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When is the last time the world has been so destabilized? Here’s how former U.S. defense secretary Robert Gates responded to that: “The United States now confronts graver threats to its security than it has in decades, perhaps ever.”

Weighing in on the Canadian side was Jody Thomas, the Prime Minister’s national security adviser. “We have not seen the world this unstable since the end of World War Two,” she said.

Those dire assessments were made even before the latest conflagration – the horror unleashed by Hamas on Israel.

At the century’s turn, American power was unchallenged, at a pinnacle. Relations with China and Russia were relatively cooperative. Donald Trump was preoccupied with bankrupting his businesses. In the Republican Party, non-psychopaths held sway. Canada was secure under the protective American umbrella. It had a good reputation abroad and some influence in the corridors of power.

With the tectonic shift away from American hegemony, as Fen Hampson, head of the World Refugee & Migration Council put it in an interview, all that has changed. America’s weakened status means a more vulnerable Canada. At the same time, Ottawa’s relations with Asian megapowers China and India have disastrously gone into deep freeze. We are mocked in foreign councils for our weak military and accorded less and less respect.

With the world in its most unstable condition in 80 years, a case can be made that Canada is arguably at its most powerless in 80 years. A bystander.

As our population rises, our clout shrinks. It’s not that we’ve been doing all that much differently. Our military expenditures are modest, but they’ve been that way for a long time.

What’s happened is that we’ve been battered by a run of shocking and calamitous external developments beyond our control.

“As a medium-sized power, you’re on the receiving end of problems others create,” said Mr. Hampson. Create them they have and, as he added, the Trudeau government’s handling of some of them has made matters worse.

In the “Canada as a victim-of-circumstance” category, we could start with the shock 2016 election of Donald Trump, the worst president Canada has ever had to deal with.

On China, we were accidentally thrown into Beijing’s crosshairs on account of helping Washington on a legal case involving business executive Meng Wanzhou. Canadians were taken hostage; the Chinese meddled in our elections. A once-promising relationship was destroyed.

On India, it was its alleged action, the murder of a Sikh separatist leader on Canadian soil, that has sped relations to a stand-off.

On Russia, Vladimir Putin’s stunning and monstrous act in invading Ukraine reverberated punishingly on the Canadian economy, setting off, in combination with another shocker – the once-in-a-century pandemic – a debilitating surge of inflation.

As for fallout from the shocking – that word again – Hamas atrocity, it’s still to come.

A question for historians: Is there any other time in Canadian history wherein so many unforeseen external developments in such rapid order militated against our interests?

Justin Trudeau stood up to Mr. Trump well enough, got through the pandemic and eventually got the two Michaels back from China. But he mishandled the China meddling case and he had bungled relations with India before the assassination accusation.

Among other embarrassments was Mr. Trudeau being caught saying Canada would never meet a two per cent of GDP military spending target and the mortifying incident that saw the House of Commons speaker invite an all-party salute for a Nazi Waffen-SS veteran.

Though in office for eight years, Mr. Trudeau has not gained enough international stature to exercise the influence some other Canadian leaders have.

Mackenzie King worked closely and effectively with Franklin Roosevelt. Lester Pearson, as external affairs minister, won the Nobel Peace Prize. Pierre Trudeau waged a fight for superpower detente. Brian Mulroney had enormous influence with presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush, and Jean Chrétien’s rapport with Bill Clinton helped in the fight against Quebec separatism.

Mr. Trudeau gets along well enough with Joe Biden, but the President is consumed by other issues and is paying Canada little heed. A big hike in defence spending might help our reputation but none is planned by our deficit-plagued government.

As accumulating global crises make Canada more vulnerable, the prospect of our being able to impact them is remote.

In the future, we’d better hope that events beyond our control take a different kind of turn than what we’ve seen since 2016.

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