Cover Story

He didn’t want to go, anyway

Ian Urquhart January 15 1979
Cover Story

He didn’t want to go, anyway

Ian Urquhart January 15 1979

He didn’t want to go, anyway

Guadeloupe

When France announced that it would host last weekend’s fournation summit on its Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, Canada’s name was noticeably absent from the guest list (Britain, the United States and West Germany). It seemed that, once again, France had deliberately snubbed Canada, whether out of sympathy for Quebec’s separatists, disdain for Canada as a country, or some other reason. Adding insult to injury, the announcement came the day before Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau was to see French President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing at the Elysée palace. “The timing was downright offensive,” said one Ottawa diplomat.

But, coming from France, it was not surprising. Since Charles de Gaulle’s famous Vive le Québec libre speech in Montréal in 1967, relations between Canada and France have been littered with insults. And, in 1975, when France hosted the first in the latest series of summits of leading industrial nations, Canada was not invited even though Italy, with a smaller gross national product, was. No amount of lobbying could alter that but Canada was invited to subsequent summits hosted by the Americans (Puerto Rico, 1976), the British (London, 1977) and the Germans (Bonn, 1978), it seemed she was a permanent member of the club until Guadeloupe. In contrast to 1975, however, Canada has not raised a fuss since both Italy and Japan, the non-Communist world’s second largest economic power, have also been left out. Trudeau noted that he had been invited to a recent meeting of nations in Jamaica that France and the U.S. did not attend, and added: “I think we must part ourselves from the idea that a good summit can’t be held without Canada being there.”

Canadian officials also attempted to* take some of the sting out of the French snub by pointing out that the informal agenda of the Guadeloupe summit consisted not of economic issues, as did the previous summits, but of “political” matters such as the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks, the futures of Namibia and Rhodesia, rapprochement with China, the power keg in Iran and growing Islamic influence over world affairs. That explanation not only suggests that Canada, somehow, has less interest in such matters than the invited countries; it is also probably untrue. Non-Canadian sources indicated that the OPEC price hike, trade and the international economic slump were likely to be discussed. There was also considerable suspicion that economic relations with Japan were on the agenda—and hence the reason for that country’s exclusion.

Finally, Canadian spokesmen, including Trudeau himself, suggested France cannot be blamed for leaving Canada off the guest list because the initiative for the summit came from Washington, not Paris. While that may be true, there is no doubt from whence the invitations came: Paris. Asked the influential British magazine, the Economist “Who else would have the gall to call so many meetings of free world leaders?”

It appears that Giscard, whom the Economist calls “Europe’s last emperor” and who must cater to Gaullist sentiment in France, is trying to revive de Gaulle’s old idea of the “directorate,” a group of four nations that would meet regularly and order the affairs of the non-Communist world. Whether the

Japanese, in particular, are willing to be so ordered is doubtful. More certain is that the next summit will be held in Tokyo in June—and Canada has already been invited.

Ian Urquhart