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Canada's Foreign Policy: Bye Bye Cuddly Canuck


Even if a good chunk of the world still thinks of us as the cute and cuddly Canucks, Canadians know our political leaders are anything but.

Just this morning, Montreal Mayor Michael Applebaum was arrested at his home by the city's anti-corruption police. "Tens of thousands" were paid in bribes in return for permit approvals police say (follow the Star's Quebec correspondent Allan Woods for updates today). Oh, and if you haven't heard, Toronto's mayor, Rob Ford, is accused of doing crack and was in a photo with people who either ended up murdered, or getting arrested.

But beyond these scandals and awesome late night fodder Canada is increasingly becoming the diplomatic bad boy on the world stage. Again, those who follow federal politics know that Canada's foreign policy under the Harper administration has shifted dramatically. The Conservative government's staunch support of Israel, unpopular climate change policies and cutbacks in aid to Africa were three of the reasons cited as to why Canada lost a bid for a UN Security Council seat in 2010. (Baird announced last month that the government will not bother to launch a campaign for the next seat, available in 2015).

Now it's Iran and Russia that has Canada talking and others talking about Canada. On Sunday, the eve of the G8 Summit of world leaders, Canadian PM Stephen Harper blasted Vladimir Putin for his support for Syria, where it's reported more than 90,000 have been killed since the uprising against Syria's Assad regime began two years ago. "I don't think we should fool ourselves," he said. "This is G7 plus one."

Other Western leaders also rebuked Putin for his support for Syrian President Bashar al Assad, but none quite as forcefully as Harper.

A day earlier, as Iranians took to the street to celebrate the election of moderate candidate Hassan Rowhani as president, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird called the vote "meaningless" and Rowhani a "puppet" president. (Our Foreign Affairs correspondent Olivia Ward has an excellent Q&A on the Iranian election here: http://thestar.blogs.com/worlddaily/2013/06/irans-june-surprise-the-moderate-candidate-wins.html).

No one was lavishing Rowhani with praise given the restrictive voting conditions in Iran. Britain "notes" the announcement of Rowhani's victory, the Foreign Office stated. The White House said in a statement that the U.S. administration would "respect the vote" and remained "ready to engage the Iranian government directly in order to reach a diplomatic solution that will fully address the international community’s concerns about Iran’s nuclear program."

The centrist cleric Rowani, was given the nickname the "diplomatic sheikh" when he held the position as Iran's chief nuclear negotiator with the West.

Let's see how he deals with tough guy Canada.

Michelle Shephard is the Star's National Security correspondent and author of "Decade of Fear: Reporting from Terrorism's Grey Zone." She is a three-time recipient of Canada's National Newspaper Award. Follow her on Twitter @shephardm




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