While this book focuses on the relationship of Canada to the Middle East, that relationship turns out to some extent to be secondary to Canada-U.S. relations. Thus, Rex Brynan, who is a professor at McGill who has worked for the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Development, notes that Canada has been “reluctant to undertake Middle East initiatives that might not enjoy Washington’s full endorsement,”since the relationship with the U.S. “is by far the most important dimension of Canadian foreign policy.”
Michael Molloy, retired from the Canadian foreign service, notes that attitudes toward Israel in the popular mind have been influenced by a sympathy for the Jews as a result of the Holocaust. Now, attitudes are changing. The Canadian public used to say, “We support Israel,” while now they are apt to say, “We support peace.” Then, he notes, the Norwegian public has taken the next step: “We support the Palestinian underdogs.” With the establishment of Israel, the Palestinians are also victims of the Holocaust.
In a chapter on what principles Canada should uphold in foreign policy, Nathan Funk, a professor at the University of Waterloo, examines two approaches, which he labels liberal and neo-conservative. The liberal attitude is that of a “principled middle power” and “peacekeeping nation,” while the neo-conservative believes that Canada should be “a Western power and prepare to stand with its allies in a militarized struggle against international terrorism.” Falling into the liberal camp, he favors a policy based on the principle of human security, focusing on “human rights, violence prevention, sustainability, and development.”
Funk’s views may be all well and good, but according to Marie-JoŽlle Zahar, who teaches at the University of Montreal, Canada is not walking the talk in the Middle East. She quotes Heinbecker’s comment about former Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy: “In putting people at the heart of security policy, Axworthy’s vision was virtually Copernican in significance.” Yet, she says, “Canada has never been a major development player in the Middle East.” She also makes Brynen’s point about Canadian policy as “an attempt by Ottawa to address American concerns.” In any case, another middle power, Norway, has played a far more active role in Middle East peace negotiations.
When Hamas was elected to power in Palestine, Canada was first off the mark in cutting off aid. Janine Clark, who teaches at the University of Guelph, asks the question: if we want to promote democracy, and since the election was free and fair, how can we simply reject the result? She calls for a nuanced treatment of Islamic movements. They have deep roots in their communities, they provide important social services, and they in many cases have proven capable of internal democratic change and of ability to form alliances with secular forces. Perhaps they can move in a more democratic direction if given the encouragement. On the other hand, she finds that secular non-governmental organizations in the region tend to be self-serving, undemocratic, ineffective, and headed by self-perpetuating leadership.
A chapter by political scientists Tami Amanda Jacoby and Brent Sasley makes an interesting observation about Arab-Canadian lobbying efforts. In one meeting with a government official the lobbyist said that “Canada should cut air links to Israel.” The suggestion was unrealistic, indicating a need for more realism and sophistication.
As with any book, there are shortcomings. Thus, Funk repeats the falsehood that Canada has stayed out of the invasion of Iraq, while in fact there has been a rotation of three generals there as well as a handful of troops on exchange imbedded in British and U.S. contingents. Kofi Annan called the invasion a violation of international law. That makes Canada a participant in a crime.
Next on the hit list, Nergis Canefe, political science professor at York University, has a chapter on refugee claimants. In an otherwise thorough discussion of the immigration and refugee process, she fails even to mention the major concerns that have been raised about the Immigration and Refugee Board. Rather than the previous two-person hearings, where either of the officers deciding in the claimant’s favor would lead to refugee status, there is now only a single officer. The law provides for an appeal procedure, but the government refuses to establish it, in spite of a promise at the time that the legislation was passed. Appointees to the Board have in many cases been political, and the board members have widely varying rates of approval, from zero to 80%, according to an analysis in the Globe and Mail. Surely she should have noticed.
Finally, it would have been nice to have an index.