Like a little child throwing a tantrum in a public place, Canada’s recent outbursts have been politely ignored by most. Obama has more important things to worry about the fact that Harper “won’t take no for an answer” on the Keystone pipeline, and the sudden closure of the Canadian Embassy in Iran and Canada’s “no” vote on Palestinian statehood at the United Nations General Assembly last year were met with mild surprise but general indifference by most countries. After all–it’s Canada!
But like Justin Bieber, himself the spawn of Canada, the antics are getting harder to ignore, and this week will go down in history as the week people finally started to get pissed.
The fun started on Monday, when the government of the Maldives posted a statement on its website deriding Canada’s Foreign Minister John Baird for making “inappropriate and derogatory remarks” during a Commonwealth ministers meeting. Cool–an actual government dissed us on the internet! That’s a first! Granted, Baird was probably griping about the illegitimacy of their recent elections, and it is reported that he called the fact that the acting Foreign Minister was representing her country ironic in light of the 5% of votes her party had received. While it is admirable on some level that Baird is tough on countries that violate human rights (he worsened the ruckus when he refused to attend another meeting in Sri Lanka because of its terrible human rights record), on another level–in grown-up land–a certain amount of restraint and flexibility is necessary if Baird wishes to really change these situations. (Are you listening, American Government?!) I’m pretty sure that all those involved already know that they’re being shitty, so pointing it out is not probably going to make them stop. And while it could be argued that Baird is trying to shame them into doing the right thing, he is mostly just loudly repeating what everyone else already knows.
When a child throws a tantrum, or when Justin Bieber gives an interview, people tend to tune out if the volume gets too loud or the words get too stupid. It isn’t necessary to proclaim that you are best friends with Israel, nor is it necessary to threaten to cut off Palestinian aid because it tried to attain statehood through a method with which you disagree. Stop being so noisy and work within the UN or through other means to accomplish the foreign policy objectives you’ve been yelling about! But that’s when Baird goes silent, because bluster costs nothing, while doing stuff is expensive. He offered “moral support” to the US if it were to strike Syria. Canada’s magnanimity knows no limits.
The second incident this week was much mores serious, though I guess it is a good example of an instance of multilateral cooperation in which Canada actually partook. It all started on Sunday night, when (even more) allegations made by Edward Snowden were made public. (Does this guy ever shut up? And where is he even living now? If he shacked up with Maduro I hope that someone will make a reality show or sitcom out of it.) Apparently, Canada had been spying on Brazil’s Ministry of Mining and Energy as part of the “Five Eyes” alliance between Britian, Australia, New Zealand, the US, and Canada. The news seemed to bother Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff for some reason–some people are so touchy–and she demanded an explanation. But Baird et. al. have been uncharacteristically silent.
In a way this is understandable. What can they possibly say to improve the situation? “Oh sorry–we got you confused with Iran. It was an honest mistake!” Why would Rousseff even ask for an explanation? This was obviously an attempt to give Canada and the other four eyes a leg up on business interests in Brazil. As CBC reported, all oil companies from these five countries recently took a miss at what should have been a competitive bidding war for a lucrative project in Brazil. Why? Hm….I can’t quite piece this one together.
To mitigate the horrid damage these allegations will undoubtedly have on Brazil-Canada relations, Harper is having his officials “reach out” to Brazilian officials. So pretty much his people are calling their people. No one worry–Harper has it covered! Let’s hope that Baird isn’t among these officials, because I don’t know what he would do in a situation requiring tact and diplomacy. Let’s hope it never comes to that.
The best part of this story is that there are more allegations to come, according to Mr Snowden. This is more suspenseful than waiting for the next Hunger Games movie. Maybe Canada will be caught spying on Tajikistan or Swaziland. That would be so cool and Jennifer Lawrence could star in the movie.
Except wait–this is a spectacle, but it’s not a movie. Much like when Justin Bieber vomited onstage, it seems implausible, but, as much as we wish it hadn’t happened, it did. And probably will again. Slowly but surely, Canada is living up to the promise set forth by young Bieber: Canada is becoming a full-on douchebag that pisses everyone else off.