July 7, 2014

It would be a fine birthday present to itself and to the world if Canada could use the 150th anniversary of Confederation in 2017 to rise above national self-interest and stretch itself to make a greater contribution to global peace and development.

In his final speech as a senator on June 16, Roméo Dallaire identified the need for "transcendent leadership" in our country. Daillaire said Canada has not maximized its potential since the Second World War.

We have, he said, enormous talent in our armed forces and in our diplomatic corps. One could add that, thanks to our freedom, stability, prosperity and high level of education, we have enormous talent throughout our population. Canadians also have tremendous good will and a spirit of generosity.

Yet, in recent decades, our politics has degenerated into the pursuit of self-interest and has largely abandoned higher motives. Transcendent leadership has been eroded. "There is a dearth of statesmanship, of taking risk, demonstrating flexibility, innovation and humility," he said. "The question is: When will Canada finally answer the call again?"

The former general urged us to turn our attention to the conflict in the Central African Republic where we should be serving as peacekeepers. Many other situations around the globe would benefit from the contributions of an energized Canada.

Unfortunately, when Canadian leaders look abroad today, it is with one eye on how our actions there can benefit us financially at home. Too often the leaders' myopia reflects the grasping outlook of a few constituents who would not surrender a penny to make others' lives better.

Pope Francis also calls us to a higher vision. Authentic faith, he wrote in The Joy of the Gospel, "always involves a deep desire to change the world, to transmit values, to leave this earth somehow better than we found it" (#183).

Canada has been given much and its people have worked hard. However, what we have is worth little if we do not use it to better the lives of others who have not been so richly blessed as we have.