As always, the photos are grand.
Justin Trudeau looking out a door where slaves were loaded onto slave ships. Justin Trudeau looking pensive walking down an African street in an open-collared shirt. Justin Trudeau walking with African leaders…
But why the African road trip?
Well, a big part of it is about a chair. A seat, really — on the United Nations Security Council.
Prime Minister Trudeau is campaigning to find support to have Canada fill one of the two-year spots on the council, a move that, if successful, will no doubt be promoted as Canada playing in the big leagues.
Among those big-league players right now? Belgium. Estonia. Niger. St. Vincent and the Grenadines — which, in 2018, was home to a grand total of about 110,000 people.
The council has 15 members, 10 of which are appointed for two-year terms. The real power, such as it is, is in the hands of the five permanent members — the United States, the United Kingdom, China, the Russian Federation and France, who all have the ability to unilaterally veto resolutions.
Look through the council’s resolutions, and you see a healthy amount of concerns and promises to keeping watching the evil that happens globally — but very little in the way of real, measurable action. You have to wonder first, if the council matters as much as it once did, and second, whether Canada getting a temporary seat would mean anything more than, say, “OK, let them have a turn.”
A seat on the UN Security Council seems more like window dressing — or furniture upholstery — than real action.
Right now, international politics is dominated by the same tilt-a-whirl that spins U.S. politics — a president whose actions are spontaneous and whose decisions often seem directed more by the latest television show he watched than they are by all the international expertise, experience and intelligence-gathering he has at his disposal.
From day to day, it’s not clear whether President Donald Trump is keen on yanking American forces out of foreign lands or sending them — and significant amounts of sophisticated ordinance — back in again.
Canada can work hard on the international stage — like it did in the 1990s, when a Canadian initiative brought 122 countries together to ban the use of antipersonnel land mines — only to have years of international effort undone in an instant.
President Trump’s White House permitted U.S. forces to begin using the mines again, arguing that American soldiers were at “at a severe disadvantage” because former president Barack Obama halted the use of the weapons by American soldiers in 2014. (The only exception to that Obama edict was on the Korean peninsula.)
You can argue that it’s a time when a country like ours should stand up and be counted, a time when Canadian ideals should be brought to the international stage — then again, it’s hard to escape the thought that when the main events at the circus are so amazingly bizarre, no one is really watching anything that’s going on in a sideshow.
There are plenty of things that Canada should be focusing on internationally: there is still unbelievable carnage going on in Syria, carnage that the security council can’t even agree to condemn because of vetoes by the Russian Federation and China. The Middle East is still a pressure cooker, even more as the United States backs Israeli annexation plans.
There are places where Canada’s reasoned voice can, and would, be heard.
But a seat on the UN Security Council seems more like window dressing — or furniture upholstery — than real action. Fifty different countries have held the two-year seats on the security council. Having Canada sit there would be a small victory, and arguably, hardly worth the cost and effort of the campaign.
But hey, those pictures are great.
Russell Wangersky’s column appears in SaltWire publications across Atlantic Canada. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org — Twitter: @wangersky