Dismissing the idea of Canada as a neutral country on the world stage, a veteran Liberal senator said the federal government is doing the right thing by backing Israel’s right to defend itself in the latest Middle East conflict.
Senator Colin Kenny said there is no basis to the notion that Canada always takes the middle road internationally. In fact, Canada has historically been about siding with the country that reflects its values, he said.
In comments that distance the senator from his party’s official stand on the latest explosion of violence in the Middle East, Mr. Kenny said he supports Israel as it enters Lebanon to take on Hezbollah, and doesn’t believe Canada is breaching any tradition of neutrality.
"I’m sorry, Canada’s traditional way is picking sides, getting on the good guy’s side and going for the win," Mr. Kenny told the Citizen’s editorial board yesterday. "If you give me a choice between the state of Israel — the only democracy in the Middle East — and Hezbollah — a bunch of thugs who are out to assassinate and disrupt society — that’s a no-brainer."
Mr. Kenny, a senator since 1984 and a senior member of the Liberal ranks in the red chamber, stressed it wasn’t his place to speak on behalf of the Liberals. But his support for Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s stance was a departure from that of his own party.
Interim federal Liberal leader Bill Graham said last week that while he believed in Israel’s right to defend itself, he thought Mr. Harper had moved Canada away from its traditional non-aligned stance, adding Canada needed to keep some distance so that it could be part of a diplomatic solution to the conflict.
"If that was how Bill wanted to respond to it, fine, but there’s nothing nuanced about a bunch of terrorists kidnapping somebody, there’s nothing nuanced about a bunch of terrorists shooting rockets into a country like that, and when that happens, I expect the country to use all its force to eliminate them," Mr. Kenny said. "Israel’s doing that and I don’t have any difficulty with it."
The senator said the idea of Canada as an "honest broker" mediating international conflicts is a mirage, simply because no country or world body is ever asking the country to take on that role.
Mr. Kenny, chairman of the Senate’s national security and defence committee, also said Canada needs military assets if it wants a voice in global conflicts. Decades of government neglect of the Canadian Forces meant Canada’s forays into foreign affairs have rarely had any teeth, he said.
"For years, Canada has tried to have a foreign policy without having a defence policy, and (past governments) wondered why no one gives a damn about what we think," he said.