Though obviously not as interesting as whatever Pierre Poilievre last said, Geoffrey York reports from Africa on Canada’s dramatic, but quiet, withdrawal from the continent.
In the fall of 2004, when Paul Martin was prime minister and Irish rock stars were chattering ceaselessly about the need to help Africa, Canada raised the flag on a shiny new embassy here in the capital of Malawi. It was the culmination of a warm and close relationship that has sent $440-million in Canadian assistance to the small republic wedged between Zambia, Tanzania and Mozambique in southeast Africa over the past 45 years.
Optimism was in the air. Malawi was making progress – it was holding democratic elections, its farm output was improving dramatically – but it was still one of the world’s 10 poorest countries, heavily dependent on foreign donors. And Canada was one of the most faithful of those donors.
Today, the mood has soured. In late September, barely five years after the opening, a small band of diplomats will watch morosely as the Maple Leaf is hauled down and the embassy closed for good. There has been no announcement, nothing but a discreet notice buried deep in a government website, unnoticed for weeks. One diplomat in a nearby country called it a “stealth closure.” With staff at the embassy (technically a high-commission office, as both countries are in the Commonwealth) prohibited from talking to the media, Canada seems to be sneaking away in the night.