Dewar questions our role in joint U.K.-Canada diplomatic missions
Paul Dewar. (Veronica Henri/QMI Agency)
OTTAWA - A new agreement with the United Kingdom to be announced Monday shows that Canada is happy to be a pawn in Britain's diplomatic game, says opposition MP Paul Dewar.
U.K. foreign secretary William Hague is here to launch joint U.K.-Canada diplomatic missions internationally. In countries where Canada has an embassy and Britain does not, Canada will represent the U.K., and vice versa.
The arrangement has been kept secret from parliamentarians and Canadians alike.
In the U.K., the deal is being sold as a measure to counter the perceived growing power of the European Union through its European External Action Service whose offices have been sprouting up around the world.
The agreement will see both the British and Canadian diplomatic presence expand.
Hague, who has been called anti-EU and xenophobic by numerous media, has been quoted in the British press as saying: "It will give us a bigger reach abroad for our business and people for less cost."
Calling it a significant departure from past diplomatic practices, Dewar raised numerous concerns with the agreement.
"If the U.K. is wanting to strengthen its resolve against the EU, we shouldn't be pawns in their game," he said.
"This is about who represents Canada and our interests. Who's going to represent Canada when competing issues, such as trade or issues we strongly disagree on, such as fighting in Iraq, come up?"
Dewar questioned the opacity with which the deal has been negotiated and said considering its significance, discussion in Parliament should have taken place.
One senior government official praised the deal, calling it an example of "out-of-the-box thinking."
"[Foreign Affairs] Minister John Baird has since his appointment been pushing for exactly this type of arrangement with our allies. It increases our diplomatic reach in a cost-effective way," the statement said.
The official said Canada will maintain its foreign policy, and called it a -two-way move that will allow Canadian diplomats to protect our interests and promote out values in more places."
Dewar wondered whether the government has actually thought this one through.
"If [the British] are using their relationship with the Commonwealth to strengthen their capacity to stand up to the EU, this could negatively effect Canada."
So far, only Canada has agreed to the deal, though Hague hopes New Zealand and Australia will join in.
The announcement will be made Monday afternoon in Ottawa.