In this authoritative book the editors – Jennifer Ditchburn and Graham Fox – have compiled an impressive selection of essays and articles; impressive because of the wide range of topics, but especially because of the professional calibre of the writers. Even where the reader may disagree with the tone of the narrative or the conclusions, one is hard-pressed to challenge the quality of the research or the objectivity of the argumentation.
There was a time, in the not too distant past, when relations between Canada and the countries then known as the Commonwealth Caribbean (now the Caribbean Community or CARICOM), were close and mutually beneficial. Canadian capabilities complemented Caribbean economic development requirements, and their support as a group in international institutions was highly valued. Meetings at the level of prime minister were organized on a regular basis; personal relations among them were informal and friendly. However, since the late nineties to the present day, those positive relations have drifted to the margins of Canadian foreign policy. Why did this happen?
Canada once had a serious presence in the Caribbean, but our profile has diminished in recent years. When the British colonies in the Caribbean basin acquired independence in the ‘60s and ‘70s, Canada was quick to establish close relations with them, including meaningful development assistance programs and close political ties. Canada-Caribbean summits at the level of prime minister were organized on a regular basis, and personal relations among leaders were informal and friendly.
John Graham has produced a rollicking, engaging memoir - a combination of black humour, wry observations on life in exotic climes and - woven throughout - sophisticated socio-political analyses of places most of us really don't want to experience in any depth.
Paul Durand’s article was published in the 'LATIN AMERICA ADVISOR', Washington, D.C. - October 21, 2015
Note: As this article was written principally for an American audience, it tends to cover terrain already well known to Canadians
The Canadian election of October 19, 2015 produced a stunning result - a massive defeat for Stephen Harper and his Conservative Party, and a convincing victory for Justin Trudeau's Liberals. But observers shouldn't be surprised; the Conservatives' nine-year rule under Harper was simply out of synch with Canadian instincts and values. That it lasted so long is attributable to the split of the progressive vote between the Liberal and New Democratic parties; the Liberals' decisive victory under Justin Trudeau (son of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau) has put an end to that.
I first became a fan of Nick Coghlan’s writing when reading his dispatches from our embassy in Colombia in the late nineties. In these reports, he combined the two qualities that make “Winter in Fireland” a gripping read – an irrepressible spirit of adventure which took him into the most daunting situations, and an ability to describe his experiences in lucid prose. This book, following on his previous publications about Colombia and Sudan, places him solidly in the company of the best travel writers - those hardy souls who have explored the world’s nether regions and lived to tell the tale.
Robert Fowler has written a unique account of what it is to be a captive of Al Queda. Unique, because Fowler is the highest-level representative of western governments ever to be taken by Al Queda. Also, because his background as a diplomat, senior government official and UN representative was precisely keyed to the menace of islamist terrorism; he knows his subject.
Below is Paul Durand’s forword to John Kneale’s “Volcano Rising”.
An Ambassador’s Diary
John Kneale’s book serves a very useful dual purpose: for those wishing to acquire a sense of Latin America, with all its foibles and complexities, it does a splendid job; the author has compressed into a single volume many of the characteristics of the region, using Ecuador as the template. At the same time, he has provided - by describing in detail his own daily experiences – a compelling description of what it is that a Canadian diplomat at the level of ambassador actually does.