looking to Canada as a model to be followed and we are engaging with new partners and in new ways to reflect the realities of the times. It’s a truly exciting time for Canada and something of which all Canadians can be very proud.

© CIPS 2013

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