When the Ukrainians began occupying Maidan Nezalezhnost, the central square of Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital city, they were protesting their government’s decision to accept a $15 billion dollar bailout from Russia to stave off bankruptcy rather than accept a European Union financial package and admission into the EU. Of course since then we found out that there were a lot more to the Maidan protest than merely a choice between ties with Russia or the EU (west).
Still, in the beginning our political leaders and the media told us that the people were on the march because they wanted a say in their country’s foreign policy. They wanted to go with the EU and they were not about to let the government ignore their wishes.
While the “Ukrainian Spring” did get more complicated, and is now at a point where we have a Russian intervention or invasion (take your pick) and the almost certain separation of the Crimea from the Ukraine, at the outset Canadian politicians, led by our Foreign Minister John Baird, and American politicians, led by Senator John McCain, went to Kyiv and stood by the people, made encouraging speeches, and drank coffee with the protesters when the issue was a people’s right to choose between Russia and the EU.
In recent times we’ve watched as Canadian planes led the way in the NATO bombing of Libya; we watched our Prime Minister and a large Canadian entourage receive a heroic welcome in Israel even as the building of illegal settlements on occupied lands continues apace; we listened as Harper loudly claim that Hugo Chavez, Venezuela’s late president, was a dictator even though Chavez was elected with a stronger mandate than almost any government in Canada’s history.
We provided more help to the US than all of the countries (except Britain) that participated in the illegal invasion of Iraq, had no problem with Saudi Arabian’s invasion of Bahrain to stop a Maidan style protest, and hosted the meeting that decided to remove Haitian elected President Jean – Bertrand Aristede from power in 2004. If these activities are to be categorized, then the heading must be “Foreign Affairs”.
So if our government gives active support to people who want to have a say in their country’s choice of friends or and how their country acts on the international stage, and if it takes shutting down the capital city and replacing the government over such matters, then presumably Prime Minister Harper and Foreign Minister Baird would have no objection if Canadians decide to have their “Maidan Moment” in the heart of Ottawa, complete with say, the Russian or French ambassador marching with the people and making pledges of support.
Considering that in the summer of 2010, 20,000 police locked down the streets of downtown Toronto and arrested over 1,000 protesters (the largest number of arrests in our history) during the GO 20 summit in Toronto, makes us wonder if our political leadership has no sense of irony; or maybe they do but don’t care because they think we don’t.