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Yves Engler on The Ugly Canadian, foreign policy, and climate change

Yves Engler. Photo source:

Yves Engler, author of several books on climate change and foreign policy, is on a cross country tour to launch his latest book The Ugly Canadian: Stephen Harper’s Foreign Policy.  He argues that while concern about domestic politics is strong, Canada’s foreign policy gets less attention, although the two are rarely unrelated.   

In Vancouver, the government's plans that have been most in the headlines are the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline project. This, according to Engler, is in keeping with Harper’s agenda internationally, which has reversed Canada’s leadership on environmental responsibility measures like the Kyoto Protocol.  According to Engler, the environmental policies Canada has adopted under the Conservative government are not only irresponsible domestically, but gravely culpable internationally.        

“I think at the human level, the policy that will have the worst toll on poor people around the world is on the climate front — Harper’s ferocious lobbying for the tar sands in the US and across Europe.

This, in the context of the Climate Vulnerability Monitor reporting in 2012 that 400,000 people annually are already dying due to climate related issues, with 100 million additional deaths due to climate change projected between now and 2030.  Already vulnerable people in Bangladesh and Ethiopia who emit less than most countries are on the front line of climate change.  This raises the issue of climate justice.”    

Canadian NGOs like ForestEthics, Tides Canada, and the Sierra Club which have spoken out against the Enbridge Northern Gateway have found themselves labeled “radicals” and “eco-terrorists”.  It should be no surprise that, as Engler points out, our foreign policy includes overwhelming support for Canadian mining companies, which are implicated in environmental destruction, intimidation, and the murder of anti-mining activists in South America.  

The foreign policy issue that has attracted the most headlines recently is Canada’s position on Iran. From all the sound and fury coming out of Ottawa about Tehran’s alleged nuclear weapons program, one might assume that nuclear proliferation is a genuine concern.

Not so, says Engler.

“Within 48 hours of ending Canadian diplomatic relations with Iran, Minister Baird was in India — and Indian press reports were saying that Canada is working on a nuclear agreement with India.”

In fact, Canada actually opposed Arab-led initiatives for a nuclear free Middle East in 2009 and 2010. Presumably this was because the initiatives would have required Israel to expose its nuclear facilities to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors.  

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