Left out (3). The decline and fall of the Canadian dream

So, Steven Chase and Robert Fife say, in the Globe and Mail, that “The Canadian government was surprised this week by the announcement of a new security pact between the United States, Britain and Australia, one that excluded Canada and is aimed at confronting China’s growing military and political influence in the Indo-Pacific region, according to senior government officials … [and] … Three officials, representing Canada’s foreign affairs, intelligence and defence departments, told The Globe and Mail that Ottawa was not consulted about the pact, and had no idea the trilateral security announcement was coming until it was made on Wednesday by U.S. President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

Not only did our oldest and closest friends and allies kick Canada out of the “inner circle,” they didn’t even bother to tell us that the political and diplomatic kick in the arse was coming, although, the Globe journalists say, the Australian and British defence ministers gave Harjit Sajjan a brief “heads up” just minutes before the announcement. Mr Sajjan’s spokesman said that Canada “had been kept in the loop,” I call BS.

Vice Admiral Mark Norman , someone who knows a lot about what happens at the highest echelons of government in Ottawa said that “if Mr. Trudeau was fully briefed [on this new AUKUS pact, then] “he doesn’t understand what is going on internationally and he doesn’t understand what the significance of an arrangement like this is as it relates to international security.”” I don’t think he had heard a word about this until Minister Sajjan’s senior aids called the PCO and PMO on Wednesday afternoon.

One can easily imagine the conversations on Wednesday and Thursday in some of the corridors of power in Ottawa: “<Expletive> Biden <expletive> us!” said one senior official. “No,” said another, even more senior, “this has been coming for a long time. It’s a shock, but it really shouldn’t be a surprise.” “They screwed us,” said a third, “we’ve done nothing to deserve this. It’s just because we aren’t spending as much as Biden and Morrison want on the military and it’s because we’re not sending more ships to Asia, more often.” “No,” the second person said, “it’s because we decided, all of us, you and me, too, to not do whatever it took to arrest the changes in our national strategic outlook.” “How can you say that?” the first speaker said, “We all protested, I wrote a long brief explaining why we needed to step up …” “We’re still here,” the more senior official said. “We didn’t;t resign and go public as soon as we saw how things were shaping up. Almost no one did.” “No one listens when senior officials or admirals or generals resign,” said the third official, “it wouldn’t have done any good.” “You’re right,” the most senior official answered, “resignations are, normally, not news and they rarely change politicians’ minds … not, anyway, when they’re done one at a time. Back in 2016, when many us started to see, clearly, how things were going we should have resigned en masse ~ and not just we three, but dozens of us from PCO, from Foreign Affairs and from DND and the military. If the senior public service had rebelled, as it should when the government makes destructive policy choice against our advice, then there would have been enormous, even irresistible political pressure. But we didn’t, did we? We all stayed on and wrote a couple of arse-covering briefing notes and went about our business. We are as much to blame for this as are those dimwits in Trudeau’s cabinet and inner circle. We failed Canada.

Vice Admiral Norman, the article explains, “said the agreement goes far beyond access to U.S. submarine technology … [which is Mr Trudeau’s lame excuse for why Canada was kicked out of the inner circle] … “This is about accessing both current and emerging technologies, from cyber and artificial intelligence, to acoustics and underwater warfare – a whole range of very important strategic capabilities.” Further, “Mr. Norman said Canada has many national interests in the Indo-Pacific – including trade, promoting the rule of law and democracy, and countering China’s aggressive behaviour and posturing – but he suspects close allies do not take Canadian defence commitments seriously … [and he added] … “I don’t think our allies think we are serious when it comes to defence. I think they have concerns not just about our defence expenditures, but also the extent to which our [international] commitments are both lasting and meaningful.” This has been evident since 2015. Justin Trudeau effectively campaigned on doing less in the world. Everyone knew this was coming ~ especially those who voted for the Liberal Party … it is what they wanted. It’s what Canada got.

Not many Canadians remember 1947. Even my memories are very, very hazy, but we had a national dream, back then. A million Canadians (out of a total population of just about 12 million) had just finished serving in our armed forces in one of the most brutal but also most necessary wars ever fought. They didn’t want to do it again, but, already, we were learning ~ see The Sources of Soviet Conduct ~ that we were facing a new, equally frightening threat. Just before George Kennan went public, but after President Harry Truman had shared the contents of his now-famous ‘Long Telegram’ (1946) with allied leaders, Canada’s Foreign Minister, Louis St Laurent gave the Gray Memorial Lecture at the University of Toronto. In it M. St Laurent said that “There is abasic principle which I should like also to mentionThat is willingness to accept international responsibilities. I know that there are many in this country who feel that in the past we have played too small a part in the development of international political organizations. The growth in this country of a sense of political responsibility on an international scale has perhaps been less rapid than some of us would like. It has nevertheless been a perceptible growth: and again and again on the major questions of participation in international organization, both in peace and war, we have taken our decision to be present. If there is one conclusion that our common experience has led us to accept, it is that security for this country lies in the development of a firm structure of international organization.” Louis St Laurent, in other words, said that Canada had to step up and do a full and fair share. He went farther; he said that “we must play a role in world affairs in keeping with the ideals and sacrifices of the young men of this University, and of this country, who went to war. However great or small that role may be, we must play it creditably. We must act with maturity and consistency, and with a sense of responsibility.

That was the Canadian dream: to be a leader amongst the middle powers (like Australia and the Netherlands and South Korea are middle powers) and a faithful and reliable friend to our allies, even the great and powerful, as they led the West’s response to hostile, aggressive, Soviet communist expansion. It was Prime Minister St Laurent’s vision but it was shared by his great political foe Prime Minister Diefenbaker and almost every Canadian leader until …

… Pierre Trudeau took power. He, Trudeau, was not comfortable with the idea of Canada as a leader of the Western middle powers. He was even less comfortable with the idea of a US-led West. He was as comfortable with Mao Tzsetung and Fidel Castro as he was with Richard Nixon and Margaret Thatcher.

Pierre Trudeau wasn’t a communist, although he was, by and large, a philosophical Marxist, and he wasn’t;t a traitor. He was, however, also, NOT a liberal and he was very comfortable with quite illiberal ideas and ideals. So, as it transpired, were many, perhaps, sadly, even most Canadians. Several prime ministers, including Brian Mulroney, Paul Martin and Stephen Harper …

… tried to return to Prime Minister St Laurent’s vision of Canada as a leader, but a whole host of issues, including, especially, Canadians’ unwillingness to shoulder the burdens of leadership, argued against that ever succeeding.

So, here we are. Canada wanted to be a leader. Canada was a leader. Then, beginning in about 1970, Canada began to shed the burdens of leadership. Today, in 2021, 50 years later, we have been told: “Sorry, Canada, but you’re no longer in the “club” with the real, serious countries. You, and New Zealand, can come to some of the meetings, but we, the serious countries with serious leaders and serious policies, will make the decisions. If, when, there is a major war you’ll be in … but we, the serious countries like America, Australia, Britain, India, Japan and South Korea, make all the major strategic decisions for you” … and, the US President might be saying to himself, quietly, “I’ll tell you, a bit later, about your phoney claims to having sovereignty over the North West Passage.

Thank you, Pierre and Justin Trudeau.

Published by Ted Campbell

Old, retired Canadian soldier, Conservative ~ socially moderate, but a fiscal hawk. A husband, father and grandfather. Published material is posted under the "Fair Dealing" provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act for the purposes of research, private study and education.

5 thoughts on “Left out (3). The decline and fall of the Canadian dream

    1. I think you have given your imaginary senior bureaucrats too much credit as being morally and ethically responsible. I think today’s senior bureaucrats have they eyes focused solely on their wages and pensions, not so focused on their jobs and the bettering of Canada and Canadians. Perhaps I am being a pessimist, but I don’t really see the Leadership in today’s generations as there was in yours.

  1. Soon Canada will be out of the FVEYs community altogether. Oh well, its not like AUSUKUS actually need us….

    Sadly, there are very few people like you left in this country. Even worse is the fact you are likely labeled as an irrelevant old White man out of touch with the progressive policies and ideas of the (il) liberal elite.

    In this country ideas and discussion such as what you have written are declared to be “conservative, ” or “nationalistic.” Of course, those two words are considered to be alt-right here in English Canada, (not in Quebec though, which is what I envy about French Canada) forcing a lot of people to remain silent for fear of reprisal through social media.

    Thank you for writing your thoughts.

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