In 1909, Canada founded its own Department of External Affairs. In 1927, we opened our first foreign mission, in Washington. In 1931, we gained the power to conduct our own foreign relations through the Statute of Westminster. Yet almost a century after these milestones, Canada is now making an effort to turn back. Today it was announced that Canada will be opening “joint embassies” with the United Kingdom in foreign countries. We’ve always had close relations with the UK, and this is supposed to fulfill the Conservatives’ promise of having the Department of Foreign Affairs achieve “better value for money for Canadians”. But why don’t we open joint embassies with Germany? With the United States? With France? We have close relations as well as “shared values” (as David Cameron described Canada and the UK) with all of those countries. Furthermore, Canada and Britain don’t have identical foreign policies—the Iraq War is a prime example. So why have joint embassies with them?
The answer is simple. Because the Harper Government has a neo-colonial agenda, and Canada is a neo-colonial country. The most obvious example is the obsession with the crown that the Harperites have consistently shown. Shoving an irrelevant, foreign monarchy down our throats has become one of the government’s top priorities. We see this with the annual royal visits and portraits of the Queen in all our embassies and government buildings, among other excesses. They also take a dim view of the Department of Foreign Affairs. Its budget has already been slashed, closing offices in Canada and missions around the world. Only two weeks ago, it abruptly shuttered our embassy in Iran, a move considered by many as “stupid”. But it’s more than that. The Harper Government has a view of our country that harks back to the days of the Empire. Establishing these joint diplomatic missions may have no practical affect on our foreign policy. But they perpetrate the image that we are not fully independent, that we still are linked to the “mother country”. It’s not time to get cheap and do the easy thing with our foreign policy. We are a G8 nation, one of the most successful and diverse countries on the planet, the second oldest democracy in the world. Abroad, it’s time we acted like it.