Mr Baird and Mr Hague have something to share:
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and British Foreign Secretary William Hague will announce plans Monday in Ottawa to begin sharing embassy space and resources. The arrangement is being touted as a money-saving move to offset budget cuts to diplomatic missions against the desire to establish a larger presence in emerging markets such as China and India.
This is an idea that makes so much sense that, naturally enough, the Pearsonalities are enraged by it:
It’s not clear which embassies or locations would be affected by the agreement, or how extensive the resource-sharing would be – the memorandum is a plan to go forward with an eye to share resources. But foreign affairs experts were quick to debate the wisdom of so closely – and physically – aligning with a country that has a distinctly different history than Canada, and has taken diverging opinions in the past.
Where do they find these people? Britain has "a distinctly different history than Canada." Well, yes it being another country and all it probably would have a different history. That would seem to be stating the obvious. The subliminal message, however, is clear enough: Yuck.
There is a certain type of Canadian, born mostly after the war but before the 1960s, who clings to a stubborn sort of anti-colonialism. They are rather alike with those who sneer at religion well into old age, not out of some profound philosophical belief, but instead out of a prolonged youthful rebellion. My father was a devout Christian, therefore I think Christianity is for fools and bigots. That spirit is seen in the Pearson era Boomers. Whatever is British is bad. Why? Because we were once British.
Canada and Australia have been sharing consular services since the Mulroney era. Yet I don't hear anyone prattling on about how Australia has a "distinctly different history." We are fine with shacking up with the Australians. No problems there. Friends helping friends and all that. But joining forces with the Mother Country produces gasps of horror. Minister Baird is not suggesting, no one outside the febrile imaginings of the functionaries at Fort Pearson is suggesting, that Canada is or should revert to colonial status. We're diplomatic roommates. We have our interests and they have theirs.
It is mooted in the above article that in some parts of the world, such as Asia and the Middle East, closely aligning ourselves with Britain might tarnish our reputation. Ahem. Sneeze the wrong way in parts of the Middle East and you might provoke a riot. That's just the risk of doing business is that part of the world. At least the British are likely to have more experience at handling crisis situations.
I doubt the huddled masses of Asia care very much about Canada one way or the other. The business leaders and diplomatic staff who do know and care can probably tell the difference between a Maple Leaf and a Union Jack. Anti-colonialism is a useful prop for Third World dictators, Left-wing tenured professors and aging boomer Canadian nationalists. Everyone else has moved on.
The practical benefits are both obvious and hardly novel. Checking the back page of my passport I read the following:
In countries where there is no Canadian office, application may be made in an emergency to the nearest British diplomatic or consular office.
That language, or language similar to it, has been in Canadian passports for decades. Until 1977 Canadian passports still proudly declared that Canadian citizens were also British subjects. This sufficiently irked the Trudeau government that they had it removed. There was no place in modern Canada for anything so horribly colonial, so dreadfully old fashioned, as the word British. While he never admitted this publicly the old Jacobin yearned to be rid of the monarchy as well. He was politically savvy enough to know that so direct an attack on our institutions would have provoked a severe backlash.
What has the career diplomats irked is not so much living with mother. Anti-British sentiment in Canada, which is negligible outside of this country's small and militant band of republicans, is very similar to our anti-Americanism, which is far more prevalent. Both are not about those other countries, they are about us. In the case of anti-British sentiment it is part and parcel of the Pearson-Trudeau foundational myth.
Once upon a time Canada was an irrelevant colony. The poor went without food and the sick without care. Civil liberties did not exist. Anyone who was not a WASP was subject to arbitrary arrest. Those who lived in those times recall them with horror. This, at any rate, is the Trudeaupian Myth. It has elements of truths, though exaggerated to such an extent that the historic Canada, a more subtle and complex place than usually recalled, gets forgotten. It also allows the propagators of the Trudeaupian Myth to cloak their agenda in the flag, a flag which they of course reinvented.
To question peace keeping, Medicare or multiculturalism is to question Canada itself. None of those things existed fifty years ago. As late as about 1980 it is doubtful that most Canadians would have regarded these policies, even if they agreed with them, as essential to our national identity. Enough time has past that the Trudeaupians now hope no one recalls what came before them.
The Harper Tories, for all their many faults, drive the Trudeaupian Establishment nutty because of their refusal to accede to even the symbolic trappings of the new order. A Royal Canadian Air Force and Navy, the revived focus on the monarchy and closer relations with other Commonwealth states, especially Britain and Australia. The counter-revolution is proceeding apace.
Update: Some guy named Mark Collins had this letter to the editor published in the Globe:
This arrangement is neither earth-shaking nor a dire threat to our cherished sovereignty.
For several years in the 1970s, Canada had a one-room office – with our own safe – within the British embassy in Kabul. Members of the Canadian embassy in Islamabad travelled to Kabul and worked out of that office performing consular, passport, aid and sometimes broader diplomatic work.
I was a very junior officer at the embassy from 1975 to 1977, with primary responsibility for our work in Kabul. We even had an official stamp reading “Embassy of Canada, Kabul.”
This office arrangement with the British worked very well, much better and more secure than trying to work out of a hotel. Moreover, we were able to avail ourselves of the Brits’ very considerable local expertise.
Mark Collins, Ottawa
Pshaw! What does a mere retired diplomat know about diplomacy.