'It is the pressing need in the 21st century for all the states of the world to adopt an enlightened view of sovereignty."
So spoke Prime Minister Stephen Harper last Thursday in his first address to the UN General Assembly since 2006.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper will address world leaders not once but twice at the UN this week in New York. The reason, of course, is that Canada is campaigning for a seat on the UN Security Council, with a vote scheduled for next month.
Next week, US President Barack Obama and other world leaders will meet in New York to examine progress made towards the Millennium Development Goals and try to find a way to achieve them by 2015.
For the past few years, diplomats and others inside Canada's Foreign Affairs department have raised concerns about the impact spending cuts and other fiscal measures have had on the country's diplomatic presence abroad.
On Aug. 24, as Prime Minister Stephen Harper was making his annual pilgrimage to the Arctic, a pair of CF-18 fighter jets were scrambled to intercept two Russian bombers approaching the Northwest Territories.
In an effort to help the nearly 8 million people struggling to survive in the aftermath of the worst natural disaster to hit Pakistan in 80 years, the government on Sunday said it would match donations made by the Canadian public between Aug. 12 and Sept. 2. This is in addition to the $33 million in humanitarian assistance already pledged by Canada.
Anyone who glanced at a major Canadian newspaper or turned the TV to the national news last week could have been forgiven for thinking the country was about to be hit by an asteroid or invaded by a foreign nation. That's because, days of sensational headlines and minute-by-minute coverage of the approaching MV Sun Sea reached such ludicrous proportions that by the time the ship was escorted into port near Victoria on Friday, anything less than a horde of alien monsters pouring forth would be a letdown.
The government's plan to spend an estimated $18 billion on a small fleet of combat jet fighters opens up two legitimate fiscal questions. The first is how will this exceptional purchase be paid for. The second question—which only comes along if there is no satisfactory answer to the first—is what other government services will have to be axed if new taxes are not levied to pay the bill?
The past few weeks have seen the government raked over the coals for its decision to do away with Canada's long-form census. Particularly irritating for many is that the government didn't consult anyone before moving ahead with this decision.
During the Canadian election campaign of 1993, then-Liberal leader and eventual prime minister Jean Chrétien vowed to kill a Mulroney government plan to purchase 43 helicopters for $4.4 billion to replace the military's aging Sea King fleet.
Following the terrorist attacks of 9/11, officials in the Bush administration and elsewhere sought to put aside civil liberties and due process in favour of fighting the so-called "war on terror." That is how a 15-year-old boy ended up being tortured and then detained at Guantanamo Bay for the better part of a decade.
The past week has seen US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton conduct a whirlwind tour of Eastern Europe. One of her key objectives was to highlight the importance of NGOs in both protecting and advancing democracy.
The meal served last week up by G20 and G8 summit leaders for their citizens was as dry as shredded wheat without the milk.
In a sworn affidavit to the Federal Court dated June 4, the president of IDRC denied that his decision in March to cancel two contracts with an Israel NGO working on Palestinian rights was directly or indirectly influenced by political pressure.
This past weekend, Canadian reporters received a press release which called on a certain government to, among other things, "uphold its human rights commitments by allowing freedom of expression; freedom of the press and freedom of assembly; protecting religious minorities; respecting the rights of prisoners and detainees; and ensuring equal treatment of women and girls."
The press release ended with the author urging the government to respect diverse social and political groups, and to "engage these groups in a constructive dialogue that will serve to strengthen the rich fabric" of this particular country.
It wouldn't be too much of a stretch to think that the above statement was being directed at the Harper government.
On freedom of expression, the Harper government has tried to crack down on any criticism directed at it. Witness the campaign of intimidation being waged against the country's once-vaunted international development NGO community. It has also taken the view that any and all criticism of Israel is antisemitic.
Meanwhile, the Harper government's record on press freedom has been abysmal. In fact, it could be described as obstructionist at best. Ministers' offices have been vetting access to information requests, withholding anything and everything it feels could be damaging to its reputation or aspirations for power. At the same time, the use of message control has been taken to new heights. As the Canadian Press reported last week, CIDA members being interviewed by media have had their "personal stories" scripted, while even ambassadors abroad are forced to get approval before uttering a word.
On prisoners and detainees the government has reversed the decades-old policy of automatically seeking clemency for Canadian sentenced to death abroad. At the same time, the term "gender equality" is no longer used, while support for this ideal has been cut at home and abroad.
Finally, the statement about engaging diverse social and political groups "in a constructive dialogue" is particularly poignant.
Since coming to power, the Harper government has gone out of its way to polarize Canadian politics like never before—and the consensus is that they have been extremely successful, with Parliament described as "poisoned" and "broken" in a recent Hill Times article. At the same time this government has largely eschewed non-business consultation of any sort.
The target of this press release, however, wasn't the Harper government. In fact, it came from Prime Minister Stephen Harper himself and was directed at Iran.
To be sure, one can hardly compare the Harper government to that of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The list of wrongs perpetrated by the Ahmadinejad regime is long, gruesome and truly horrific. Political dissent has been violently snuffed out, women and children stoned to death, religious and ethnic minorities targeted for persecution. It has supported terrorism, called for Israel to be wiped off the map and represents a real threat to global stability and security.
But the hypocrisy of Mr. Harper's self-righteous call on Iran to shape up shouldn't be lost on anyone. It certainly won't be lost on the Iranians. If Mr. Harper wants to make a real argument for Iran to mend its ways, perhaps he should start leading by example.
Standing next to British Prime Minister David Cameron following their official meeting in London last week, Prime Minister Stephen Harper was asked whether he had changed his mind about coalition governments.
If there's one big winner from the firestorm caused by the deadly Israeli raid of a ship bound for Gaza, it would be Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
The past few weeks have seen a concerted effort by both the Liberals and Conservatives to engage Canada's diaspora communities.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon can hardly be called a divisive figure. In fact, as the chief administrator of an organization that counts 192 countries as members, secretaries-general must at least be seen as the ultimate conciliators. There must be no perception they are choosing one side or country over another, and Mr. Ban has been no exception.