Last week, western governments scrambled to keep up with the direst scenarios about the nuclear emergency in Japan. Canada didn’t and stands out for its cool.
Great Britain, France, the Czech Republic and the United States brought in chartered planes to help their nationals leave Japan. Canada only chartered two buses to move Canadians out of the hardest-hit region of Northern Japan. China effectively did the same. Harper even asserted that Canadians could decide for themselves whether what they wanted to do:
“. . . Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who said there was no evidence of any scenario that presents a risk to Canadians. He noted that Canadians who wanted to leave Japan could book flights on commercial airlines.
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Canada’s modest response probably embarrassed some Canadians and probably will not improve Canada’s influence in the General Assembly of the United States. However, it showed appropriate respect for Japan and for the facts on the ground.
Nuclear power generation is not black magic. And Japan is not a secret society like the old Soviet Union. Nuclear power generation was fashioned by human ingenuity and science. Its risks are not incalculable. International and Japanese experts are freely volunteering that Tokyo and the Pacific region generally are not at risk. There is no basis to suspect that Japanese officials are systematically withholding information from their own people or ours.
Foreign citizens in Japan are free to draw their own conclusions, even assume the worst about the crisis in Japan. However, responsible national allies are not. Governments can’t respond to every scenario that makes it on CNN, the CBC, or the BBC. Japan is the world’s third biggest economy, a vigorous democracy, and a technological wonder. Furthermore, is there any place on earth more intensely sensitive to the menace of nuclear fallout?
The Japanese nuclear crisis could get worse and the area of plausible danger could have been expanded. However, the decision of so many Western countries last week to so quickly bet against Japan was uncalled for. Pandering to wild speculation doesn’t help make it easier for Japan to deal with a concrete problem and may be long remember by the Japanese Government.