To prove the importance of “responsible conviction,” in his speech at the University of Ottawa on March 29 Foreign Minister Stéphane Dion presented a fairy tale of Canada as an intrepid and indispensable international actor whose “responsibility” has allowed it to change the course of history. The Harper government only had “conviction” but not “responsibility,” Dion suggested, and this has blunted Canada’s ability to play such a role.
He referred to the action to liberate the U.S. hostages held by the Iranian government in 1979 as an example of a positive role. He did not say that this was not a “Canadian action” but an action of the CIA and its agent who was the “Canadian ambassador to Iran,” Ken Taylor. Dion said that “the world” was “lucky” that Canada had an embassy in Iran “at the end of the 1970s so it could come to the aid of the American hostages.” Using an example from hockey, Dion also said that under the policy of the Harper government it would have been “impossible to organize the 1972 Summit Series between Canada and the USSR, which saw the famous Paul Henderson goal, and which helped build cultural and people-to-people ties during a time of great tension.”
Dion went further, arguing that Canada helped “plant the seeds” for the end of the Soviet Union: “It would have been impossible to invite a young Mikhail Gorbachev to Canada in 1983. Gorbachev was then Party Secretary in charge of Agriculture and a rising star. As he has written in his memoirs, it was in Ontario and Alberta that Gorbachev first came to see the great inefficiencies of the Soviet agricultural system compared to ours, and the potential for ‘perestroika,’ which became his vision for ‘reform.’ And it was in his frank and open discussions with Canadian politicians and citizens that the early seeds were planted for ‘glasnost’.”
Dion’s delusions of grandeur are on such a scale that Canada is given credit for the beginning of the end of a state born from the greatest revolution carried out by the working class in human history, based on the visit of a Minister of Agriculture and the wisdom he gleaned from Canadian politicians. It was not the failure of that country to renew its political and economic arrangements consistent with the requirement to advance a socialist nation-building project, which started stalling in the 1950s and 60s, and was reversed by the 1970s as it became a social-imperialist superpower that entered an arms race with the U.S. imperialist superpower and contention for domination. For Dion, it was the revelation that “our” system is “efficient” and showed the “potential” and “openness,” which became a reality with the humanitarian disasters that Gorbachev was instrumental in bringing into being by dismantling the vestiges of socialism in an allegedly controlled demolition.
Dion’s hubris repeats the Liberal lament that the Liberal aspiration to have the 21st century “belong to Canada” did not materialize. It is a throwback to Prime Minister Wilfred Laurier who, after the slaughter of Canadians in the First World War on behalf of the British Empire, declared that now Canada had earned its place in the world and the 20th century would belong to her. This aspiration was repeated by former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien after he was elected in 1993. He declared that henceforth Canada’s aim would be to make the monopolies number one on world markets and thus take its place in the world.
This wish that Canada be a major power in the imperialist system of states, despite the size of its population and economy relative to those of the United States, Russia, China and other big powers, underscores the Yes Man role Canada was accorded since the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 and that it sought to play within the imperialist system of states. Its role was to cast one more vote for first the British and then the U.S. imperialists when major decisions were taken. This is the role Canada is trying to regain despite the fact that it is now totally integrated into the U.S. command through NATO, NORAD and directly through bilateral border agreements and the fact that it has been humiliated time and time again, doing yeoman’s service only to be ignominiously discarded when important meetings take place.