In The Face of Saudi Sanctions, I Stand With My Canadian Foreign Ministry

In The Face of Saudi Sanctions, I Stand With My Canadian Foreign Ministry August 7, 2018

I don’t like patriotism. I’ve never really understood how or why someone could be proud of simply having been born on this side of some arbitrary line drawn in the sand; a line that is often the result of a long past bloody conflict. Patriotism is just as silly to me as religion is. It’s a fruitless “value” driven into the hearts and minds of a nation’s young people along with the understanding that to question your love for your country is to tiptoe around traitorousness.

Having travelled as extensively as I have and having lived in other countries and seen how other people live, I have been able to develop an acute understanding that most places aren’t any better than others. Rather, they are just different. It makes no sense to me to be proud to be a Canadian, something that has happened through no effort of my own, when New Zealand is just as beautiful, has a similar lifestyle, opportunities, rights and values. It makes no sense to me to be proud of being a Canadian by simple luck when Aussies have it just as good. The UK, Denmark, Sweden, Japan, Iceland – these are all places where people live as happily and as privileged as I am able to here in Canada. There was happiness and contentedness to be found in Mexico, in Thailand and smaller places like French Polynesia, Malaysia and Fiji. It makes no sense at all to me to be proud of having been born in Richmond General Hospital over any other place in the world. I didn’t choose it. I did nothing to achieve it. What’s to be proud of?

I definitely feel lucky to have been born a Canadian. I am grateful for the lifestyle being a Canadian has afforded me. But to say I am proud to be a Canadian is as goofy to me as saying Jesus helped me find the remote last night. It’s not based on anything rational. It’s pure, unquestioned, nonsensical fluffery and I simply have never understood it. In fact, the closest I’ve ever come to patriotism is being glad I am not something else. For instance, I am glad I’m not an American right now, being led by a semi-sentient skidmark. I’m glad I’m not from Singapore – though the country itself is beautiful and the people as lovely as anyone, there are rules there I’d be breaking just by being me. I’m really glad that I’m not from Uganda, living amongst evangelical Christians fighting for homosexuality to be punished by death.

Most of all, though, I would have to say that I’m glad I’m not Saudi because my peers are serving time and getting lashes for doing precisely what I’m doing right now. They are being beaten, detained and kept from their families for typing similar words to the ones I’m typing right now. Had I been born in Saudi Arabia, nevermind the fact that I’d be covered head to toe in stifling heat at this very moment, but I’d be in prison just for being the person I am right now. And that would be the most hopeful scenario because often people who say the things I say find themselves dead in theocracies like Saudi Arabia. Yes, I am very glad I’m not Saudi when people like Ensaf Haider, the wife of imprisoned Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, have found their freedom and safety here in Canada.

I’m glad I won the citizenship lottery. I’m thankful that by chance, I was not born in a place where I could never be who I am. But I am not patriotic. I do not have pride in my country. I don’t even fully understand what that means.

Yesterday, though, I found myself being proud of at least our Foreign Minister. Since 2012, Raif Badawi, a blogger who spoke out against the influence of Islam on the state in Saudi Arabia, has been locked up for advocating secularism. He’s been locked up for being the milder version of me. He was sentenced to ten years and a thousand lashes for saying “Hey, maybe we should base our laws and policy on facts instead of religious beliefs”. Since 2012, the husband of a fellow Canadian has been locked up for his peaceful written words and, from my perspective, not enough people in positions in power have publicly opposed this.

Recently, when Raif’s sister, Samar Badawi, was arrested for her own activism, fighting for the rights of women in Saudi Arabia, our Canadian foreign minister finally took a stand. Chrystia Freeland took to Twitter and said,

Our Foreign Ministry itself followed that up with,

These tweets prompted swift sanctions on Canada from Saudi Arabia including the recalling of Saudi diplomats and students in Canada, the cessation of all flights Saudi-bound originating in Canada and a freeze on trade transactions between the two nations. This response is an almost poetic example of how fragile a theocracy is, unable to withstand the simplest of criticisms. Despite these shocking sanctions, the Canadian position on Saudi human rights violations remains rock solid.

So, while I may not feel patriotic and I still feel that patriotism is an empty, nonsensical “value”, I am immensely proud to have my tax dollars fund the office of Chrystia Freeland and our Foreign Ministry. I can’t help but take some pride in the fact that Canadian voters have driven this nation to a place where it can take a stand on such issues and not back down when a perfectly precious Prince decides to show the world his weakness.

I’m still no patriot, but I’m a little bit more proud to be on this side of the arbitrary line in the sand today.

Are you patriotic? What do you think of the sanctions Saudi Arabia has placed on Canada? Let me know in the comments.

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Image: Creative Commons/Pixabay

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  • Raging Bee

    I’m “patriotic,” but in my opinion, US patriotism means “loyalty to the US Constitution and the rights and principles it embodies.”

  • LostLoonie

    I truly hope Canada stays strong in its fight for human rights. I hope the foreign ministry and the Canadian government as a whole are doing far more than tweeting (like certain Americans). That said, I am proud they are standing up to this deplorable theocracy.

  • TheBookOfDavid

    Canada is promoting universal human rights in a way that all its citizens should be proud of. And “semi-sentient skidmark” is the best example of damning with faint praise that I’ve seen recently.

  • Philippe Saner

    I’m a Canadian. And a patriotic one. But I don’t feel proud to be Canadian; I feel grateful. Canada, as a country, worked very hard to make a good life for me.

    Our government standing up to this bizarre tantrum is another thing I’m grateful for.


    I’m a third generation war veteran who descends from at least six men who fought in the American Revolution. While I do believe in the principles enshrined in the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, I’m about the last person you’d want to ask to wave the flag.

  • I am a US citizen by accident of birth. I think many aspects of our US Constitution are good, though the founders didn’t go far enough, hence the need for some of the amendments. I am also embarrassed by certain actions that US citizens have taken on behalf of the nation.

    I wish the government of Canada all the best in its bold (and right) stance on human rights.

  • Martin Penwald

    And then, some Canadians worry they will lose their job because the contract to supply population control vehicules to Saudi Arabia their company have is in jeopardy. It’s not as if nobody knew until today that Saudi Arabia is a theocratic authoritarian state unashamed to repress its population.

  • wolfypuppy

    AMEN sister! I, too, have lived overseas and learned that there is good and bad in all countries, and there is a hell of a lot the U.S. could learn from how people do things elsewhere. The laws that I like in the U.S. are being dismantled now, anyway. I, too, find patriotism to be equal to religion. I can understand how a new immigrant, who saved and scrimped and fought and escaped to be here, would be proud to be an American. It’s something they accomplished. Especially now with Trump trying to throw them all out–hanging on by their nails is quite an accomplishment. My ancestors came to this continent 400 years ago. I had nothing to do with it. Although, frankly, it would be really nice if the fact that I’m descended from the Crosbys who help found Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, got me some kind of honorary Nova Scotian (and hence Canadian) citizenship after my grandfather betrayed me by deciding to be American, leaving me in a permanent panic attack. [Strangely, he couldn’t foresee the future. I forgive him.] I can’t stand American patriotism! It IS religion, or at least it has been taken over by religious conservatives. They’ve taken all the American symbols and incorporated them into their belief system. I don’t say the Pledge of Allegiance, I don’t put my hand over my heart or sing the anthem. It makes me cringe. Anyone who doesn’t understand what I’m saying needs to watch Michael Bay’s Transformers: Age of Extinction and count the American flags strategically placed in the background.

  • Jack Baynes, Sandwichmaker

    I think Patriotism has a value if it inspires a desire to make the place you live better. I want my country to be a great place to live, because I live here. And I figure, on the international stage, my country is the only one that’s going to look out for its interests.
    Now that needs to be balanced, though, with respect for other countries, and discipline to not seek unfair benefit for your country at the expense of weaker countries.
    And Patriotism seems to have a tendency to blind people to their nation’s faults.

  • Jack Baynes, Sandwichmaker

    Saudi Arabia’s swift actions in the face of criticism reminds me of the pettiness of President Trump.

    And I’m generally ashamed of the way that for years (under otherwise better Presidents) our government has tip toed around the Saudis, ignoring human rights abuses just because they’re a trade ally.

  • Jim Baerg

    The most important thing you need to know about a country’s government is ‘Is it safe for a resident of the country to say that the leader is an incompetent ass or that the dominant political or religious ideology there is a load of BS’. The more accurate those statements the less likely it is to be safe to say them. If it is not safe the government is a bunch of thugs who are not to be trusted.

  • Meena 2016

    I’m British and our rubbish (on so many accounts) government wants to continue to sell military attack airplanes, guns and air-launched rockets and bombs to Saudi for money. It’s the MONEY that matters above all else.

    So it has “naturally” been totally silent about the human rights violations in Saudi. It even brushes aside complaints about these in our parliament.

    Our “deeply devout Christian” Prime Minister, Mrs May, gives up crisps for Lent – so I suppose that’s all right then.

    Bravo to Canada – a nation with a sense of morality.

  • Cozmo the Magician

    I’m jelly. Trump and his crowd would tell her to STFU and go make sammiches.

  • Cozmo the Magician

    OIL & GREED.

  • steve

    I am British, and am disgusted that my government, against the will of the majority of the U.K. populace, supplies weapons for the Saudi genocide in Yemen. In fact, the Saudi “royals” are great friends of the British monarchy, and this I find abhorrent.
    I support Canada’s stance 100% in calling out Saudi brutality and tyranny.

  • Priya Lynn

    Yes, that’s how I feel. Being Canadian doesn’t give me any pride in myself, but I am very proud of my country and government for actions like these, legalizing marijuana, and recognizing the right of same sex couples to marry.