Let's face it: most of us in this country like the world we're living in and wouldn't mind keeping it more or less like it is. We have memories of depressions and wars, and don't want more. We've also, despite an iffy economy at the moment, had a taste or two of affluence, and prefer it.
But like an ominous backdrop looming over these perfectly reasonable Canadian expectations are the increasingly desperate economic troubles of the underdeveloped countries of the South. Their plight promises revolutions whose outcomes won't make for good trading partners, wars which will directly or indirectly drain the resources of the richer industrial world of the North, rearrangements of international balances of power in ways dangerous for us, and enough famine and pestilence to shame our comforts and our consciences.
Which brings us to the upcoming summit in Ottawa where the North/South issue will be struggling for a foothold on the agenda. President Ronald Reagan's presummit coolness to Prime Minister Trudeau's idea of all-nation economic negotiations doesn't bode well for anything new on the North/South front. The richest in the North, in brief, are resisting giving up or sharing more of their control over the world's financial and material resources.
What is Canada's proper role? Sandra Gwyn, writing in Saturday Night and quoting Canadian author Jacques Hébert, sums it up well:
"Really there's only one way to go at North/South. Head up. Arms waving. Colors raised to the mast. Buoyed up by faith instead of reason. Going at it, in short, like Jacques Hébert saying: 'Why shouldn't Canada decide to become the conscience of the rich countries?... Why not give (Canadians) a great collective purpose at once so basic and so noble it would uproot egotisms of family, clan, region or class? Why not invite Canadians to play a great role in the world - a role of which we would all be truly proud?'"
We have a good start down this road with an increasingly well-run Canadian International Development Agency under Marcel Masse. We're already among the biggest aid contributors on a per-capita basis. Let's keep looking outward, which is the reasonable service of the rich.
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Revised: June 3, 1995
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