Monday, September 24, 2012

Shared Embassies - Imperial Federation League Redux

Many people have already vociferously attacked the recent, and highly publicized, announcement by John Baird, Minister of Foreign Affairs, that Canada and the United Kingdom have brokered a deal to share embassy space in a number of countries as a cost-saving measure.  It is hard not to think that the fact that this was the subject of a press release, rather than a quiet administrative arrangement (as currently exists, for example, between Canada and Australia in a number of countries) is because this decision is part and parcel of the current Conservative government's efforts to re-Britishify Canada's identity.

I share many of my colleagues' concern with this development, at least in part because of my understanding of Canadian history, which includes national narratives about Canada's twentieth-century development largely being a story of progressive Canadian disentanglement from British control over our foreign policy, while still remaining close allies.  The decision to create separate Canadian overseas offices in the 1920s and 1930s was part and parcel of showing that Canada and Britain did not always necessarily speak with one voice and that their interests were not identical.  In many respects, Canadian foreign policy autonomy was hard-won.  And yet, now I find myself snarkilly inventing Onion-esque headlines for where this policy direction could lead, albeit taken to some absurd extremes.  To wit:

Canada to ask United Kingdom to retroactively counter-sign 1923 Pacific Halibut Fisheries treaty: "It just never felt right not having Britain's permission, official says."

John Baird issues formal apology to United Kingdom for Canada's failure to enthusiastically volunteer troops for 1922 Chanak Crisis: "Do you have any brewing concerns in Turkey today that we can send the Royal Canadian Air Force to help you out with?" foreign affairs minister asks.

Canadian government asks to have signature removed from the Treaty of Versailles, and membership in the League of Nations stricken from the historical record - Canadian government admits it was being uppity in 1919. 

I've got more where those come from, but this gives you a pretty good sense of my mood this afternoon!

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At 9:17 a.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

In a world of ever-rising powers in the East, it makes sense to have diplomatic ties syringe between the Commonwealth Realms. It's probably hard for most Canadians to grasp just how much the average Brit dislikes and resents our EU membership right now. Turning our backs on the commonwealth in the 1970s was an epic mistake, and its the politicians, not the public who have resisted righting this old wrong. We don't want to interfere polirically - we want deeper cooperation and friendship with our natural family.


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