Grow up Canadian liberals!

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It is hard to comprehend why the Canadian government would choose to engage in aggressive foreign policies that will harm its high-valued interests and relations with close friends and allies.

I have visited Canada twice, once in the winter of 2012, and later in summer 2013, to attend two graduation ceremonies of hundreds of Saudi and Arab students. Most specialized in medicine, engineering, science and technology. They did well in some of the world’s top universities, and fitted well into the polite, kind and tolerant Canadian society. No one has ever reported prejudice, mistreatment or anything, but friendship and cooperation.

Therefore, it came as a shock to me that of all nations, Canada, under its new liberal government that shows much sympathy and respect to Muslims, would try imposing its own values on Saudi Arabia. It is so unlike Canadians to look down with moral superiority on others. It is also unlikely for a country that has always respected the UN Charter to interfere in an undiplomatic way in the internal affairs of other sovereign nations.

I was not alone in my bewilderment. Ben Marquis of the Wall Street Journal wrote: “The nation of Canada, under the guidance of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, has increasingly moved in a progressive leftward direction, and at times its leaders seem to think that the rest of the world is shifting as far to the left as they are — at the same pace.

“Thus, when Canada decided to speak out against how the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia deals with its own activist citizens, officials in the Trudeau government were surprised by the rather forceful pushback they received from the Middle Eastern nation, which in essence boiled down to ‘mind your own business!’

“Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman has taken many steps over the past year or two to try to modernize the Kingdom through a series of political and societal changes. Some of those changes have involved easing restrictions on women — such as lifting the ban on women driving vehicles or allowing more women into the workforce — but given the longstanding Islamic traditions of the Kingdom still held dear by many within the Saudi population, the Crown Prince has introduced the changes in a slow and methodical manner to prevent unrest over the efforts.”

The right policy, the columnist suggests, is to “call for change in a diplomatic manner that respects the sovereignty of Saudi Arabia and recognizes that the country must be allowed to make significant societal transitions at its own pace, not at the behest of loud public pronouncements from liberal nations that place them uncomfortably on the spot, in front of their own citizens and the rest of the globe.”

Andrew MacDougall, who served as director of communications to former Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper (2012-2013), agrees. He contended, in a Maclean’s magazine article, that: “Canada appears to have misjudged the moment. And we should face it; it’s becoming a bit of a trend. The swings and misses abroad have been coming at regular intervals for Justin Trudeau and his government over the past nine months.”

He lists many failures in Canada’s foreign deals, such as the APEC summit with the Japanese, trade with China, the prime minister’s trip to India, the G7 summit, NAFTA, and the diplomatic crisis with Saudi Arabia.

“What country hasn’t Justin Trudeau pissed off?” Brian Lilley asked in the Toronto Sun. “Canada is currently involved in a major dust-up with Saudi Arabia that will cost this country billions. Why? Because Justin Trudeau’s foreign affairs minister decided to conduct diplomacy by Twitter. Isn’t that something liberals have mocked Donald Trump for?

“What could have, and should have, been dealt with through quiet diplomacy is now a major diplomatic incident. The Saudis have recalled thousands of students studying in Canada, they are busy selling off Canadian stocks, bonds and other assets and stopping the import of wheat and other commodities. All over Twitter diplomacy.

“Trudeau and his foreign minister, Chrystia Freeland, are claiming that we have a values-based foreign policy. One that values feminism, human rights, free speech. But if so, why are we cozying up to Iran and China?” the Canadian writer asked.

I cannot agree more with these writers. Canada should tread carefully in its foreign relations. Its leaders cannot consolidate their country’s position on the world’s economic, political and cultural map in an irrational activist mode.

You won’t be accepted in the adult league with a naughty teenage attitude, Mr. Trudeau. And certainly you may not enforce your own values and way of life on others. And don’t ever think that your values are perfect. Other people, including some of your own, could count your party’s moral faults as fast as you could count theirs. Grow up and mind your own business, Mr. Liberal, or live to regret it!

— Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi is a Saudi writer based in Jeddah. He can be reached at: Kbatarfi@gmail.com Follow him on Twitter: @kbatarfi


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