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Stephen Nagy: Canada has pressing interests in the Indo-Pacific region. It’s time we started acting like it

Commentary

The Partners in the Blue Pacific (PBP) initiative,Establishing the Partners in the Blue Pacific (PBP): joint statement https://www.gov.uk/government/news/joint-statement-on-the-establishment-of-the-partners-in-the-blue-pacific-pbp the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue,Defining the Diamond: The Past, Present, and Future of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue https://www.csis.org/analysis/defining-diamond-past-present-and-future-quadrilateral-security-dialogue AUKUS,FACT SHEET: Implementation of the Australia – United Kingdom – United States Partnership (AUKUS) https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2022/04/05/fact-sheet-implementation-of-the-australia-united-kingdom-united-states-partnership-aukus/ and the Indo-Pacific Framework (IPEF)The Indo-Pacific Economic Framework: What it is — and why it matters https://www.cnbc.com/2022/05/26/ipef-what-is-the-indo-pacific-framework-whos-in-it-why-it-matters.html have two things in common. First, they are meant to contribute to sustainable institution building in the Indo-Pacific, and second, Canada is not part of any of these mini-lateral arrangements. 

Considering Canada is a G-7 country, is part of the Five Eyes Network, and is participating in maritime security operations in the Sea of Japan through the Neon Operations to ensure that North Korea does not evade sanctions, its absence is conspicuous. 

Why is Canada being excluded from these emerging institutions in the Indo-Pacific region? Why is Canada not seen as a second or third choice for these emerging institutions that are providing the framework for institutional building within the Indo-Pacific?

There are possibly three explanations for Canada’s absence: 1) political leadership; 2) domestic literacy about the importance of the Indo-Pacific region and how that translates into Indo-Pacific policies; and 3) credibility. 

First, political leadership matters. This means the prime minister, vice premier, foreign minister, and defence minister should be crafting a foreign policy for the region that links Canada’s national interests to the evolution of the region. Here, Canada has an enduring interest in ensuring that the region is stable and open for trade. This means institutions and rules that are adopted in the region are in line with Canadian interests and provide Canadian businesses with open access to the region’s economy. 

Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly and Defence Minister Anita Anand received mandate letters to develop a Canadian Indo-Pacific Strategy in December 2021. In June 2022, Canada’s Indo-Pacific Advisory Committee was formed to contribute to formulating a strategy. This comes more than a year after the May 2021 Shared Canada-Japan Priorities for contributing to a Free and Open Indo-Pacific.

Others such as Mark Agnew, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce Senior Vice President, Policy and Government Relations, have appeared at the House of Commons Standing Committee on International Trade, stressing that in “an Indo-Pacific Strategy, the elements that pertain to China will be critical. It is important to be clear-eyed about the size of the market and of course the geopolitical challenges. How we engage with China needs to have intelligently balanced considerations and it must be anchored around cooperation with allies.”

Agnew’s comments stress that China should be part of an Indo-Pacific strategy, not the Indo-Pacific strategy, and echos Canadian Indo-Pacific thinkers such as Jonathan Berkshire Miller, Kenneth Holland, Maxandre Fortier, Marco Munier, and Justin Massie.

Aggregating Indo-Pacific writing, there seems to be consensus, in one way or another, around key pillars that include: 1) middle power diplomacy; 2) climate change; 3) inclusive development; 4) energy and critical minerals security; 5) economic security and resilience through infrastructure and connectivity; 6) maritime security.

Another important area that would be important is supporting Canadian businesses within the Indo-Pacific region through enlarging the CPTPP,Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) https://www.international.gc.ca/trade-commerce/trade-agreements-accords-commerciaux/agr-acc/cptpp-ptpgp/index.aspx?lang=eng deregulation, and being part of the standard-setting for key technologies that will shape the region’s economy, governance, the relationship between the state and citizens, privacy, AI, quantum computing, and cyberspace. 

Second, domestic literacy about the importance of the Indo-Pacific region and how that translates into Indo-Pacific policies. The MacDonald Laurier Institute (MLI) and Asia Pacific Foundation (APF) have both conducted research on Canadian views of the Indo-Pacific (Asia-Pacific).

MLI’s findings suggest that “For countries that share Canadian interests, values, and systems of democratic governance, there are significant opportunities to strengthen ties and public perceptions of these alliances in East Asia.” Similarly, the APF National Poll found that Canadians were warming to like-minded democratic states, were significantly cooling on China, but, overall, recognized the importance of Asian economies to Canada.  

Neither poll investigates the Indo-Pacific/Asia-Pacific literacy amongst respondents, and this may be part of the crux of the absence of a Canadian Indo-Pacific Strategy. For the average Canadian and Canadian business, there is little if no difference in using the terms Indo-Pacific, Asia-Pacific, or simply Asia. 

They primarily see the region through trade opportunities and, importantly, Chinese belligerence after the hostage diplomacy incident following the arrests of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor. These negative perceptions have been worsened with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in Wuhan, substantiated reports on so-called Uyghur reeducation camps, and the crushing of the One-country/ Two-systems model for Hong Kong after the adoption of the 2020 National Security Law.      

This lack of literacy in regard to the entire region contributes to the lack of focus of Canadian politicians in crafting an Indo-Pacific Strategy.  

Third is credibility. The 2022 annual CFPJ Trudeau Report Card produced by David Carment and graduate students at Carleton University’s Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, in consultation with experts throughout Canada, highlights that the “government’s diplomatic performance is hampered by rhetorical overreach, squandered opportunities, failures to engage, hypocrisy, and irrelevance. The most recent example of Canada’s fall from grace is its glaring absence at the Oslo talks on Afghanistan.”

In a similar vein, the Institute for Peace & Diplomacy spearheaded an open letter including the voices of 40 Canadian scholars, experts, and former diplomats stressing that “if Canada continues to marginalize the vital role of foreign policy discussions at home, it risks diminishing its ability to secure its way of life and prepare for an increasingly uncertain world.”

This credibility gap is not just at home. As a growing number of countries put forth their own Indo-Pacific strategy, the common refrain is where is Canada? What is Canada doing? How will it distinguish itself from the U.S. and be sustainable? 

These sentiments are exacerbated by past intransigences such as the last-minute walk-out from the original TPP signing in Danang in November 2017 or its penchant for advocating for a progressive agenda in trade deals, resulting in failures such as the Canada-China FTA. 

The way forward is clear. Political commitment to securing Canada’s proactive and sustained role in the Indo-Pacific through a clear articulation of Canadian interests in the region. 

Getting Canadian buy-in will require leaders to succinctly and simplistically explain why the region is important for Canadians. For example, outside of North America, the Indo-Pacific region presents the largest economic opportunity for Canadians. We have a direct interest in ensuring the region remains rules-based, open, and stable. 

Lastly, we have to rebuild credibility through a sustained diplomatic, economic, and security engagement in the region built around like-minded allies and institutions. The Partners in the Blue Pacific (PBP) initiative, the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, AUKUS, and the Indo-Pacific Framework (IPEF) are excellent points of engagement to demonstrate Canada’s commitment to the region.  

Jerry Amernic: Enough of the royals

Commentary

I finish work at the end of another day and join my wife in the living room where she is watching  The Young and The Restless. I ask how much more is there to endure. Why anyone watches this drivel is beyond me. I just don’t get it, but then I don’t buy lottery tickets either and it must be like this with the British monarchy.

I say British because it certainly isn’t mine. I’m a second-generation Canadian with grandparents from Poland, Belarus, and Romania. My wife is Macedonian and born in Greece. What all this means is that neither of us has a drop of English blood—not to mention French or Indigenous blood—in our veins. Take note, Ottawa, because an ever-increasing proportion of the Canadian mosaic fits that mold. You’re behind the times and as current as Jurassic Park.

The British monarchy is an archaic institution that should be relegated to a museum so visitors can see how things were but no longer are. I believe it has supporters for the same reason people watch The Young and The Restless—a remedy against boredom—but then what is as boring as the Royal Family? They bring to mind a play of Shakespeare’s. Much Ado About Nothing.

Back in 1931, none other than Bertrand Russell said: “The greatest field for snobbery in my own country is the British Monarchy which succeeds in doing more harm than most English people suppose.” Russell went on to add: “All this trouble arises from the practice of paying deference to a man for reasons which do not imply any superior abilities on his part. This practice is therefore regrettable, and the United States is fortunate in being officially free from it.”Mortals and Others https://www.amazon.ca/Mortals-Others-Bertrand-Russell/dp/0415473519

Our American friends have their own problems too numerous to mention but keeping their head of state in a foreign country isn’t one of them. I see the British monarchy as an obstacle to our growing up and leaving the parental house so we can make our own way. It may not be the biggest obstacle because a huge majority of Canadians don’t give a damn about it but suffer just the same because it’s there. It’s like the common cold.

This isn’t to say we don’t owe the Brits a lot. We do. For all its ills there are far worse forms of government than the parliamentary system. So why not just say thank you but it’s time to move on? We did that with the British North America Act in 1867.“The British North America Act received Royal Assent on 29th March 1867 and went into effect 1st July 1867. The Act united the three separate territories of Canada, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick into a single dominion called Canada.” https://www.parliament.uk/about/living-heritage/evolutionofparliament/legislativescrutiny/parliament-and-empire/collections1/parliament-and-canada/british-north-america-act-1867/#:~:text=The%20British%20North%20America%20Act,a%20single%20dominion%20called%20Canada. We did that with the flag in 1965 and with the repatriation of the Constitution in 1982 and lest we forget when the Dominion Bureau of Statistics became Statistics Canada.

Look at demographics. In 1871 all but 13.4 percent of the Canadian population was of English or French stock. In 1921 a majority of Canadians were still of British ancestry—55.4 percent. Go another fifty years to 1971 and that had dropped to 44.6 percent. What it is today I have no idea because the 2021 census apparently doesn’t track such things, but only a fool would think the number is increasing. The truth is it’s going the other way, along with Canadians of French ancestry.

I’ve heard the arguments for retaining the monarchy, none of which holds water. A leading contender is that republicanism leads to extremism and fascism. Really? What was the French Revolution about, or for that matter the Russian Revolution? Or the American War of Independence which was determined to get rid of everything to do with Empire. History is full of people not enthralled with monarchy. At least in Sweden and Norway their royal families are Swedes and Norwegians, but not here. Alas, there is no royal family more embarrassing than the one in London.

Absolving ourselves from the institution does not relegate us to a life of immorality and debauchery, and since we’re talking about that, there are members of this Royal Family who have distinguished themselves as poster children for that option. Is there a solution? Yes. Remain in the British Commonwealth but ditch the monarchy. Other nations have done it. Why can’t we?

Many years ago I did a magazine piece about the status of the monarchy in Canada. I took in a speech by Sir John Biggs-Davison, British Member of Parliament for Epping Forest—the same constituency Winston Churchill once represented—and he said: “Monarchy sets limits to the pretensions of politicians with their ever-present tendency to be corrupted.”

No argument about the corruption of politicians, but since when are royals exempt? How about Elizabeth’s uncle Edward VIII who relinquished the Crown after a year as King, sympathized with Nazis, and even met Hitler after leaving Buckingham Palace?Were Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson Nazi Sympathizers? https://www.biography.com/news/edward-viii-wallis-simpson-nazi-sympathizers-hitler Never mind the long litany of humiliations by royals in more recent times. Young Harry spotted partying with a swastika armband. Prince Andrew’s connections to the late Jeffrey Epstein of pedophile fame.Prince Andrew Faces Fresh Legal Pressure Over His Friendship With Jeffrey Epstein https://www.thedailybeast.com/prince-andrew-faces-fresh-legal-pressure-over-his-friendship-with-jeffrey-epstein And not long ago Oprah’s insights about the royals being less than ecstatic with a Duchess of Sussex who is a woman of colour. Indeed, there is a great deal in the Royal Family less than exemplary.

I have no ill feelings towards Elizabeth II who has been Queen since before I was born. But did this woman make it on her own? Does she lead a family that could be construed as the world’s leading welfare case? Are her best days behind her?

I don’t mean to be cruel but news coverage of her Platinum Jubilee celebrations earlier this month—not just on CBC, but all networks—I found nauseating. Are Canadians really enamoured with this? Are we indebted to the Queen and her 70 years on the throne? I’m not. My friends aren’t. No one I talk to is. Not a soul.

So where are the masses who go ga-ga with the Queen and all her merriment? They must exist because the feds think they’re everywhere and so do the TV networks and we all know the media can’t be wrong. Wait a minute. Could it be those same folks who watch The Young and The Restless? Now there’s a thought. Is it true? Well then, God save—er, help us.