Canada is on the verge of ending a long-term relationship with our international identity as peacekeepers. But breaking up is hard to do. As a nation, we still cling to our romantic sentiments as Canadians as the people who come in with blue hats and make it all better. The Canada that we love today is the Canada that makes bold, decisive actions on the world stage, while maintaining a stable economy. Indeed our economy is the envy of many, but it is our new steps in foreign policy that we must celebrate.
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird had some choice words at the UN’s 67th General Assembly. He pointed to the obvious: that the UN doesn’t come close to living up to its own ideals, and hasn’t for a while. With a bold dash of realism, he noted that the UN needs to stop worrying about internal processes, and focus on what matters: results. He pointed out that results are measured by measuring results- not best efforts or good intentions.
For too long the UN has been idealized as a benevolent world government. But in all reality, it has no strength as a world government. States are bound by treaties, promises, their word, and their reputation. Short of a strongly worded resolution, or encouraging economic sanctions, the United Nations can not actually do anything to enforce their treaties.
Canada was an original signatory to the United Nations Charter, and has actively supported many of tis endeavors. Currently, Canada is the seventh-largest contributor to the budget of the United Nations. As a nation, we have a proven commitment to the United Nations. We pride ourselves on our image as peace keepers. We send high school and university students to Model United Nations conferences where we celebrate the UN. We are having a hard time seeing our selves as bold actors on the world stage.
Indeed this new found boldness is what it defining the Canada of today. Our Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, and the Bank of Canada Governor, Mark Carney are both well respected across the world for their policy, and statesmanship. Our decision to stand in the face of conflict and to take a stance beyond signing a treaty is commendable. Although we are breaking up with our past as UN peace keepers, we are moving towards a new national identity: an identity of decisive action. In this new identity we can bring forward many of the humanitarian efforts that we celebrate as peace keepers, while ensuring that we are focused on results- not ideals, not best efforts. Canada’s relationship with the UN is changing, as is our role on the international stage. The world is changing, the global economy is changing, and Canada is changing.