By Michael Nickerson
Hey ho, have you heard? Canada’s back and that’s the word. Ring the bells, clap your hands, and hear the cheer across the lands. They were gone but now they’re back, those crazy Canucks will take no flak. They’re the ones that make the peace; their sunny ways will never cease. So take heart those in fear, for Canada will soon be near.
People start to rhyme when they get excited. Have you notice that? There is so much to be excited about! Peacekeeping is back folks, in all its blue-helmet glory. And not just any peacekeeping: we’re talking about good ‘ole, homegrown, Lester Pearson gets a Noble prize Canadian peacekeeping. Yeah! Let me hear you say yeah! Yes sir, the decade of darkness is over people (just this last one, not the one before that). The Harper Government™ is gone and done, Team Justin™ only just begun!
Damn rhyming again. It gets infectious, a bit like believing people need just a little bit of your cultural mojo, a pinch of that patriotic fairy dust to make the whole world a better place. And it also gets addictive, often to the point that you need constant reassurance that you’re good enough, you’re smart enough, and gosh darn it, people really do like you.
Now, leaving aside whether the world at large is actually pining for More Canada™ (only recently trademarked), a question mostly discussed amongst the chattering classes over canapés and mineral water, the real question is whether it actually needs it. A bit deflating to one’s national pride yes, but a question of real concern when you’re planning on sending soldiers off to do things the chattering classes would become, shall we say, a little queasy about. Shooting people and such, and getting shot as well, let’s not forget. Messy stuff, that.
So ask yourself: Who really wants a bunch of armed soldiers barging into their neighbourhood, neither sufficiently prepared nor supported for the job at hand, and doing so for the sole reason that it makes some politicians look good back home and ticks another promise off their to-do list? The world has had its fill of that, don’t you think? Who needs more of it?
The answer to that question — if you’re Team Justin™ — is at least four nations in Africa, one in South America, and possibly a backyard barbeque near you. Which one on their shopping list gets blessed with a new Tim Hortons franchise is anyone’s guess at the moment (Mali being the betting choice so far), though no doubt somehow the “middle class and those working hard to join them” will be mentioned.
But what is abundantly clear is that Canada is not ready to help. After years of being focused on counter-terrorism and combat in Afghanistan, there is a singular lack of training in what is involved with the modern cluster fart that is “peace making” and “capacity building,” assuming anyone really understands it in the first place. And the experience in Afghanistan made clear how ill-prepared Canada’s armed forces and the politicians who gave those marching orders were for the aftermath: PTSD, suicide, forgotten veterans and the actual cost of sending people into harm’s way.
While there is a real yearning amongst many Canadians to do good and keep the peace, to not just go after Johnny Taliban and the like but come to some accord with him, doing so is at best difficult, at worst laughable. It will require far more than platitudes in front of United Nations dignitaries, or obscure references to philosophers while outlining Canada’s foreign policy (“responsible conviction” anyone?). It will require money, time, training, intense and tireless diplomacy, and more than a little luck. It will also involve not just honesty but some hard education of an ignorant electorate rather more in love with nostalgia and newsreels than reality.
Until then, the only people who need more Canada are Canadians themselves. Let’s get our own house in order before going off to fix everyone else’s, eh?