Connect to share and comment

Shattering Canada's collective myths

Last month, I wrote a colun about how the Canadian myth of a nation of peacekeepers has given way to a myth of warriors in Afghanistan, and how a nation once open to immigration has become one that bans permanent residents:

TORONTO, Canada — There are moments in a country’s history when collective myths become so divorced from reality that almost everyone can hear them burst with a pop.

It happened last week in Canada, when stories in the media proclaimed the end of a national identity as peacekeepers, and the birth of one as warriors. This is no small change.

Canada practically invented the notion of international peacekeeping. In 1956, a Canadian diplomat named Lester B. Pearson — who later became prime minister — was instrumental in setting up the United Nations' first peacekeeping force, which helped end the Suez Canal crisis. Pearson won the Noble Peace Prize for his efforts.

That action solidified Canada’s international role as a middle power mediator, respected by both sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, for example, and opposed to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 because it wasn’t approved by the U.N.

This collective self-image — and the foreign policy that flowed from it — began to change when the Canadian government sent troops to Afghanistan in 2002. There was much talk about rebuilding the war-ravaged country. But when Canadian forces took command of operations in violent Kandahar province, it became clear that killing the Taliban was the main goal. ...

For the rest, click here.