Saturday, May 07, 2011

Canada From Hong Kong: Harper's Victory

"Home", as E.T. knew, can be a very distant star. Canada is my true home although I haven't really lived there for longer than a year since 1995. I was in Vancouver for three months in 2003 and for a year in 1998. I try to return regularly, but family visits are a far cry from settling in.

Watching Canada from the heel of China in Hong Kong over the past decade hasn't proven to be too noteworthy. Admittedly, I've been more involved in issues related to China and Asia, but apart from last year's Vancouver Olympics, NHL games and the odd Nickelback award Canada hasn't mattered that much in the press. Sorry to folks like Andrew Potter, but something you soon figure out when living abroad is you have to go out of your way to hear how Canada might be making an impact internationally. Strangely, the images and impressions that do pop up are like moments encased in amber, fossils pointing to some otherworldly existence.

Trudeau in Alpha Flight
It wasn't always this way, however. While standing before the Maronite Cathedral in Jdeydeh, the Christian quarter in Aleppo, Syria, I struck up a conversation with a local gentleman. When he heard I was from Canada, he started raving about "Pierre Elliott Trudeau." This was in 2008. Here in Hong Kong, not a week passes that someone doesn't mention Canada's "other language" or a relative living in Richmond or Toronto as a reference to Canada's diversity and multiculturalism, policies all associated with Trudeau.

Needless to say, Stephen Harper doesn't come up, nor do any of his "policies", not even his infamous mistake of supporting the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Harper did briefly make headlines here by not attending the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Cool, I thought, until he said it had nothing to do with politics. Then there was the G20 Summit in Toronto last year. When it erupted, Canada looked just like any other country with a hard-on for "security" rather than democracy. Oh, and then there was that young Chinese guy caught in Vancouver with a wrinkled, silicone mask after trying to impersonate an old man from Hong Kong. Now, that was big news.

That's it. Not much else registers around here, which is why I worry about what a Harper majority means as I make my way back. International impressions of Canada haven't progressed much since the 1970s, and in some instances have actually regressed. I've a feeling Harper doesn't really care...and that's not the place I call "home."

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