It began in 1867 ……..(Part 4)
A critical look at Canada’s past, and how social, political and cultural changes
have shaped the outlook of country as well people
by Jayant Gala
In national or international crisis, any country and its leadership is put to a real test; how it responds, and what steps it takes to send strong message of retaliation or reasonable conciliation or just remains neutral not to ruffle any feathers. History is full of evidences where cowardice recluses and indifferent attitudes have led to human tragedies, in many cases to devastating wars or unchecked spread of perverted ideology of some regimes resulting in deaths of hundreds of millions of innocent people.
But history points out human follies and reminds us of incredible outcomes that have suffocated our sense of liberty and freedom. It also relates to benevolent leaders who have led their countries, along with their deeply concern citizens, to fight to eradicate such inhuman treatment, and Canada was one of them. The call of humanity made her participate in one of the bloodiest conflict–the First World War of 1914–1918, in which Canada paid heavy price–more than 600,000 died and close to 175,000 wounded of a country of only 8 million.
It was this immense sacrifice that got Canada recognised and its success made her one of the most powerful partners in the Second World War. This also made her one of the important actors in the UN Peacekeeping mission. For defusing the escalating Suez cannel crisis as well continuing efforts for peace in many war torn countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, earned Prime Minister Lester Pearson the highest honor from the Nobel Peace Committee.
The relevancy of the UN project and its success is questioned by not only participants, but countries were it was deployed. In many ways the failure of the project is directly related to its over rated praise. Morally strong stands not necessarily bring peace in countries where various vicious factions vie for power by any means, but it also exposes deep rooted communal or territorial problems as it happened in Rwanda, Somalia and the Middle East.
And in Rwanda, it was our own Lieutenant-General Romeo Dallaire, under whom and along with leadership of incompetent UN Secretary General, on April 6th, 1994, genocide was carried out. It was one of the greatest tragedies in recent history. It is the story of the failure of UN that chose to do nothing to stop killing of almost a million innocent Tutsis and Hutus. The world wondered about the UN’s mission of finding peaceful solution to such slaughters before they are carried out.
A Canadian mission of Peacekeeping in the beginning was a novel idea and it sustained some support but its expectation of intended positive results did not materialized. Close to two hundred Canadian peacekeepers lost their lives and many more were injured-physically and some suffered mental illness for an indefinite time period. But the Liberal Party kept drums of superfluous prestige beating at the enormous cost both in loss of hundreds of our soldiers and millions in funding.
Politics plays divisive part even we are told it is in the interest of our nation. Liberals played their cards to show generosity. Conservatives were not convinced and of belief that national interest must be given priority. Some conservative reporters boldly declared that one of the great benefits to Canada of not being engaged with the UN under Harper was a statement of independent foreign policy. Besides, it was good to not get caught up in UN failures, as our Afghanistan involvement was already tagged as a mess constantly undermined by the left media even though that commitment Harper inherited from previous Liberal governments of Paul Martin and Jean Chretien.
In rush to be appreciated, and wish to be recognised as strong willed leaders, some often get overwhelmed with special attention accorded by the party they represent. Writers and commentators do notice it and express their unpretentious opinion. Though, at the time, Prime Minister Pearson got special support for his initiatives for the Peacekeeping project, he was also criticised by some in the media.
But views change as facts get evaluated without any partisanship. All great or mediocre leaders go through the same kind of scrutiny that usually reveal clear picture of their thinking as well political philosophy of party they affiliate. In his book, The Diplomat: Lester Pearson and the Suez Crisis, author Antony Anderson critically pointing out misconception of the peacekeeping project and how it got bogged down under the weight of over inflated UN priorities that were obviously overestimated by none other than the liberal media.
Pearson’s initiatives put Canada on a positive rating. She was no longer viewed as just a colony of England. This special status as a nation of great leadership and this nationhood was tested during the war, where the Canadian soldiers very bravely fought at Ypres, stormed Regina Trench, climbed the heights of Vimmy Ridge, and that moment created a positive image of Canada. This day is etched as the remarkable feat in the annals of history, ending the treacherous four year war, on 11th hours and 11th day of the 11th month in 1918.
After this victory, Canada played very important part in thwarting advancing Nazism by joining allied forces. Her participation is not only appreciated, but sacrifices of many Canadians have been considered one of the hallmarks of freedom that saved Europe in particular, and the world in general. The most horrific suffering endured by six million Jews, who were led to death in gas chambers by one mad man reflects our own indifferent attitudes. It was a period of utter disgusting shame on humanity. What is worst, few nations closed their doors to thousands of desperate people who wanted to escape to safe countries like Canada.
Canada’s this stand is not considered as a proud decision. Let me refresh a bit of sad facts when the Liberal Prime Minister Mackenzie King in 1939, after the war, when Jews refugees tried to escape and boarded the German transatlantic liner St. Louis to seek sanctuary in Canada from Nazi Germany, they were refused and the ship was forced to sail back to Europe, where 254 would later die in concentration camps.
This also reminds the other similar incident–not war related–but it does undermine Canada’s immigration policy towards “others”. It was the Komagata Maru, a Japanese steamship, on which a group of 350, mostly Punjabis, of the British Raj, attempted to immigrate to Canada in 1914 but denied entry by the Prime Minister Robert Borden. Of course recent years two governments– Conservative and Liberal– extended public apology in the Canadian parliament to Sikh community of Canada. I don’t remember if same kind of curtesy was extended to the Jews community.
Many people thought sufferings would bring sincere sympathy in the West for the Jews people. It did not happen. In 1948 the UN resolution 181, called for the partition of the British-ruled Palestine Mandate into a Jewish state and an Arab state. But it changed as soon as the Israel State, without Palestine was granted in the midst of Arab world. This rejection sense is translated into such dislike the Arab world launched three wars on the newly created nation loosing every time. And after 60 or so years the UN has remained impotent blaming all but Arabs encouraging the media to side with the aggressors.
And, so started a different war of propaganda by the left wing media in Europe, America and Canada! It has reached to the point mere civil discourse has become a thing of the past. It has been replaced by the army of discontent youth in university campuses whose minds are being kept closed by the one ideology propagated by most academia. They made them forget the result of such one tract approach that brought incredible atrocities in the past, and if we don’t learn from history, and if our independent thinking is not allowed to flourish at the highest learning institutions, then we are indeed doomed.
The scourge of Nazism, communism, fascism and socialism of last two centuries in Russia, Europe and China exerted unimaginable tortures that wiped out hundreds of millions of people. In this century Islamism using terrorism to slaughter anyone who defies religious tenets is added to the list.
Canadian government must look at these historical atrocities committed by Stalin, Mao, Hitler and others. And if any government is incapable of visualising what ISIS is capable of causing irreversible damage to the entire civilized world, it would be too late to justify absurd reasoning of religious and cultural accommodation.
It was not easy but so far we have survived. We Canadians are part and parcel of this wonderful world handed over to us by the most creative, articulated, thoughtful and visionaries of previous generations with the understanding that some nations among many would fight to keep it strong to withstand any internal or external attack to preserve it intact for the next generation. But more we read see and observe with bewildered eyes, more we become fearful of lack of foresight of our government who seems bent on sacrificing Canadian value and identity.
Many progressive among us have not learned any lesson from the past and closed their eyes to rapidly changing face of entire Europe. Remaining completely absorbed in false narrative of all cultures are equal, and simply happily sitting in own small cocoon is not an ideal place to escape from the reality.