Dear world, we are really sorry about Harper.
Stephen Harper is at Camp David today for the start of the G8 summit. The two-day meeting of leaders of some of the world's most powerful economies will be followed by a gathering in Chicago of NATO, an alliance of the world's most powerful militaries.
This a big stage for Harper, and he uses these international summits to project his preferred image of a Canada that is unapologetically aggressive and militaristic.
In addition to his trouble showing up to photo-ops, Harper has become notorious for standing out from the crowd when it comes to support for war and occupation. And when the crowd in question is the G8, that takes some effort - sort of like being more Catholic than the Pope.
For the rest of us, this is another chance to reiterate that Harper's foreign policy is not supported by a majority of Canadians - far from it. With that it mind, and as a primer for understanding some of the spin coming out of the G8 and NATO meetings in the coming days, I'm offering up eight reasons for us to say to the rest of the world: sorry about Harper.*
1. Climate action obstruction: The Conservative government led by Harper has been one of the leading obstructionists when it comes to international action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A perennial winner of the Fossil of the Year at UN climate talks, there is pretty much nothing this government won't stoop to in defense of the breakneck expansion of the Alberta tar sands. This means ignoring climate activists abroad while demonizing those at home. Harper has badly tarred Canada's reputation abroad.
2. One-sided approach to the Middle East: Harper has consistently stood out at international meetings as the most aggressively pro-Israel voice. And it takes real effort to outdo even the U.S. government on this front - as Harper did at Netanyahu's urging during last year's G8 meetings in France.
3. Hawkish on Iran: At speaking of doing Netanyahu's bidding, Harper has been among the most hawkish of the G8 leaders when it comes to how to deal with Iran. Although he's toned down the rhetoric a bit of late, Harper has made it clear that beind the scenes he has actively lobbied other G8 and NATO countries in line with the Israeli government's aggressive and threatening stance against Iran. He has also made wildly irresponsible and unsubstantiated comments that increase the threat of war.
4. Prolonging disastrous war in Afghanistan: When not being dangerously provocative about potential wars, or lamenting Canada's failure to fall into line with wars as was the case with Iraq, Harper is busy prolonging wars and occupations. Despite repeatedly stating that Canada's military role in Afghanistan would end, Harper has kept finding ways to extend this country's contribution to the counter-insurgency in Afghanistan. Under his watch, a 2007 exit date became 2009, then 2011 and 2014. Contrary to government assertions, the nearly 1,000 Canadian Forces personnel still in Afghanistan are part and parcel of a violent and unpopular occupation. Recently, it came out that - again - the Harper government is in talks with U.S. official to keep Special Forces in Afghanistan well beyond 2014.
5. Hostile/hypocritical with respect to women's rights: Despite sometimes employing the rhetoric of women's rights to boost the Afghan War, Harper has not hesitate to undermine women's rights on the international stage. Take, just for one example, his decision to deny funding for abortions in his much vaunted maternal health plan showcased at the 2010 G8 in Canada.
6. No friend to the Arab Spring: Harper was one of the last and most reluctant of western leaders to finally concede that Tunisia and Egypt's dictators were done. Of course, when the opportunity came to turn to foreign military intervention, Harper's government helped lead the charge. Canada's role in the Libya bombing campaign is well known. Less publicized is the role that Canadian weapons played in helping Saudi Arabia crush the democratic uprising in Bahrain. Military hardware and weapons exports from Canada were way up in 2011, with the Saudi regime the biggest buyer (over $4 billion.) When Saudi troops rolled into Bahrain last spring to crush Bahrain's protests, many of them were driving LAVs made in London, Ontario.
7. 'Aiding' the wrong people: Canada has cut foreign aid to the world's poorest countries, cutting CIDA money for aid to those most in need, while boosting CIDA funding for projects that serve the interests of Canadian mining corporations with notorious human rights records.
8. General hostility to indigenous rights, the Right to Food, etc: The verbal assault on the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food delivered earlier this week says it all about this government's attitude towards the United Nations. Furthermore, Canada was one of only a handful of countries that were against the landmark UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. After years, Harper reluctantly agreed to sign on. It's no wonder that Harper's Canada failed to win a vote to sit on the UN Security Council.
I could go on, of course. It wouldn't be that hard to list 35 reasons, I imagine, but I will leave the rest to you.
Let's all keep some of this in mind, and share it with our friends in Chicago who will be out in the thousands to protest NATO's gathering there (the main protest action will be held on Sunday, May 20).
Because what is even better than just saying sorry, is saying 'solidarity' from the real majority in Canada.
*The 'sorry about Harper' idea came to mind, I realize, partly because of a website, SorryWorld.ca, put together by Jamie Calder after the last election.
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