Mark Collins – World Needs More 1980s Canada, UK High Commission Views

Who needs Wikileaks anyway? One fears there is too much truth in this British diplomatic reporting for a lot of Canadians to acknowledge. One point: I was in External Affairs (the good old name, still reflecting nostalgic Commonwealth thoughts) at the time and do not recall any undue francophone influence in the Department:

Files show what U.K. diplomats really thought of 1980s Canada…

[Globe and Mail] European correspondent Paul Waldie digs through newly declassified documents whose undiplomatic language paints a clearer picture of how Mulroney’s rise and Canada’s political upheaval were perceived behind the scenes

The British government viewed Brian Mulroney as “glib,” “superficial” and “almost paranoid” in the months leading up to him becoming prime minister in 1984 while outgoing prime minister Pierre Trudeau was seen as “bloodless” and “over-intellectual.”

The assessments are contained in thousands of confidential documents from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office dating back to 1984. The files are being released Wednesday [Aug. 24] by Britain’s National Archives under legislation that declassifies government documents after 30 years [see the Archives’ webpage here]…

The FCO clearly kept a close watch. The files include a lengthy report titled “leading personalities in Canada” which contains personal details and frank assessments about prime ministers, premiers, the chief justice, civil servants and business people…

Canada’s diplomatic corps…comes in for some harsh treatment in a report to the British foreign secretary from the high commissioner in Ottawa, John Wilson, the Second Baron of Moran. The Department of External Affairs was once “widely respected in the world,” Lord Moran wrote, but it had “undergone changes which are converting it all too rapidly into a huge, sluggish bureaucratic conglomerate, dominated by a French-Canadian mafia, ignorant of diplomacy, who have pushed aside the leading English-speaking professionals.”

Several files commented on Britain’s relations with Canada. One noted that Canada has a hard time fitting in internationally as Britain grows closer to Europe and Europe deals mainly with the United States. As a result, Canada has “difficulty in finding any team that will recognize them as full playing members [NATO? G7?],” it said…

Mr. Trudeau also comes in for criticism. In late 1983, he embarked on a peace initiative to lessen tensions between the East and West. The files show that his actions were followed closely by Britain, particularly his trips to Eastern Europe. Several memos referred to the initiative as “regrettable” and “unwelcome” [IT CERTAINLY WAS] and one criticized Mr. Trudeau for not consulting Britain and other allies. “It was not really surprising that those proposals got a dusty reception in Paris, Peking, Washington and London,” wrote Lord Moran…

During a lunch at 24 Sussex Dr. in June, 1984, former British high commissioner John Wilson said Mr. Trudeau, who was in his final days as prime minister, spoke “almost entirely about French Canada, French Canadians, the Jesuits, the Oblates and their respective methods of education, etc. It reminded us once more what a different world even Federal French Canadians inhabit, and how they still feel themselves an embattled minority.”..

Even more deux nations these days.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds


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