Failed history for our foreign minister.

George Santayana wrote about 150 years ago that: Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. Maybe  Canada’s Foreign Minister John Baird missed those history lessons about the time when Canada’s embassy needs were provided by the embassies of Great Britain. Baird is working with the Brits on a plan to combine British and Canadian embassies in some countries, taking us back to the past.

That is one easy way to comply with Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s edict that there be a large picture of the Queen at every embassy.

But it is hardly going to save us half the cost of the photocopying machine.

Canadians have been mistreated at British embassies in our colonial past and hardly need to have the past repeated. It was in the 1925 that Prime Minister Mackenzie King brought Professor Oscar Douglas (OD) Skelton from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario to Ottawa to create a foreign affairs department for Canada. The move was long overdue.

The Brits often forgot their colonials in dealing with world affairs. A particular example was at the Paris Conference after the First World War. The Treaty of Versailles was delivered to the Commonwealth representatives only to be signed as part of the British Empire. Canada had lost more than 64,000 military personnel in the war and we were treated as lesser people.

What Baird does not seem to understand is that embassies and consular offices around the world play a vital role in assisting Canadian business to sell Canadian products and expertise. The trade experts at these offices provide briefings for business wishing to win contracts or sell products in the country and provide introductions to likely customers.

Maybe nobody has told Minister Baird that Brit businesses often compete with Canadian business people for the same customers. If he knew more about the business world, he might know why competing companies do not want to share the same office.

Maybe, he is under the impression that embassies just hand out student visas and tell people how wonderful it is to live in Canada. It might even surprise him that embassies only get a few Canadians coming in to ask what to do about the passport they lost.

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Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

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