Throughout history, Canada has regularly punched above its weight in the international ring. It has risen to the occasion to serve the international community during two world wars and countless peacekeeping missions around the globe. Some of Canada’s proudest moments have been produced by its diplomatic corps. Over the last eight years, Canada has been pulling its punches in foreign affairs. The recent $170 million cut to the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade’s (DFAIT) budget means that our country may soon get knocked out.
Remember the “Golden Age of Canadian Diplomacy”? Many young Canadians simply can’t. This idealized period, one that is at the core of Canadian identity, is being lost in the annals of history. It’s possible that the Canadian values espoused and promoted by Canadian diplomats like multilateralism, environmental stewardship, and human rights could go that way as well.
It was back in 1957 that an intrepid Minister of External Affairs, Lester B. Pearson created a diplomatic innovation that would change how countries practice international relations for the rest of time. For engineering the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF), the world’s first peacekeeping operation, Pearson won the Nobel Peace Prize. In 1979, then-Ambassador Kenneth Taylor helped six Americans escape from Iran during the Hostage Crisis in a covert operation called the Canadian Caper.
In the 1990s, Minister of Foreign Affairs Llyod Axworthy was a champion for the idea of Human Security. This concept demands that we refocus our attention to specifically keeping human beings safe rather than just the hard power considerations of countries. As a result, threats that would otherwise go unnoticed are brought to the fore. Human Security was the foundation of the 1997 Ottawa Treaty to ban anti-personnel landmines. For this humanitarian project, Axworthy was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. Responsibility to Protect (R2P), a Canadian innovation, paved the way for NATO’s operations in Kosovo to bring an end to ethnic cleansing by Slobodan Milosevic’s forces and the recent NATO operation in Libya to halt the tyranny of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime. These distinctly Canadian initiatives have saved lives and changed the world, and they all started with our now-oft-forgotten diplomatic corps.
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