Repeatedly, COHA specialists have called upon Canadian authorities to use their nation’s positive image throughout this hemisphere to help build authentic democratic institutions and condemn human rights violations wherever they might occur in the region. Regrettably, innovation and a creative marque have rarely characterized Ottawa’s regional policy, but Canada’s role toward Latin America has seldom been as inert and shallow as it has been under its present minority government and Minister Kent. On his just-concluded trip to Honduras, Kent almost seemed to go out of his way to buy into a formula on Honduras that would all but guarantee that Manuel Zelaya, the constitutional president of the country who was ousted at gunpoint by a military coup on June 28, would remain in exile. New elections will be held at the end of this November. Under Kent’s laconic leadership, Ottawa even managed to drag its feet over canceling the golpista Honduran government’s diplomatic visas, a step that every government in the EU and in this hemisphere, even including the U.S., has managed to take. In effect, what Kent has done is to go beyond his government’s usual minimal level of activity when it came to regional affairs. He also has, in effect, sanctioned, by going along with U.S. State Department mythology, that somehow the murky line that the two countries are advocating will get Zelaya restored to office. In effect, Kent has provided no leadership whatsoever during his trip to Honduras, and he does neither his country nor the hemisphere much credit in confirming, once again, that when it comes to Latin American issues, Ottawa is bereft of an ability to come forth with an independent and innovative policy.
Ever since its founding in 1975, the Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA) has actively monitored U.S.-Canadian relations as well as Canadian-Latin American ties. Its analyses have appeared hundreds of times over network Canadian radio and TV programs as well as in newspaper columns throughout the country. Canadian nationals have served on COHA’s board and large numbers of young Canadians have been selected as intern researchers in its Washington offices.