Dialogue Paper >> Scrolling Version
A Dialogue on Foreign Policy
This paper seeks to engage Canadians in a dialogue on our foreign policy priorities in the face of new global realities. Long-standing goals that have shaped Canadian foreign policy over the years remain central: protecting the security of our nation and contributing to global security; increasing prosperity in Canada and expanding global prosperity; and promoting the values and culture that Canadians cherish, to help make a better Canada and a better world. Yet even as these goals remain, significant changes in the world make it important for the citizens and Government of Canada to reflect on some critical issues. Global changes are creating challenges and opportunities that call for a renewed assessment of how Canada should pursue its foreign policy goals. Since we cannot be everywhere and do all things internationally, we must be prepared to make choices about how our efforts and resources can best promote Canadian values and interests.
You are invited to use this paper as a springboard for reflection and discussion. Its purpose is to provide an overview of some areas of Canadian foreign policy in which recent changes have made new thinking particularly important. Beginning with general comments on Canada's current approach to foreign policy and its relation to a changing world, the paper proceeds to identify some major topics on which we would like to hear your views. Some background information is provided to highlight challenges and opportunities; and some examples are given of recent Canadian foreign policy commitments and initiatives in these areas. Of course, the paper does not provide all of the facts and perspectives that will inform your reflections. We know that Canadians will bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to these matters, and we encourage you to consult the extensive information resources available on our Internet site (www.foreign-policy-dialogue.ca). We hope that you will respond, as fully as you choose, to the questions posed throughout the paper. By contributing your perspectives, you will help us to ensure that Canadian foreign policy truly represents the views of Canadians.
A Better Canada, a Better World
A better world might look like a better Canada: a place of shared security and prosperity, of tolerance and respect for diversity, of democracy and the realization of human rights, of opportunity and equal justice for all. In an increasingly integrated world, there are new possibilities for Canada to make a difference through our influence and our actions. It is equally true that events abroad affect our lives here at home ever more directly, shaping the choices Canadians make. The world confronts many dangers and uncertainties, from endemic poverty, disease and climate change to organized crime and terrorism. In all this, Canadians recognize that doing what is right for others is most often in our own long-term self-interest. A cleaner, safer and healthier world will contribute to a cleaner, safer and healthier Canada. An open and prosperous global community will create new opportunities for Canadians. Our future is inextricably linked to the future of others beyond our borders.
Success in foreign policy depends in large part on how countries conduct themselves and how they are perceived abroad. In this respect, Canada's foreign policy has a wealth of assets to draw on. Canadians are welcomed around the world because of who we are and what we represent. We are a democratic, bilingual, multicultural, free and open society that respects and celebrates its diversity. We are a country that strives for the universal realization of human rights and a high standard of living for all. Canada's federal system is one in which, by and large, our levels of government cooperate successfully.
This effort to update Canada's foreign policy demands a focus on challenges as well as opportunities before us. The Government is committed to doing what is right for Canadians in managing our national policies and resources. Often this is best done by joining forces with other nations. Many problems are too large for any one country to tackle by itself: poverty, environmental degradation, infectious disease, and the threat of international terrorism and organized crime, to name a few. Global interdependence makes it imperative that Canada work with other nations in strong multilateral institutions capable of promoting our collective interests.^Top
The 1995 Policy Review and Since
The three pillars
Following extensive Parliamentary reviews, in 1995 the Government of Canada released a statement, Canada in the World, setting out three related aims or "pillars" for our foreign policy: the protection of our security within a stable global framework; the promotion of prosperity and employment; and the promotion of the values and culture that Canadians cherish. These three pillars define goals that Canada is pursuing on many fronts, from multilateral institutions and bilateral relations to a host of initiatives in response to recent global trends.
Interdependence and multilateralism
As global interdependence has accelerated, domestic and foreign policies have become more closely interwoven. New technologies have generated unprecedented flows of people, capital, goods, information and ideas across national borders. The international system that Canada has worked with other countries to construct offers benefits by allowing us to collaborate on shared problems too large for any nation to solve by itself. In a rules-based framework, nations can address their differences through dialogue rather than conflict. Canadians have been leaders in shaping much of this international system, and we have reaped the benefits at home. The Government believes that Canada should remain in the forefront of nations crafting innovative international institutions and adapting existing institutions in ways that enhance their ability to address global problems. In the years ahead, Canada will need to support the evolution of international institutions, and to participate in them in ways that serve our country's values and interests.
The Canada-U.S. relationship
Even in a pervasively interdependent world, certain relationships have particular importance for Canadians. None is more vital than the one we share with the United States, our closest ally and continental neighbour. That relationship is our most important - not only because of shared values, history, geography and countless family ties, but also because of the currently unmatched global power and reach of the United States. Our trade relationship is central to our economic well-being: Americans buy over 85 percent of our exports of goods and services; we purchase 25 percent of their exports; and our countries are partners along with Mexico in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The busiest trade corridor in North America is the Windsor-Detroit gateway, which handles nearly one third of this two-way Canada-U.S. trade flow.
Since the September 11, 2001 attacks, Canada has joined the United States in the new global fight against terrorism. The threats posed by global terrorism and weapons of mass destruction are matters of grave concern to both Canada and the U.S. They require vigilance and cooperation by our two countries, in partnership with other nations and international institutions. Ultimately, our expressed resolve to address these threats may require firm action, with multilateral support. The U.S. has been playing a unique leadership role in this effort. That is why Canada has strongly encouraged and supported U.S. engagement and cooperation with the United Nations in dealing with the particular threat posed by Iraq. We will continue to work with the U.S. and other countries to ensure that the United Nations and other institutions are effective, particularly in times of crisis.
We will continue to work with the U.S. and other allies to protect the values that we hold in common, such as freedom, tolerance and respect for cultural diversity. We will also continue our effective cooperation under the Smart Border Declaration to ensure the flow of commerce that is so important to the North American economy. While opinion varies among Canadians about how best to protect our values and how to make a more secure world, Canada's friendship with the U.S. remains firm and close.
Recent global changes
Canada's role in the world is also being affected by recent changes across the globe. Rapid advances in information and communications technology have changed the face of international affairs, as has the boom in global trade. The growing prominence of environmental issues in international policy, the expanding partnership between Russia and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the broadening and deepening of the European Union, the formation of the African Union, and the emergence of new "middle powers" - all pose questions about Canada's relative influence in the world. Closer to home, the strengthening attachment to democracy in Latin America and the progress achieved toward a Free Trade Area of the Americas create the potential for Canada to become more closely linked with the hemisphere. In addition, renewed global commitments to development assistance hold out prospects for us to work multilaterally in realizing the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.
Worrying developments also confront the international community: the crisis over weapons of mass destruction in Iraq; the growing number of states with nuclear weapons, and North Korea's announcement of a nuclear weapons development program; the intensification of conflict over Kashmir; the escalation of conflict in the Middle East; the hundreds of thousands of deaths in civil wars; the over 30 million refugees or displaced persons; and the economies and societies facing collapse as a result of HIV/AIDS, especially in Africa.
The Government of Canada has responded to these new realities with a range of undertakings to promote global security, advance global trade and act effectively in the Group of Eight (G8) leading industrial democracies. Most recently, Canada led a ground-breaking G8 initiative to support Africa's integration into the global economy. Progressive African leaders have drawn up the New Partnership for Africa's Development; the G8 Africa Action Plan aims to support this initiative by focusing development efforts on countries with demonstrated commitments to democracy, good governance and human rights. Canada has also joined the Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction, an international non-proliferation initiative.
On these and many other fronts, Canada faces the challenge of responding to recent global changes in ways that allow us to advance our foreign policy goals. We ask you to reflect broadly on how Canada should chart its course for the future.
Questions for Discussion
The 1995 Policy Review and Since
The events of September 11, 2001 showed that not even the world's strongest state is immune to sudden terrorist attack. As governments everywhere focus more intently on their citizens' security, Canada too must consider how to counter military and non-military threats both at home and abroad. These threats require us to consider international security cooperation, Canada's own military security and a range of non-military security issues.
Canada and the United States are jointly responding to the terrorist threat by coordinating their approach to issues such as maritime surveillance and disaster response. We have signed the Smart Border Declaration in order to increase both the security and efficiency of our shared border through measures such as expedited clearance programs for low-risk flows of people and goods, expanded information sharing, joint targeting of container traffic, and integrated border enforcement teams. This cooperation increases our capacity to control border flows, facilitating beneficial traffic while inhibiting the movement of threats to our security.
On the international level, Canada is working with the United Nations and the G8 on a range of counterterrorism measures, such as aviation security standards, the disruption of drug-trafficking networks, information sharing, police and judicial cooperation, and keeping new technologies out of terrorists' hands. The UN has recognized the importance of fighting corruption and money laundering, which also funnel resources to terrorists.
The rise of militant non-state organizations has heightened concerns about nuclear, chemical, biological and radiological weapons of mass destruction. Existing multilateral agreements deal with arms control, non-proliferation and disarmament; and many nations are taking measures to control the sale and export of items that might be used to construct such weapons. More global cooperation is needed both to promote compliance with non-proliferation, arms control and disarmament agreements, and to ensure that non-state agents are denied access to banned weapons. The international crisis over Iraqi weapons of mass destruction underscores the importance of an effective UN Security Council prepared to address this very real threat.
Canada's military security
Central to Canada's security agenda are military forces capable of defending our country and supporting our foreign policy abroad. For many years, Canada's national defence policy has identified three core objectives: to defend Canada; to work with the United States in defending North America; and to contribute to international peace and security. Recently, Canadian troops have participated in international operations including the coalition in Afghanistan; peacekeeping missions in the Balkans, East Timor and Ethiopia-Eritrea; and the NATO-led intervention in Kosovo. Earlier, the valour of Canada's armed forces during combat in two world wars and in Korea united our nation in admiration and gratitude.
Canada now faces difficult choices about its military commitments. Since a nation's ability to influence international security decisions depends in part on its capacity to shoulder responsibilities, the kinds and level of military capacity that Canada has will affect our future role in the world. Increasingly, international forces are being called upon for a wide range of commitments: engaging in combat, restoring order, enforcing peace agreements, and protecting civilians. The coming years are likely to see high demand for military forces with varied capabilities. Canadians need to consider how our military can best support our foreign policy.
Approaches to non-military security
Canada has long believed that military capability is only one part of a broader approach to security at home and abroad. Our human security approach to foreign policy recognizes that the security of states is essential but not sufficient to ensure the safety of their citizens. It is also vital to address non-military sources of conflict that fuel societal instability and create environments in which political or religious extremism can flourish. In view of the dangers posed by fragile and poorly governed states, the international community must work with such states to strengthen their governing institutions and judicial systems, to hold their leaders accountable, and to support the rule of law. Stabilizing fragile states also requires conflict prevention and a sustained commitment to the reconstruction of states emerging from conflict. These tasks can be assumed only if Canada acts in partnership with other governments, multilateral institutions, private-sector actors and civil society organizations.
International partnerships are equally vital in addressing other threats such as poverty, infectious disease and environmental degradation. Preserving clean air and water are essential not only to Canada's own security but also to global stability in the decades ahead. Canada recently ratified the Kyoto Protocol on climate change. We are working with the provinces and territories, and with industry, to implement this important international commitment.
Canada is addressing broader security issues through multilateral action on other fronts as well. A notable success has been the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction (known as the Ottawa Convention). Canada has also done much to promote the establishment of an International Criminal Court to prosecute perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity. While progress has been made toward establishing the Court, continued international efforts are needed to ensure the Court's ability to dispense truly impartial justice when national courts cannot or will not do so.
Canada also took the lead in supporting the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty. Following the world's failure to prevent genocide in Rwanda, the Commission was initiated by Canada to examine international responsibilities in situations of imminent humanitarian catastrophe. Its report, The Responsibility to Protect, offers principles to guide a timely response by the international community when people are being inadequately protected by their own governments. While intervention may be required as a last resort, the responsibility to protect also entails responsibilities to prevent conflict and to rebuild conflict-torn societies. Since local conflicts often end up destabilizing regional and global systems, these principles of protection are an important part of broader security concerns.
Questions for Discussion
Promoting the prosperity of Canadians and of the global community is an integral part of Canada's foreign policy. Our country's economic prosperity is tied to a world economy undergoing unprecedented growth and market integration. Developing within the framework of international trade bodies such as the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and its successor, the World Trade Organization (WTO), our economy today is among the world's richest and most open, with a high proportion of our prosperity dependent on international trade and foreign investment. Canada has derived broad advantages from the NAFTA and other free trade agreements. In April 2001, the Quebec City Summit of the Americas supported growing economic linkages across the Americas, while recognizing democratic freedoms, human rights, and environmental and labour standards as integral to the hemisphere's development.
Canada and North America
Canada's economic relationship with the United States demonstrates the benefits of a rules-based international trading system. Within this relationship, however, our vulnerability to unwarranted protectionism and trade actions requires us to adopt new approaches to advocacy and representation. The softwood lumber dispute shows that challenges to Canadian exporters posed by special-interest lobbies may be countered by targeted communications and sustained cross-border alliances.
Canada's need to maintain growing trade and investment flows may require new measures in border management, infrastructure improvement and regulatory cooperation in order to boost confidence among investors and travellers, and to reduce transaction costs for traders and shippers. Canada needs to assess how best to achieve these changes that will enhance our prosperity, including whether to consider adjustments to existing institutions and arrangements or new measures to advance our interests. In considering such measures, of course, it will be crucial to protect the integrity of Canadian social policies and quality of life.
Although increased economic integration has opened remarkable new opportunities for trade and commerce, it also presents new challenges. The past decade's financial crises in emerging markets have highlighted vulnerabilities resulting from the faster flow of information and capital. International efforts have helped to contain economic crises, and there must be further efforts at improving early warning systems and ensuring timely collective action.
Globalization has brought great prosperity, but it is not without its problems. It has benefited many developing countries, including some of the least developed ones; yet those benefits are not being shared equally among and within countries. Over the past decade, financial crises in Mexico, Asia, Russia and South America have raised concerns about the effects of fiscal austerity, privatization and market liberalization. Addressing the needs of the most disadvantaged groups will require continued efforts by international financial institutions - including the International Monetary Fund in designing assistance programs for crisis-afflicted countries, and the World Bank in designing programs to promote development and poverty reduction in emerging markets. A critical challenge for the years ahead is managing globalization to provide for social progress and environmental sustainability.
The Government of Canada is committed to the continued expansion of a stable, rules-based global trading system. As a member of the WTO, we are participating in a new round of global trade talks. We support the legitimate demands of developing countries for better access to developed markets for their goods, including agricultural products. To this end, as of January 2003, the Government of Canada is eliminating tariffs and quotas on almost all imports from 48 least-developed countries, of which 34 are in Africa.
Both economic interests and humanitarian concerns are served when Canada contributes to meeting international development and poverty eradication goals. For this reason, the Prime Minister has announced that Canada's development assistance will double by 2010. As this assistance is delivered in the coming years, it must be effective, flexible, timely and focused on areas of greatest need; and it must be consistent with foreign policy priorities, and with long-term Canadian interests and values. The challenge is to find the best ways of combining these aims.
Canadian prosperity and global vision
While challenges of development remain acute, many developing countries are rapidly changing from within - pressing ahead with political and economic reforms, dealing with newly affluent and well-educated middle classes, and emerging as important global forces. China, India, Mexico and Brazil present Canadians with new opportunities for productive partnerships; seizing these opportunities will demand effective strategies and sustained attention.
At home, Canada's economic growth and job creation will depend on being competitive in world markets and attractive to investors. This requires an innovative society with a high level of skills, cutting-edge scientific expertise and extensive opportunities for learning. To succeed, Canada must find suitable foreign partners in investment, education and research, and we must be able to attract workers with advanced knowledge and skills.
Looking abroad, the Government recognizes that foreign investment by Canadian firms should be both competitive and responsible in its social and environmental impact. Some companies have had exemplary success in embodying Canadian values in their foreign business operations. Foreign investment is bringing substantial benefits to developing countries, and will be vital in helping to realize international development goals. In certain cases, however, it can fuel violence and unrest in conflict-ridden areas or poorly governed states. A challenge in the coming years is to help Canadian companies invest profitably in ways that also benefit the communities in which they operate.
The preservation of Canada's natural environment requires economic cooperation with the United States and countries around the world. Better ways are needed to promote environmentally sustainable growth in developing countries while minimizing and fairly distributing the costs of complying with environmental standards.
Questions for Discussion
Values and Culture
Canada's foreign policy agenda must reflect the nation we are: a multicultural, bilingual society that is free, open, prosperous and democratic. The experiences of immigrants from around the world and the cultures of Aboriginal peoples are woven into the fabric of our national identity. Respect for equality and diversity runs through the religious, racial, cultural and linguistic strands forming our communities.
Who we are matters in foreign affairs because Canada's place in the world is shaped not only by relationships between national governments. As global interconnections grow ever more varied and pervasive, exchanges and relationships have multiplied between groups and individuals across national boundaries. This public diplomacy has become an integral part of how we promote our values, share our experience and influence others abroad.
Sharing our values and experience
Whatever our shortcomings in meeting the standards and goals we set for ourselves, Canada is seen abroad as a highly successful society. This asset makes our values and culture a true pillar of our foreign policy, and a vital complement to the other two pillars of security and prosperity. In using our position to champion Canadian values abroad, we are advancing humanitarian concerns that Canadians have long cherished, and are promoting social models endorsed by many of our allies. At the same time, we are helping to foster global conditions conducive to our own security and prosperity. As we try to realize our social and political values more fully at home, we can benefit ourselves and others by also promoting these values abroad.
One of the most internationally respected elements of Canada's foreign policy is our long-standing advocacy of human rights, the rule of law, democracy, respect for diversity, gender equality and good governance. While such values are embraced by many nations and peoples, Canada has unique opportunities to contribute to their realization in virtue of our population and our experience.
Examples abound of Canada's assets in this area. In a world of intra-state conflict and ethnic strife, Canada's experience as a federal, bilingual and multicultural state shows that nations can combine diversity and social cohesion. Our flexible federalism, which seeks to balance national solidarity with respect for local autonomy, has been taken as an example by other countries trying to unite peoples of different languages and cultures. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is seen abroad as an inclusive framework for articulating rights in a diverse society.
As a country open to immigrants from all over the world and committed to their full participation in all aspects of society, Canada is respected abroad for its understanding of cultural differences. We have been called on by other countries to share our experience with dialogue and the peaceful resolution of differences; many opportunities exist for us to serve a mediating role.
Amid current international tensions, Canadians may be able to play an important global role in fostering dialogue among different cultural communities. By reaching out to partners at home and abroad, we can work to show all nations that diverse religions are compatible with shared core values of democracy, human rights, diversity and civility. Highlighting the diversity within all faiths may help us collectively to respond better to extremists who would radicalize religion for political aims.
Promoting our culture
Another of Canada's foreign policy aims is to enrich our country by attracting foreign students. Not only do they contribute economically to our country, but over time foreign students foster the exchange of knowledge, cultural understanding and commercial prospects between citizens of Canada and other countries. Promoting Canadian education abroad is a challenge for joint federal and provincial government efforts, for scholarship programs aimed at international students, for Canadian Studies programs abroad, and for our embassies around the world.
The promotion of Canadian culture also draws on the artists whose diversity and talents attract the world's attention. International successes by writers, musicians, filmmakers and other artists open doors through which Canadian exporters, investors and educators can follow. Such informal cultural diplomacy presents Canada's values and national experience. On trips abroad, delegations of distinguished artists, Aboriginal leaders, scientists, scholars and business people show Canada's contemporary face to the world.
Globalization and technological change pose challenges to national cultures, but they also offer opportunities for strengthening cultural diversity. In order to foster cultures at home and abroad, Canada is working with other countries toward an international agreement affirming the preservation and promotion of distinct cultures as a recognized value. Through a rules-based consensus, countries will be able to maintain policies that promote culture while respecting the rules of the international trading system.
Questions for Discussion
Values and Culture
A request to Canadians
The Government believes that in the years to come, Canadians want their foreign policy to continue to reflect their national identity, values and experience, and to promote security and prosperity at home and abroad. Much has changed since the last review of Canada's foreign policy. Debates over globalization and its impacts, over the global menace of terrorism, over our role in North America, over the intensified dialogue of cultures, and over the capacity of international institutions to respond effectively - all of these now require fresh reflection and a focus on the priorities that will shape our future choices. Together, the citizens and Government of Canada need to address the questions in this paper. Through your comments, you can help us to ensure that the foreign policy of Canada continues to represent the views of Canadians.
Questions for Discussion