Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Harper buries Canada's credibility

  • Print

Today's Canadian Conservatives, reflecting their birth in the Alberta-based Reform Party/Canadian Alliance, have always been ambivalent towards the United Nations.

As leader of the newly formed Conservative Party in 2003, Stephen Harper called multilateralism "a weak nation strategy."

Supporting the U.S. invasion of Iraq on CTV in 2003, he said: "This government's only explanation for not standing behind our allies is that they couldn't get the approval of the Security Council at the United Nations -- a body (on) which Canada doesn't even have a seat."

And just a year ago, Prime Minister Harper passed up attending the opening of the UN General Assembly to celebrate the return of Tim Horton's headquarters to Canada. It was, he said, more important to highlight the success of his tax-cutting policies than to be at the world body.

Last week, Canada failed to win a temporary seat on the UN Security Council for the first time in its history. And now, the media is salted with articles, editorials and letters hostile to the UN.

In his book, Of Passionate Intensity, University of Lethbridge political sociologist Trevor Harrison writes that Anglo-Saxon nativism was at the core of the Alberta-based Reform Party. Recent polling data confirms today's Conservative support is still predominantly male, Anglo-Saxon, western Canadian, high-school or college-educated, rural, and middle aged or older.

Harper's attitudes and actions were a likely cause of Canada's UN loss, Harrison continued in an interview. "He likely never thought about the UN before he entered politics and then was seen internationally as too cosy with (former U.S. president George W.) Bush and insufficiently sensitive to the wider world.

"The whole party is riddled with people who have no international experience. There is an anti-intellectualism, an attitude very much 'a British subject I was born, a British subject I will die.'

"As for the Anglo-Saxon issue, it is a larger part of the way international politics has played out in recent decades. Take (former British prime minister Tony) Blair's support for Bush and Iraq, the notion of a special relationship between those two countries. In many ways, the Anglo-elite (to which a lot of non-Anglos subscribe) in Britain and Canada like to see themselves reflected -- a kind of vicarious ego-trip -- in the success of the American empire."

Peter Brimelow, a British-born journalist, articulated the Anglo-Saxon nativism undergirding Reform. "At the end of the nineteenth century, belief in the superiority of 'Anglo-Saxon values'... (was) the social norm in every English-speaking country... For WASP supremacists everywhere, however, the 20th century has been a distressing experience."

Even more explicit was William Gairdner, a featured speaker at Reform's 1991 Saskatoon convention. A former Olympic athlete and member of the Northern Foundation, Gairdner used his time at the podium to denounce bilingualism, multiculturalism, immigration, welfare, feminism and lax criminal justice.

Speaking to the U.S. Council on National Policy in 1997, Harper said: "Canada is a Northern European welfare state in the worst sense of the term and proud of it."

In a December, 2000 article, he returned to the same theme, writing "Canada appears to be content to be a second-tier socialistic country." He has described bilingualism as the "god that failed."

In an article in Report Magazine in 2001, he stated: "You have to remember that west of Winnipeg the ridings the Liberals hold are dominated by people who are either recent Asian immigrants or recent migrants from eastern Canada; people who live in ghettos and are not integrated into Western Canadian society."

The government's nativist reflexes are at odds with a modern, multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-dimensional democracy. Its instinctive suspicion of all that's new and foreign is in keeping with its undisguised loathing of opponents, its below-the-belt political tactics, its relentless partisanship, its refusal to admit mistakes and its determination to refashion Canada and Canadians in its own angry image.

The way things played out for Canada last week was humiliating -- and instructive. If the government didn't want the seat on the Security Council, why did it pursue it? Once it decided to pursue it, why didn't it realize it might have to adjust some of its ideologically driven policies, such as its obstreperous assault on women's reproductive rights?

The Conservatives' diplomatic amateurism has left Canada with the worst of both worlds. Their "principled" anti-UN stance is gone, as is their -- and Canada's -- credibility. They and their vociferous supporters in the media and the blogosphere need to ask themselves this question:

Technology has created one world. Like-minded military alliances alone are no longer sufficient. If not the UN -- what?

Frances Russell is a Winnipeg author and political commentator.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 20, 2010 A13

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Top 5: Famous facts about the Stanley Cup

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • June 25, 2013 - 130625  -  A storm lit up Winnipeg Tuesday, June 25, 2013. John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press - lightning
  • A goose flys defensively to protect their young Wednesday near Kenaston Blvd and Waverley -See Bryksa 30 Day goose challenge- Day 16 - May 23, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos


Did you watch the Bruce Jenner interview?

View Results

Ads by Google