What is it with Canada?

by | Feb 13, 2010

Canadians used to think of themselves as global citizens, par excellence. Recently, though, this image has taken a battering.

Canada is now so obstructive in climate negotiations that even the Chinese government has had enough of its ‘conniving’ ways. In the midst of global economic turmoil, Canada’s main priority for the recent G7 summit was to force feed finance ministers seal meat.

And, at the Winter Olympics, it is so desperate to Own the Podium that it has  long planned to keep practise sessions for other countries to an absolute minimum in order to ensure its athletes get maximum home advantage. “Skeleton racer Mellisa Hollingsworth will be flying down the fastest track in the world at Whistler with the benefit of 200-plus more practice runs than her rivals,” boasted one of its papers last week.

Canada was told that this policy could be disastrous, especially for the luge and for skeleton (a kind of tobogganing) where the Canadians have built a faster track than any in the world, making practise essential.  “The speeds are going to be high up in the 100s,” warned the British performance manager. ” Therefore accidents are going happen and do happen in sports such as these. We’ve seen broken legs or even worse before for example.”

Sure enough the worst did happen, with Georgian luger, Nodar Kumaritashvili killed just hours before the opening ceremony. Charmingly, the Canadians have quickly wrapped up an investigation that blames the dead guy for the accident.

On Thursday, a BBC survey showed that Canada’s international image is beginning to take a battering:

Several countries saw sharp falls in positive ratings of Canada—in the USA the proportion rating Canadian influence as positive fell from 82 per cent to 67 per cent, in the UK from 74 per cent to 62 per cent, in Australia from 77 per cent to 72 per cent, and in China from 75 per cent to 54 per cent.  Overall, comparing views in 15 of the countries that were surveyed last year, the proportion rating Canadian influence in the world as mainly positive has fallen on average from 57 per cent to 53 per cent.

Even Canadians, the survey shows, believe the country has a less positive global influence than before. One wonders: do they care?


  • David Steven is a senior fellow at the UN Foundation and at New York University, where he founded the Global Partnership to End Violence against Children and the Pathfinders for Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies, a multi-stakeholder partnership to deliver the SDG targets for preventing all forms of violence, strengthening governance, and promoting justice and inclusion. He was lead author for the ministerial Task Force on Justice for All and senior external adviser for the UN-World Bank flagship study on prevention, Pathways for Peace. He is a former senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and co-author of The Risk Pivot: Great Powers, International Security, and the Energy Revolution (Brookings Institution Press, 2014). In 2001, he helped develop and launch the UK’s network of climate diplomats. David lives in and works from Pisa, Italy.

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