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Dialogue Paper >> Values and Culture

A Dialogue on Foreign Policy

A Dialogue on Foreign Policy
A Better Canada, a Better World
The 1995 Policy Review and Since
The three pillars
Interdependence and multilateralism
The Canada-U.S. relationship
Recent global changes
Security cooperation
Canada's military security
Approaches to non-military security
Canada and North America
Globalizing prosperity
Canadian prosperity and global vision
Values and Culture
Sharing our values and experience
Promoting our culture
A request to Canadians

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.

  • Introduction
  • The 1995 Policy Review and Since
  • Security
  • Previous: Prosperity
  • Current: Values and Culture
  • Next: Conclusion
  • Questions for Discussion

    Values and Culture

    1. Are values such as human rights, democracy, respect for diversity and gender equality ones that Canada should continue to advocate in all parts of the world? If so, what are the best ways of doing this?
    2. Should Canada seek out opportunities for fostering global intercultural dialogue and interfaith understanding?
    3. What are the best means for Canada to make its culture and experience known abroad?
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