Thursday, August 21, 2008

Chrétien's continuing legacy - putting business first

cnc I am really irritated by former-Prime Minister Jean Chrétien’s recent criticisms of Stephen Harper for not attending the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics. In bypassing the Beijing Olympics, he claimed on Monday to the press, Prime Minister Stephen Harper had undermined the work that every Canadian leader since John Diefenbaker has poured into improving relations with China. He also added that he believes China has made a lot of progress in respecting human rights in recent years.

As the Prime Minister’s assistant press secretary said, however, that is ironic that Chrétien “somehow skipped the '94, '98, 2000 and 2002 opening ceremonies. Based on his remarks, should we conclude that relations with those countries were damaged because Prime Minister Chrétien did not attend four out of five Olympic games that took place while he was prime minister?"

The fact is, Chrétien’s complaint is built on the very thing that drove his government’s foreign affairs policies when he was the prime minister - money. Chrétien is heavily involved in business in China as a consultant for clients with deep commercial interests in the country. As prime minister, Canada’s foreign affairs policy was heavily influenced by business interests, as was evident in Sudan when the government refused to get involved even when it was proven that revenues from Canadian oil companies were helping fund the Sudanese government’s genocidal activities against civilians in the south of the country. Is it any wonder that the former PM has such an affinity with a government that is involved in the same activity in Darfur, Sudan today? It was embarrassing to be a Canadian in Sudan at in the 1990's, as we served persecuted Christians who were being bombed by planes fuelled at Canadian-owned airstrips.  It is embarrassing now as our former PM chooses to side with a government whose activities in Darfur, Tibet, and towards religious dissidents before and during these Olympic games have shown to the world just how "free" this country really is and how much we can trust their promises. 

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