The Richmond Hill Federal Liberal Riding Association held a fundraiser at Tartu College. The subject was "the Canadian position on the Baltics". The speakers were the Hon Bryon Wilfert PC MP and the Hon Bob Rae PC MP, with Laas Leivat wearing his hat of political consultant for the Estonian Central Council (ECC) in Canada acting as moderator.
Wilfert, the host of the event, is the sitting Member of |Parliament for Richmond Hill and recipient of the ECC Medal of Merit and Opposition Critic on National Defense (prior to that he was the Associate Critic on Foreign Affairs). The organizer was Wilfert's friend and public affairs person, award-winning filmmaker Marcus Kolga.
Wilfert received the Medal of Merit because he stood up in the House of Commons during the "Tallinn riots" in April 2007, over the relocation of the Soviet "bronze soldier". "Other countries were protesting the rioting, but Canada was silent," said Wilfert, adding, "I had to say something."
Rae is the Liberal Opposition Critic on Foreign Affairs, former New Democratic Party Premier of Ontario, former Liberal leadership candidate and part Lithuanian. Rae's father was a diplomat, Canadian Ambassador to the United States, so he grew up with foreign affairs at the dinner table.
"The fact that the Soviet Union is no more and has been replaced by Russia doesn't mean that Russia has dramatically changed its attitude," said Rae to thunderous applause. In dealing with Russia, Rae suggested, "we should be engaged yet cautious."
"I observe as a student of history, that all you have to do is to go to St. Petersburg and visit the Russian Museum to understand that the 18th and 19th Russian cultural mentality had, I should put it nicely, a very generous view of where the borders and boundaries of Russia started and ended. And when you go to Moscow today on an official visit, like I did some time ago, you are left with no uncertainty exactly what it is that Mr. Putin thinks he has inherited. Its not just the Soviet inheritance but it goes back a long period before that. You look at the restoration of the buildings, how he's presenting himself. There are serious questions everybody has to have about what this empire was all about and what it might become. We must be very clear as Canadians about that because it has clear implications about human rights and governance and civil dialogue within the boundaries of Russia and between Russia and its neighbours. It is clear to me that Russia is very ambivalent about the existent of the Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia and the Baltic countries, and there has to be a coming to terms with that. That is a challenge for the US as well as us," said Rae.
"As you've gathered by what I have said that I'm not one of those people who has looked into eyes of Mr. Putin and said, "this is a person I can trust," added Rae.
To a question dealing with the cyberterrorism question and the lack of response by NATO and EU countries, Rae said, "They were not sufficiently engaged and there was not sufficient political leadership to see its importance right away. This (Canada) government is the least competent in foreign policy and foreign affairs of any government that we have had since the Second World War."
The question and answer session went on dealing with issues like NATO and other things, which could fill the paper. It is comforting to know that the opposition has no illusions when it comes Russia.
Thanks to Rae, Wilfert, Leivat, Kolga and Uno Jaason.
Kolga promises more of these sessions. I look forward to them.
MPs Bob Rae and Bryon Wilfert discussed the Canadian position on the Baltics