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The incredible shrinking nation

By Jackson Murphy
web posted October 8, 2001

"I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore," Peter Finch said in the 1976 movie "Network". I echo that sentiment as I watch in disbelief at the inaction of the Canadian government and the political elites.

I was attending a forum on arms control issues at Simon Fraser University last week headlined by the former Minister of Foreign Affairs Lloyd Axworthy -- the moral center of Canada's peacekeeping and human security agenda from 1996-2000. It actually ended up being a discussion on the issue of Canada's options in the wake of September 11.

Axworthy warned that the war on terrorism cannot become, "a new holy grail" that pushes away all other security issues. He warned that this should not prompt a, "bandwagon to perimeter defense."

What he and much of the liberal establishment want is to resolve this issue with a better international legal system, international police coordination, and the implementation of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

This is utter nonsense. Canada and much of the world pursued human security throughout the 1990's and look where it got us. The answer to these terrorist acts of war is using every weapon in our arsenal including military action.

Defence Minister Art Eggleton

Then there is Defence Minister Art Eggleton who has tried to defend the dismantling of Canada's military. In an op-ed in the Ottawa Citizen Eggleton wrote, "a good portion of the discourse in Canada appears to be rooted in 'old-think'. And history has shown repeatedly that one of the most serious errors a military can make is to prepare for the last war."

I think it should be noted that there is a distinct difference between 'old-think' and Eggleton's 'no think'. He lamely defends the current state of the military and intelligence agencies by suggesting that we are upgrading our CF-18's and that we have an excellent Counter Terrorism unit (Joint Task Force 2 or JTF2). ]

But this JTF2 unit consisting of an estimated 200-250 men at a cost of $40 million based in Dwyer Hill, Ontario and is certainly not prepared to do much there to prevent any terrorism.

Canada is succumbing to what York University Professor Martin Shadwick called the 'New Zealandization' of the military. Which reflects the May 2000 Government Defence Statement in New Zealand. In that statement Prime Minister Helen Clark pledged to rebuild New Zealand's chronically under funded military (sound familiar?) and enable it to make a useful contribution internationally.

The reality saw the transformation of both New Zealand's Air Force and into glorified police related missions. Now with no effective air or sea force New Zealand is unable even to contribute to regional security to say nothing of international commitments. This is the direction Canada's military is taking.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Manley at a joint news conference with Colin Powell on September 21. And yes, I think Manley's been hypnotized as well.
Foreign Affairs Minister John Manley at a joint news conference with Colin Powell on September 21

The government has also created an ad-hoc federal anti-terrorism committee. Foreign Affairs Minister John Manley who told the National Post that "you can't just sit at the G8 table and then, when the bill comes, go to the washroom" leads this 'brain trust'.

At least Manley is somewhat realistic and has said that there is a, "glaring inadequacy" in Canada's intelligence, defence, and foreign-aid capabilities that is undermining the nation's ability to meet obligations and reputation. But Eggleton, Finance Minister Paul Martin, Justice Minister Anne McLellan, Immigration Minister Elinor Caplan, Transport Minister David Collenette, Solicitor General Lawrence MacAulay, Deputy Prime Minister Herb Gray, Intergovernmental Affairs Stephane Dion, and National Revenue's Martin Cauchon surround him.

These are the same people who have presided over the dismantling of our military and in the process left us completely open to terrorism, biological attack, chemical attack, and nuclear attack.

So far they have collectively done nothing-save Caplan and McLellan who have pushed Bill C-11. This bill will make it easier to detain and deport refugee claimants deemed to be a security risk-too bad that we couldn't find 27,000 of these refugees from the last five years alone.

Manley claims that he is an equal with the new US Homeland Security Czar Tom Ridge. As much as I would like to believe him it is shocking to think that one minister is in charge of Foreign Affairs and Homeland Security. It says more about the lack of quality members in the Liberal caucus than of Manley's ability.

More importantly there is the case of the already established sub-committee of cabinet on intelligence. But that committee has not met in over a year!

Beyond this the government is of the belief that we cannot rush to merge our borders and immigration laws with the United States for fear that we will lose our sovereignty. This is a typical lack luster defense of Canada's nationhood reveals just how out of touch the government is. Jean Chrétien is the incredible shrinking prime minister-becoming more and more irrelevant for each fund raising event he attends.

The essence of every nation is security. It is the raison d'etre of a nation. So the question on everyone's mind is whether or not Canadians want security and convergence with US policy or no security and the possibility that we will be on the outside of a fortress America.

Axworthy finished his talk by saying that Canadians cannot, "derive all the good things without paying the price." He is right we should have started paying the price 25-years ago.

Is anyone going to do anything about Canada slipping into obscurity? At this rate Canada will be forever marginalized with other nations of no importance. Welcome to the incredible shrinking nation.

Jackson Murphy is a young independent commentator from Vancouver, Canada writing on domestic and international political issues. He is a frequent contributor to Enter Stage Right and writes weekly at suite101.com. You can reach him at jacksonmurphy@telus.net.

Other related stories: (open in a new window)

  • Canada's national embarrassment by Jackson Murphy (October 1, 2001)
    When the United States and Britain launch their attacks against those responsible for the terrorist attacks, it will be a fact that Canada won't be participating. Jackson Murphy tells us why
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