Foreign policy of the Harper government


Foreign policy of the Harper government

The Conservative Party Government of Canada led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been involved in several ways overseas, particularly due to its role alongside the United States in the War against terror originated from the September 11, 2001 attacks in the U.S.

Relations with the United States

Stephen Harper had promised during the 2006 election campaign to improve relations with United States. He noted that the previous Liberal government had damaged that relationship through the acts of several critics and due to inappropriate comments made towards the George W. Bush administration.

Shortly after being congratulated by George W. Bush for his victory, Harper rebuked U.S. Ambassador to Canada David Wilkins for criticizing the Conservatives' plans to assert Canada's sovereignty over the Arctic Ocean waters through an increased presence by the Canadian Forces.

U.S. Ambassador

On February 16 2006, Harper named former Progressive Conservative Party Cabinet Minister Michael Wilson as Governor General Michaëlle Jean's appointee to the post of Canada's Ambassador to the United States, replacing Liberal appointee Frank McKenna.cite news | first=CTV.ca News Staff | last= | url=http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20060216/wilson_ambassador_confirm_060216?s_name=&no_ads= | title=New envoy Wilson sets softwood as top priority | publisher=CTV | pages= | page=|date=17 February 2006 | accessdate=2006-04-04]

Wilson stated in his first press conference as Ambassador that "Softwood lumber is clearly at the top of the heap, the top priority." [ cite news | author = CTV News | title = New envoy Wilson sets softwood as top priority | publisher = CTV | url = http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20060216/wilson_ambassador_confirm_060216?s_name=&no_ads= | date = 2006-02-17 ]

First meeting with U.S. President Bush

Harper's first meeting with the U.S. President occurred at the end of March, 2006; and while little was achieved in the way of solid agreements, the trip was described in the media as signaling a trend of closer relations between the two nations. Harper told the press that he used "colourful language not suitable for public television" when pressing President Bush privately over his opposition to a U.S. law that will require Canadian citizens to show their passport when crossing the border into the United States. Bush reported that Harper was "a very open, straightforward fella.... If he's got a problem, he's willing to express it in a way that's clear for all to understand, and that's the way I like to deal with people." [cite news | author=CTV.ca News Staff |url=http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20060331/harper_mexico_summit_060331/20060401?hub=TopStories | title=Harper concerned with U.S. passport-type policy | publisher=CTV | pages= | page= | date=1 April 2006 | accessdate=2006-04-04] The two would later meet in July at the White House.

oftwood lumber dispute

On April 27, 2006, Harper announced in Parliament that the government had reached a seven-year agreement with the United States in the nations' long-standing feud over softwood lumber. Trade Minister David Emerson had vowed since its post-election defection from the Liberals to the Tories to deal with the issue as soon as possible while Ambassador Wilson mentioned it as its first priority.

The three major softwood-producing provinces — British Columbia, Ontario, and Quebec — accepted the compromise. [cite news | author = CTV.ca News Staff | title = PM strikes deal with U.S. to end lumber dispute | url = http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20060426/softwood_folo_060427/20060427?hub=TopStories | format = Free | work = CTV News | date = 2006-04-28|accessdate = 2006-08-31] Leader of the Opposition Bill Graham and NDP leader Jack Layton did not, criticising the deal for not requiring the U.S. to pay back all $5 billion it had collected in tariffs on Canadian softwood lumber. [cite news | author = CBC News Staff | title = Canada, U.S. agree to softwood lumber deal | url = http://www.cbc.ca/story/world/national/2006/04/27/softwood060427.html | format = Free | work = CBC News | date = 2006-04-27 | accessdate = 2006-08-31]

On September 12, 2006, the Canadian and U.S governments officially signed the deal in Ottawa ending the dispute. [cite news | author = CTV News | title = Emerson and U.S. counterpart ink softwood deal | publisher = CTV | url = http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20060911/softwood_deal_060912/20060912?hub=TopStories | date = 2006-09-12 ] Still, it was subject for a confidence vote in the House of Commons during the fall session. The deal would likely have passed with the support of the Bloc Québécois. [cite news | author = CTV News | title = Bloc Québécois to back softwood lumber deal | publisher = CTV | url = http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20060907/bloc_softwood_060907?s_name=&no_ads=|date = 2006-09-07] On September 19, the House voted in favor of the deal 172 to 116 in first reading which eliminated its final hurdle until its official realization [cite news | author = CTV News | title =Softwood deal survives vote in House of Commons | publisher = CTV | url = http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20060919/softwood_vote_060919/20060919/ | date = 2006-09-19]

However, Canada has not fully complied to all conditions of the deal before October 1, 2006, the deadline date for both countries to comply.

NORAD

Following a debate and vote in the House of Commons, the Harper government renewed the NORAD agreement with the United States, making it permanent and adding maritime defense to the agreement, which previously covered only air defense. Members of the NDP who were highly critical of the agreement, arguing that the arrangement will reduce Canadian sovereignty over the country's internal waters.

Anti-ballistic missile defense

Previously, the federal government refused to participate in the U.S led project on the anti-missile defense system which would intercept foreign missiles that represents a menace for the Americas.

Stephen Harper had promised a free-vote on the participation of Canada in the project but stated that Canada would not participate.

Arctic lands and waters

Harper declared in early 2006 that the Arctic waters that are located between the Canadian islands of the Nunavut and Northwest territories belongs to Canada. However, U.S officials, including newly-named U.S. Ambassador to Canada, David Wilkins said that those waters were in neutral territory. During the summer of 2006, Harper went to the Arctic region in Alert, Nunavut to defend the country's northern sovereignty not only for the neutral territory issue but also due to the greater attention giving by foreign countries in regards of the land's wide variety of resources. In addition, the government planned to continue funding new military ships and additional personnel to patrol and defend the northern waters. [ cite news | author = CTV News | title = Military will defend Arctic sovereignty: PM | publisher = CTV | url = http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20060814/arctic_sovereignty_060814/20060814/ | date = 2006-08-14 ] In 2008, he added that Canada should extend its jurisdictional reach to 200 nautical miles up from the current 100 miles On August 10, 2007, Harper announced that a new Army training centre will be built in Resolute Bay as well as an increase of military personnel while a new military port will be built in Nanisvik. [ cite news|author = CTV.com|title = Harper bolsters military strength in Arctic|publisher = CTV|url = http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20070810/canada_denmark_arctic_070810/20070810?hub=TopStories | date = 2007-08-10 ] In addition, Harper announced $720 million for the construction of a new icebreaker that will be named under former Prime Minister John Diefenbaker and will be in operation in 2017. [ cite news|author = CTV News|title = New icebreaker to be named after former Tory chief|publisher = CTV.ca
url = http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20080828/diefenbaker_icebreaker_080828/20080828/|date = August 28, 2008
]

Passport and border security

The United States government had created the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative which would require before June 2009 that all Canadians and Americans must have a valid passport in order to enter the United States by land or boat. Similar measures was enforced in 2007 for air-travelers headed to the U.S. The current Canadian Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Wilson expressed some concerns that the law could pass before the supposed date and may cause problems for businesses and travelers, but the law previously had a 2007 deadline. Several provincial premiers including Ontario's Dalton McGuinty, New Brunswick's Shawn Graham and Manitoba's Gary Doer lobbied several U.S interests in order to propose alternatives to the passport such as high-tech licenses. [ cite news | author = CTV News | title = Premiers lobby U.S. on passport alternatives | url = http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20070228/passport_premiers_070228/20070228?hub=TopStories | date = 2007-02-28 ]

Wilson previously said in an interview on CTV's Question Period in July 2006 that the economy would not be greatly affected by the new measure but The Federation of Canadian Municipalities expressed that particular concern. [ cite news | author = CTV News | title = Passport requirement won't hurt economy: Wilson | publisher = CTV | url = http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20060630/michael_wilson_060630/20060703/ | date = 2006-07-03 ] [ cite news | author = CTV News | title = Ambassador concerned new travel ID being rushed | publisher = CTV | url = http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20061026/canada_us_border_061026/20061026/ | date = 2006-10-26. ] [ cite news | author = CTV News | title = U.S. passport plan will hurt economy: group | publisher = CTV | url = http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20060603/passport_economy_060603/20060603/ | date = 2006-06-03 ] .

As a result of the new US policy, the demand for passports grew rapidly creating a backlog which caused lengthy delays for passport reception. The government had adopted measures that would ease up delays. [ cite news|author = CTV News|title = Ottawa making it easier to renew passports|publisher = CTV|url = http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20070608/border_passport_070608/20070608/ | date = 2007-06-08 ]

The Harper government announced in 2006, among several border security policies, that before 2016 all border guards will be equipped with weapons to track possible criminals, including those carrying firearms, that may pass the border on either side of it. The guards had requested the weapons in a previous negotiation. Also, Harper had spend for over $100 million to add extra staff to patrol borders. 400 or more new officers will be added. [ cite news | author = CTV News | title = Border guards to be armed over 10 years: PM | publisher = CTV | url = http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20060831/border_guards_060831/20060901/ | date = 2006-09-01 ]

Maher Arar

On January 26, 2007, the government announced a compensation worth $11.5 million to Syrian-Canadian Maher Arar due to an error from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The RCMP was blamed for giving misleading information to U.S officials and suspected him as a possible terrorist threat and a member of the Islamic terrorist group Al-Qaeda. He was arrested in New York in 2002 and later deported to Syria where he was tortured in a Syrian jail. The government also gave official apologies. Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day criticized the U.S authorities for not removing Arar on a terrorist watch list based on information from the CIA. U.S Ambassador to Canada David Wilkins replied that Canada must not dictate to the United States on who is not allowed in the country. [ cite news | author = CTV News | title = Arar gratefully accepts apology, still on U.S. list | publisher = CTV | url = http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20070126/arar_compensation2_070126/20070126?hub=TopStories | date = 2007-01-26 ] [ cite news | author = CTV News | title = Wilkins says Canada should back off on Arar | publisher = CTV | url = http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20070124/wilkins_arar_070124?s_name=&no_ads= | date = 2007-01-24 ]

War on terror

Deployment in Afghanistan

The Canadian government has participated in the war against terrorism since the September 11 attacks in the United States. Later that year, the government deployed troops in Afghanistan to combat the Taliban regime, which was ousted by the coalition forces. Canadian troops have remained in the area to assure security and peace, as Taliban insurgencies were frequent in the following months. So far, 97 Canadian soldiers and a diplomat (as of September 12, 2008) have been killed in Afghanistan, with most of the fatalities occurring in 2006 and 2007 as Taliban attacks have become more frequent and more violent. Since the Conservative government was elected in 2006, several of the key members of the Cabinet, including Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay, Defense Minister Gordon O'Connor and Minister of International Co-operation Josee Verner have visited the region in support of the troops or for rebuilding projects. Defense Chief of Staff Rick Hillier also visited the troops in Afghanistan in December 2006.On a two-day visit in Afghanistan in early January 2007, MacKay mentioned that there was an optimistic future in the country despite the Taliban resistance and violence. He mentioned that Canada and its military is heavily contributing to the redeveloppment and reconstruction of the area and that several major projects and programs are currently underway including infrastructures and micro-credit programs. He also announced funding for both aid worker groups and for developing security in Afghanistan, including developing the police force. [ cite news | author = CTV News | title = MacKay paints rosy picture of Afghan mission | publisher = CTV | url = http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20070107/mackay_afghanistan_070107/20070107/ | date = 2007-01-07 ] [ cite news | author = CTV News | title = Rocket fire delays MacKay's flight to Pakistan | publisher = CTV | url = http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20070107/mackay_afghanistan_070108/20070108/ | date = 2007-01-08 ] He added another $200 million in aid on February 26, 2007 for the reconstruction. [ cite news | author = CTV News | title = Harper announces $200M in aid for Afghanistan | url = http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20070226/harper_afghanistan_070226/20070226?hub=TopStories | date = 2007-02-26 ] In October 2007, Maxime Bernier and Bev Oda, who were named respectively the Ministers for Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation during the summer of 2007, pledged an additional $25 million in food aid for the Afghan people in the areas affected by the Taliban militant presence. [ cite news|author = CTV News | title = Ministers announce $25M Afghan food program|publisher = CTV|url = http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20071007/afghanistan_food_071007/20071007/|date = 2007-10-07]

Mission extension

In early 2006, the Conservative government proposed a motion to extend the Canadian military mission in Afghanistan by two years. In May 2006, the House of Commons passed a motion, after a six-hour debate, to extend the mission until 2009 by a slim 149-145 majority. [cite news | author = CTV.ca News Staff | title = MPs narrowly vote to extend Afghanistan mission | url = http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20060517/nato_afghan_060517/20060517/ | format = Free | work = CTV.ca | publisher = CTV Inc. | date = 2006-05-17 | accessdate = 2006-08-31]

On April 24, 2007, a Liberal motion to withdraw troops by 2009 was defeated 150-134, by the Conservatives and the NDP. The NDP wanted an immediate withdrawal of the troops. Former Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor stated that troops may be needed until 2010 [ cite news | author = CBC News | title = MPs defeat motion to pull troops from Afghanistan by 2009 | publisher = CBC | url = http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2007/04/24/liberal-motion.html | date = 2007-04-24 ] . Peter MacKay, who've in a cabinet shuffle replaced O'Connor following heavy criticism of the latter's handling on the mission, stated that the government is willing to continue the mission until Canada "finish the job" without exactly mentioning a specific date on the end of the mission although later mentioned that the decision must be made by April 2008. [ cite news|author = CTV|title = Cda. will 'finish the job' in Afghanistan: MacKay | publisher = CTV | url = http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20060509/mackay_kandahar_060509/20060509/ | date = 2007-05-09 ] [ cite news|author = CTV News|title = Canada has until next April to decide on mission|publisher =CTV|url = http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20070924/afghan_mission_070924/20070924/|date =2007-09-24]

On October 12, 2007, Harper announced an independent committee that to review Canada's role in Afghanistan. The committee was headed by former Liberal Cabinet Minister John Manley and recommendations by the panel will be giving at a later date. Other members of the Committee includes former CBC journalist and anchor Pamela Wallin, the former CEO and president of the Canadian National Railway and Bombardier, Paul Tellier, former Conservative Minister Jake Epp and former chief of staff for Brian Mulroney and ambassador to the United States, Derek Burney. The Prime Minister mentionned four possible options to be examined by the committee, including focusing on the reconstruction effort, withdrawing the troops in 2009, ensuring enough training for the Afghan police and military for a possible withdrawal in 2009 or displace the area of operation to another region outside of Kandahar. cite news|author = CTV News|title = Manley to head Canada's Afghan mission review|publisher = CTV|url =http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20071011/afghanistan_panel_071012/20071012/|date = 2007-10-12] The panel later suggested in a 90-page document that an extension to the mission is necessary but with an emphasis on diplomacy, training and reconstruction with the deployment of 1 000 new soldiers specializing in training the Afghan police and army forces. [ cite news|author = Manley, John|title = Independant Panel on Canada's Future role in Afghanistan | publisher = Ministry of Public Works and Government Services of Canada|url=http://www.independent-panel-independant.ca/pdf/Afghan_Report_web_e.pdf|date = 2008-01-22|format=PDF ] [ cite news|author = CTV News|title = Manley wants mission extension with conditions| publisher = CTV|url = http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20080121/manley_panel_080122/20080122/| date = 2008-01-22]

During the Throne Speech on October 16, 2007, the government made word that they want to extend the mission until 2011 after finishing the training of Afghan military and police officers in which it mentions that it would be impossible to conclude by 2009 although a vote would be proposed on the issue cite news|author = CTV News|title = Throne speech promises GST cut, Afghan vote|publisher = CTV|url = http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20071016/throne_speech_071016/20071016?hub=TopStories|date = 2007-10-16] . While the Throne Speech passed, General Rick Hillier mentioned that the mission could take another 10 years at least before training and re-building the Afghan army, thus 6 years further then the new proposed deadline for the end of the mission. [ cite news|author = CTV News|title = Opposition blasts Harper over Afghan timeline|publisher = CTV | url = http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20071025/afghan_hillier_071025/20071025/| date = 2007-10-25 ] A confidence mention is scheduled for Spring 2008.

Meanwhile, Defense Minister Peter MacKay told at a NATO summit in Lithuania in February 2008 that more NATO members should contribute to the Afghan Mission. [cite news|author = CTV News|title = Progress made on NATO reinforcements: MacKay|publisher = CTV|url = http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20080209/mackay_nato_080209/20080209/ | date = 2008-02-09]

Flag policy

The Harper government, with the support of veterans groups such as the Royal Canadian Legion, re-instituted a policy of lowering the national flag at military installations such as Department of National Defence headquarters only, drawing some criticism that the government was showing a lack of respect for the soldiers. Previously, the flag was lowered at the Peace Tower of Parliament Hill. [cite news | title = Four Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan | url = http://www.cbc.ca/story/world/national/2006/04/22/afghanistan-deaths060422.html | format = Free | work = CBC News | date = 2006-04-22 | accessdate = 2006-08-31 ]

Harper's speeches on Afghanistan

In a televised speech on September 11, 2006, five years after the attacks in New York City and Washington D.C., Harper linked the events of that day with the current mission in Afghanistan, and encouraged continued support for Canada's military efforts against the Taliban. [ cite news | author = Blanchfield, Mike | title = 'The menace of terror must be confronted' | publisher = Ottawa Citizen | url = http://www.canada.com/ottawacitizen/news/story.html?id=5e3f9651-3077-4e96-9f74-ab3cf59e427f&k=56748 |date = 2006-09-12 ] During another speech this time at the United Nations Assembly in New York on September 21, he asked the organization for help and mentioned that the crisis "is a test of the world body's relevance" and being the UN's most important test and mission for it. [ cite news | author = CTV News | title = Afghanistan will test the UN's relevance: Harper | publisher = CTV | url = http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20060920/harper_UN_060921/20060921?hub=TopStories |date = 2006-09-22 ]

Opposition

While most Canadians support the Canadian Forces in general, the opinion is divided in regards to the necessity of the mission. However, a late-October 2006 survey showed that a majority of Canadians approves the mission despite an increase of casualties from Canadian troops over the past few months. [ cite news | author = CTV News | title = Majority backs Afghan troop deployment: survey | publisher = CTV | url = http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20061030/tory_reportcard_061030/20061030/ | date = 2006-10-30 ] However, the number of casualties increased rapidly in 2006 and 2007, the percentage of Canadians opposed increased significantly. The province with the strongest opposition was Quebec. A June 2007 Journal de Montréal poll conducted after the first Quebec casualties in the mission, showed that nearly 70 percent of its population were opposed to the mission, while it was 53 percent in a March poll. The Quebec City area that includes CFB Valcartier which are based most of the Quebec troops assigned for the mission had the strongest support on the mission, but were also in majority opposed. [ cite news|author = LCN | title = Les Québécois opposés à l'envoi de soldats de Valcartier |publisher = LCN | url = http://lcn.canoe.ca/lcn/infos/national/archives/2007/06/20070621-074354.html|date =2007-06-21 ]

Among the opposition parties, the New Democratic Party has asked on multiple occasions that the government withdraw the troops, but was the only party that was fully against the project. [ cite news | author = CTV News | title = Think tank calls for new approach in Afghanistan | publisher = CTV | url = http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20061024/afghanistan_senlis_061024/20061024/ | date = October 24 ] The Bloc Québécois had previously asked about an emergency debate in the House of the Commons which was refused by the Conservatives. [ cite news | author = CTV News | title = Harper to defend Afghanistan mission in UN speech | publisher = CTV | url = http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20060919/harper_unspeech_060919/20060919/ | date = 2006-09-19 ] On December 12 2006, the Bloc's Deputy Leader Michel Gauthier told the media that the party had even considered introducing a confidence motion on the mission that could topple the government. [ cite news | author = CTV News | title = Harper accuses Bloc of political opportunism | publisher = CTV | url = http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20061213/bloc_harper_061213/20061213/ | date = 2006-11-13 ] . The Liberal Party and its newly-elected leader Stéphane Dion mentioned that they would not topple the government on that issue. [ cite news | author = Canadian Press | title = Afghanistan won't topple Tories : Dion | publisher = 24 Hours | date = 2006-12-19 ]

However in 2007, the Bloc Québécois pressured the government to officially end the mission by 2009 and in September threaten to vote against the Throne Speech if the government does end the mission in that year as the House of Commons voted. [ cite news|author = CTV News | title = Duceppe threatens to oppose throne speech|publisher = CTV|url = http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20070921/bloc_showdown_070922/20070922/|date = 2007-09-22] Harper replied that the government would not comply with the Bloc's demand (along with four others) and pressured the Liberal on the issue in which who are more in favor for the conclusion of the mission in 2009 while the NDP kept their same position as the year before. However, Dion, in the midst of a turmoil inside his party following poor results in the September by-elections in Quebec and stagnant support across the country would mentioned that it would listen to the Throne Speech before deciding on whether or not they will defeat the government. [ cite news|author = CTV News | title = Dion keeps door open to supporting Throne Speech|publisher = CTV|url = http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20070926/throne_speech_070926/20070926/|date = 2007-09-26] . Harper mentionned that it was up to the opposition to defeat the government and force new elections just under 2 years after the 2006 elections. [ cite news|author = CTV News | title = Harper: It's up to opposition to trigger election| publisher = CTV|url = http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20071003/harper_071003/20071003/|date = 2007-10-03]

The mission received support from the United States and the Bush administration. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, in a meeting with Peter MacKay praised the efforts of the Canadian troops, notably their courage and sacrifice. [ cite news | author = Canadian Press | title = Rice praises Canuck military for sacrifice | publisher = 24 Hours | date = 2006-12-22 ] . In addition, NATO had also asked the country to extend its mission beyond 2009. ]

Military spending

Harper had promised that he would increase the size of the naval fleet as well as increasing the overall number of soldiers. In the 2006 budget, the Canadian Forces received an additional $5.3 billion over five years. [ cite news | author = CTV News | title = Military gets $5.3-billion boost from budget | publisher = CTV | url = http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20060502/budget_military_060502/20060502/ | date = 2006-05-02 ]

Defense Minister Gordon O'Connor had later requested additional funding of 15 billion dollars to acquire fleets of helicopters and aircraft, such as the Boeing Chinook helicopter, the Boeing C-17 Globemaster plane, and the Lockheed Martin C-130 Hercules aircraft. He later announced that new Leopard 2 Tanks would be added to the fleet replacing the older Leopard C2 vehicles by the summer of 2007. [ cite news|author = CBC News | title = Canadian Forces to refresh aging fleet of tanks | publisher = CBC | url = http://www.cbc.ca/world/story/2007/04/12/leopard-tanks-070412.html | date = 2007-04-12 ]

Most of the equipment would provide operational support for the soldiers currently serving in Afghanistan. This new equipment would be in addition to new Sikorsky H-92 helicopters requested by the previous government's defense minister Bill Graham. [ cite news | author = CTV News | title = O'Connor seeks $15B in extra equipment for troops | publisher = CTV | url = http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20060615/military_spending_060615/20060616/ | date = 2006-06-16. ]

Detainees abuse claims

In April and May 2006, when concerns surfaced over the fate of individuals detained in Afghanistan by Canadian soldiers and given into Afghan custody, Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor claimed that the Red Cross or Red Crescent would supervise the handover and treatment of detainees and notify Canada if any problem occurred. [cite news|url=http://www2.parl.gc.ca/HousePublications/Publication.aspx?DocId=2162028&Language=E&Mode=1&Parl=39&Ses=1#Int-1502157
title=House of Commons Debates, Tuesday, April 11, 2006|publisher=Hansard|date=2006-05-31|accessdate=2007-04-27
] This was later denied by the International Committee of the Red Cross, [cite news|url=http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20070308.wdetainees07/BNStory/National/home|first=Paul|last=Koring|title=Red Cross contradicts Ottawa on detainees|publisher=Globe and Mail|date=2007-03-08|accessdate=2007-04-27] after which O'Connor apologised for misleading the House.

On April 23, 2007, "The Globe and Mail" reported that 30 Afghan detainees had been tortured after handover to Afghan authorities. The government responded that they will investigate over the matter but mentioned that Canadian soldiers were treating them properly. However, opposition members called for O'Connor's resignation. [cite news|publisher=CBC News|title=Latest Afghan abuse claims spark cries for O'Connor to resign|url=http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2007/04/23/afghan-torture.html|date=2007-04-23]

Israel-Lebanon conflict

At the outset of the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict, Harper defended publicly Israel's "right to defend itself," and described the invasion of Lebanon as a "measured" response, feeling that Hezbollah and Hamas's release of Israeli prisoners would be the key to ending the conflict.cite news|title=Harper sides firmly with Israel|date=2006-07-13|publisher=Globe and Mail|url= http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20060713.wHarper0713/BNStory/Front] Many Arab-Canadians criticized Harper's description of the response as "measured". On July 17, 2006, Harper noted that the situation had deteriorated since his initial comments, but that it was difficult for Israel to fight "non-governmental forces" embedded in the civilian population. Harper reiterated his earlier support for Israel and called on both sides to show restraint and minimize civilian casualties.

The Canadian government made arrangements to evacuate about 30,000 Canadians, mainly of Lebanese descent, from Lebanon after hostilities broke out. The response was criticized as slow and inefficient.cite news|title=Canadian evacuation going much smoother|date=2006-07-22|publisher=Globe and Mail|url=http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20060722.wcaneva20722/BNStory/Front] Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay had defended the response mentioning that the capacity of the ships were limited.

On July 17, a group of protesters, primarily expatriate Lebanese, protested Israeli aggression in front of the Israeli consulate in Montreal; further protests took place July 22 in localities across Canada.cite news|title=Opponents of Lebanese attack hold vigil outside Israeli consulate in Montreal|date=2006-07-22|publisher=Montreal Gazette|url=http://www.canada.com/montrealgazette/news/story.html?id=bb1f191f-eadd-4b26-b4c7-e49376aa4fe9&k=16542]

Despite criticisms, Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay joined Harper in reiterating support for Israel's position and urging restraint while calling for a ceasefire. Speaking of the situation in both Lebanon and Gaza on July 18, Harper told reporters, "We all want to encourage not just a ceasefire, but a resolution. And a resolution will only be achieved when everyone gets to the table and everyone admits... recognition of each other," referring to the refusal of Hezbollah and Hamas to recognize Israel's right to exist. Harper laid the blame for the civilian deaths on both sides at the feet of Hezbollah. "Hezbollah's objective is violence," Harper asserted, "Hezbollah believes that through violence it can create, it can bring about the destruction of Israel. Violence will not bring about the destruction of Israel... and inevitably the result of the violence will be the deaths primarily of innocent people.".cite news|title=Neutral stance rejected: Opposition criticizes Harper's tough talk|date=2006-07-19|publisher=National Post|url=http://www.canada.com/nationalpost/news/story.html?id=c0ada2ed-6c3d-4690-9317-739c4d97fd16&k=49262]

In August 2006, Peterborough MP Dean Del Mastro was scheduled for a National Council on Canada-Arab Relations-planned visit to Lebanon along with members of the Opposition parties. However, shortly before his departure, Del Mastro canceled his trip citing security reasons. [ cite news | author = CTV News | title = MPs to go on Middle East fact-finding trip | publisher = CTV | url = http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20060807/mideast_mps_060808/20060809/ | date = 2006-08-09 ] [ cite news | author = CTV News | title = Conservative MP backs out of Mideast visit | publisher = CTV | url = http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20060815/mideast_template_060815/20060815/ | date = 2006-08-15 ]

Other international issues

Israel-Palestine conflict

In January 2007, on a two-day mission in the Middle East MacKay met Israel Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to discuss peace process in the region which is affected not only by the conflict with Lebanon but also with Palestine. While in Israel, he questioned about the barrier wall that separates Israel with Palestine. He mentioned while it was justified due to security reasons, it must not remained permanently in order to fully restore peace. [ cite news | author = CTV News | title = MacKay plays a cautious game in Mideast visit | publisher = CTV | url = http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20070121/mackay_barrier_070121/20070121/ | date = 2007-01-21 ]

In 2006, the Conservative government cut funding to Palestine due to the victory of the Hamas militant group in the 2006 legislative elections. Hamas is identified as a terrorist organization by Canadian authorities [ cite news | author = Public Safety Canada | title = Currently Listed Entities | url=http://www.ps-sp.gc.ca/prg/ns/le/cle-en.asp#hhi18] . MacKay did meet with Palestinian citizens in the West Bank region but not with any member of Hamas, as no Canadians are allowed to have diplomatic relations with the group. There were reports that funding may resume due to the extreme poverty in the region. [ cite news | author = CTV News | | title = MacKay discusses peace process with Israeli PM | publisher = CTV | url = http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20070121/mackay_barrier_070122/20070122/ | date = 2007-01-22 ]

Darfur Conflict

Canada has also participated in the peace process in the Darfur region of Sudan where a conflict took place since 2003 and killed nearly a quarter-million people. The Conservative government announced on March 1, 2007 an additional funding of $48 million in order to assist the African Union peacekeeping efforts to the peace process as well as giving the population affected by the conflict access to urgent needs. Since the start of the conflict, more than $190 million were pledged while various goods were also shipped to Darfur.

While announcing the funding, MacKay had also expressed concerns in regards to the civil rights violation record of the country and had requested a ceasefire. On September 28, 2006 during a speech at the summit of the Francophonie, Harper called on the United Nations to take a bigger role on the conflict in order to help the "desperate". [ cite news | author = CTV News | title = Canada commits $48M to help keep peace in Darfur | url = http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20070301/canada_darfur_070301/20070301/ | March 1, 2007 ] [ cite news | author = CTV News | title = World must do more for 'desperate' Sudan: Harper | url = http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20060927/harper_romania_060928/20060928/ | date = 2007-03-02 ]

North Korea

The Conservative government had condemned the nuclear testing conducted by the North Korean regime of Kim Jong-Il in October 2006. MacKay had strongly supported any sanctions by the United Nations and its Security Council against the country such as trade restrictions on goods and arms as well as possible trade embargoes. [ cite news | author = CTV News | title = Canada supports sanctioning N. Korea: MacKay | publisher = CTV | url = http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20061014/korea_nuclear_061015/20061015/ | date = 2006-10-15 ]

Prior to the nuclear testing, MacKay also condemned a previous missile testing made by North Korea in July 2006 and called the country a major threat for the stability of the East Asian region. Harper had responded that, "the fact that (North Korea) is prepared to arm itself and prepared to threaten to use such armaments... is something that we should be gravely concerned about" [ cite news | author = CTV News | title = N. Korean missile tests should concern Canada: PM | publisher = CTV | url = http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20060705/harper_bush_060706/20060706/ | date = 2006-07-06 ]

During the APEC summit, in which North Korea is not an APEC country, Canada sent a diplomat to deal with the nuclear issue. [ cite news | author = CTV News | title = Harper, China's Hu Jintao meet at APEC summit | publisher = CTV | url = http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20061118/korean_visit_061118/20061118/ | date = 2006-11-18 ]

AIDS

The City of Toronto hosted an international summit on AIDS, a worldwide issue which affects also Canada. Health Minister Tony Clement represented the government; Stephen Harper didn't attend the summit due to issues surrounding the Canadian Arctic region. This drew heavy criticism from organizers. Immediately after the conference, Clement didn't announce any further Canadian funding or measures for fighting the disease, "because it was becoming difficult to have a rational discussion." However, he did add that the country had significantly increased its financial support. [ cite news | author = CTV News | title = Harper lambasted for skipping AIDS conference | publisher = CTV | url = http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20060813/aids_conference_060813/20060813/ | date = 2006-08-13 ] [ cite news | author = CTV News | title = AIDS conference short on rational talk: Clement | publisher = CTV | url = http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20060813/aids_conference_060819/20060819/ | date = 2006-08-19 ] On World AIDS Day, December 1, 2006, Canada had announced a 250-million dollar pledge over a two-year period for the fight against AIDS and promised a 10-year 450 million dollar funding to African countries. Stephen Lewis a UN Special Envoy had requested funding of 30 billion dollars by the G8 countries including Canada by 2010 [ cite news | author = CTV News | title = Ottawa announces funding pledge on World AIDS Day | publisher = CTV | url = http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20061130/aids_day_funding_061131/20061201?hub=Canada | date = 2006-12-01 ]

On February 20, 2007, Harper, along with Microsoft chairman Bill Gates, announced a total of $139 million in new funding for the Canadian HIV Vaccine Initiative. The federal government will contribute $111 million while the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will commit an additional $28 million. [ cite news | author = Politics Watch | title = Bill Gates, Canada announce millions for global AIDS research | publisher = Politics Watch | url = http://www.politicswatch.com/gates-feb20-2007.htm | date = 2007-02-20 ]

Relations with China

While the People's Republic of China had rapidly progressed during the 1990s, the Canadian government concluded several economic and partnership deals with the country. However, when the Conservative government took power in 2006, relations between the two had changed most notably due on the question of human rights in the People's Republic of China in which the Conservative government had criticized its records. Meanwhile, President Hu Jintao criticized Canada for making the Dalai-Lama an honorary citizen and to make several meetings with him. The monk made its latest visit in October 2007 where he met with Harper, the first time time a Canadian Prime Minister meet with the spiritual leader. Secretary of State and MP Jason Kenney denied that the meeting will cause harm to trade relations between the two countries despite threats from the Chinese governments due to the meeting in which the Chinese Foreign Ministry called it "gross interference in China's affairs". [cite news|author = CTV News|title = Trade won't suffer from Dalai Lama meeting: Ottawa|publisher = CTV | url http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20071029/dalai_lama_071030/20071030/ | date = 2007-10-30 ] In addition, Hu also criticized the government about its accusations over China's human rights record and denied any kind of abuse of it in his country.

Before the APEC summit in November 2006, the issue of human rights was a hot topic on Harper's agenda. He discussed the issue in Vietnam with Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung where there have been also criticism on the country's respect of rights. [ cite news | author = CTV News | title = Harper discusses human rights with Vietnamese PM, publisher = CTV | url = http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20061117/Harper_061117/20061117/ | date = 2006-11-17 ] Following a period of violence and unrest in Tibet in March 2008, the Prime Minister as well as MP Pierre Poilievre has called again the country respect human rights and show "restraint" in the Tibet uprising. [cite news|author = CTV News|title = Harper urges China to show 'restraint' in Tibet|publisher = CTV|url = http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20080320/tibet_protests_080320/20080320/|date = 2008-03-20] The government did not discuss the possibility of a Canadian boycott of the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing. Harper cited that it would be premature to discuss that possibility and added that Canada would high-ranking representatives to opening ceremonies while monitoring the situation in China before the Games. [cite news|author = CTV News|title = Harper suggests talk of Olympic boycott premature|publisher = CTV|url = http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20080402/NATO_summit_080403/20080403/|date = 2008-04-03]

At the APEC summit in Hanoi, Vietnam, Harper met with Hu, after tensions between the two countries nearly called off a scheduled meeting between the two leaders. There were no official reports of discussions on the issue of human rights, but Harper had urged that the relations between the two countries needs to be built. [ cite news | author = CTV News | title = Harper, China's Hu Jintao meet at APEC summit | publisher = CTV | url = http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20061118/korean_visit_061118/20061118/ | date = 2006-11-18 ]

In January 2007, while on a business trip to the People's Republic of China, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, had vowed to improve relations between the two countries and also promised to discuss firmly the issue of human rights. Trade Minister David Emerson also announced a "China strategy" in which there will be fundings (which will be announced in the 2007 budget) for developing this strategy. [ cite news | author = CTV News | title = Flaherty vows to raise rights issues in China | publisher = CTV | url = http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20070117/flaherty_070117/20070117/ | date = 2007-01-17 ]

Kosovo Independence

On March 18, 2008, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier issued a statement that recognized the Independence of Kosovo, which became a separated country from Serbia in February 2008. The Embassy of Serbia in Ottawa field a protest against Canada's decision to recognition the newly sovereign nation. The Serbian Ambassador to Canada, Dusan Batakovic cited that it might renew the independence movement in Quebec. Harper rejected the Kosovo and Quebec comparison and replied that that the Kosovo situation was unique. [cite news|author = CTV News|title = Serbia to protest Ottawa's recognition of Kosovo|publisher = CTV|url = http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20080318/canada_kosovo_080318/20080318/| date = 2008-03-18] [cite news|author = CTV News|title = Recognition of Kosovo has no bearing on Quebec: PM|publisher = CTV|url = http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20080320/quebec_kosovo_080320/20080320/|date = 2008-03-20]

ee also

* Stephen Harper
* Domestic policy of the Harper government

Footnotes


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