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May 22, 2013

On the Commonwealth, Values and Sri Lanka

May 19, 2013 by

Tamil demonstrators protest outside the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group meeting in London. Image via Sri Lanka Campaign

Not surprisingly, late last month, the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) failed to deal with Sri Lanka. As a result, it looks like the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) on the island nation will continue as planned this November.  United Kingdom (UK) Prime Minister David Cameron has recently announced that he will attend CHOGM. A spokesperson also mentioned that Mr. Cameron would be delivering a “tough message” to Mahinda Rajapaksa this November. (Some may be left wondering if it wouldn’t be more effective for Mr. Cameron to deliver his “tough message” from London while one of his subordinates attends CHOGM and does the same).

By virtually every standard – including media freedom, disappearances, the rule of law and land rights – governance in Sri Lanka has become an unmitigated, incontrovertible disaster. In addition to recent reports by Amnesty International, International Crisis Group and Human Rights Watch, recent articles by other groups show that the situation in Sri Lanka just keeps getting worse.

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Canada’s Mali Conundrum

February 15, 2013 by

A French military convoy crossing Timbuktu during their military campaign against Islamic insurgents. Eric Feferberg/AFP/Getty Images via National Public Radio

Roughly a month after France began its aerial bombardment of Islamic extremists in Mali, Canada’s offering to the western response has remained largely unchanged: one C-17 heavy-lift cargo plane, and $13-million in humanitarian aid announced at an International donors’ conference in Addis Ababa.

The government’s reluctance to pledge more resources has come amidst consternation from foreign policy watchers at home. Historically Canada has had a significant presence in Mali as a major donor. It remains one of the Canadian International Development Agency’s (CIDA) focus countries, and is home to significant Canadian mining interests. According to Natural Resources Canada, in 2010 there were 15 Canadian mining and exploration companies in Mali with an estimated $230 million in assets.

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2012 “Are You Serious?” Awards

December 30, 2012 by

Every year it is important to recognize news stories and newsmakers that fall under the category of “Are you serious?” Here are the awards for 2012 as recognized by Dispatches From The Edge.

Dr. Strangelove Award to Lord John Gilbert, former UK defense minister in Tony Blair’s government, for a “solution” to stopping terrorist infiltration from Pakistan to Afghanistan: Nuke ‘em.   Baron Gilbert proposes using Enhanced Radiation Reduced Blasts—informally known as “neutron bombs”—to seal off the border. According to Gilbert, “If we told them [terrorists] that some ERRB warheads were going to be dropped there and that it would be a very unpleasant place to go, they would not go there.”

The border between the two countries is a little over 1,600 miles of some of the most daunting terrain on the planet. And since the British arbitrarily imposed it on Afghanistan in 1896, most the people who live adjacent to it, including the Kabul government, don’t recognize it.

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Mark Carney to head the Bank of England

November 27, 2012 by

Mark Carney in Davos, Switzerland. Jolanda Flubacher/swiss-image.ch

As a Canadian, perhaps I should feel a surge of patriotic pride now that Mark Carney has been designated the new head of the Bank of England – quite a step up for the current governor of the Bank of Canada. There is no question that Mr. Carney is a market-savvy guy (he did, after all, work for the vampire squid), and his experiences as Chairman on the Financial Stability Board (FSB) suggests that he is sensitive to the ongoing systemic risks present in our increasingly complex global banking system.

That said, his recent attack on the Bank of England’s Andy Haldane in a Euromoney interview last month, does give one some cause for concern, particularly as it evinces the usual complacency that most Canadians seem to feel about the basic soundness of their own banking system, which essentially upholds the universal banking model as a viable one. By contrast, in his famous “dog and frisbee speech” delivered last August at Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Haldane suggested that: “Regulation of modern finance is almost certainly too complex. That configuration spells trouble…Because complexity generates uncertainty, it requires a regulatory response grounded in simplicity, not complexity.”

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Stephen Harper: Statesman of the Year?

October 1, 2012 by

On Thursday September 27th, while most of his colleagues were across town taking part in the opening of the 67th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper was at Manhattan’s opulent Waldorf Astoria Hotel accepting an award for “World’s Statesman of the Year” from the Appeal of Conscience Foundation.

The award was presented by former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who characterized Harper as a leader who has not only his own views but also “the courage to affirm them even when they are not shared by all of the consensuses that exist.” Another supporter, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, characterized Harper as “a great champion of freedom,” and a “real statesman.”

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Amidst Confusion, Canada Severs ties with Iran

September 17, 2012 by

Prime Minister Stephen Harper with Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo by Jason Ransom

Over a week after Canada suspended formal diplomatic relations with Iran, reaction in Canada remains mixed. While supporters of the Harper government and defenders of Israel have declared it bold and principled, a number of foreign policy analysts have raised questions about the timing, and cause of the sudden rupture.

On Friday September 7th a senior diplomat from Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade arrived unannounced at the Iranian embassy in Ottawa carrying two letters. The first informed Iran’s diplomats that they were now considered personae non gratae, and had five days to pack up the embassy and leave the country. The second stated that Canada had already removed its diplomats from Tehran and was closing its embassy, effective immediately.

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A Northern Realignment?

May 6, 2011 by

Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper pauses while speaking during a campaign stop at an automobile parts factory in Brampton, Ontario March 30, 2011. Chris Wattie/Reuters via Canadian International Council

On May 2nd of this year, Canadians went to polls to cast ballots in what ended up being a very historic election. Prime Minister Stephen Harper won the majority which had eluded him in his two terms, and Jack Layton, leader of the social democratic New Democratic Party, became the first person in his party to be designated leader of the official opposition.  This election will long be studied for its impact on the Canadian political landscape. A concise review of several factors pertaining to this election is essential.

Canada has traditionally had two dominant political parties. From the middle portion of the twentieth century until 2003, the major parties in Canada were the Progressive Conservative Party and the Liberal Party.  Both of these were “big tent” parties, with the former leaning rightward and the latter increasingly leaning leftward. During this same period, social democratic groups coalesced into the New Democratic Party, which has since been the third largest party represented in Parliament.

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