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Final Report


A Dialogue on Foreign Policy: Report to Canadians

A Dialogue on Foreign Policy: Discussion Paper

What Canadians Said
About this dialogue
Directions for the future
What Canada stands for
Human Security and Human Rights
Relations with the United States
Effective Multilateralism and Governance
Sustainable Development
Coherence and Capacities
The Three Pillars
Ensuring Global Security and the Security of Canadians
Toward a broad vision of Shared Global Security
Capable Armed forces
Peacebuilding, Disarmament, and Conflict Prevention
Multilateral Cooperation and International Law
Promoting the Prosperity of Canadians and Global Prosperity
Global and Regional Opportunities
North American Economic Partnership
A Fairer Global Economy
Effective International Assistance and Development Cooperation
Globalizing Sustainable Development
Projecting Canada's Values and Culture
Sharing our Values and Experience
Promoting our Culture and International Education
Making Canada Better Known to the World
Strengthening Canada's International Voice

III. Projecting Canada's Values and Culture

Questions the Dialogue Paper asked:

  • 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?
  • Should Canada seek out opportunities for fostering global intercultural dialogue and interfaith understanding?
  • What are the best means for Canada to make its culture and experience known abroad?

Sharing our Values and Experience

We cannot sustain our values and quality of life if we do not defend these values across the globe. Canada is not an "island." We cannot stand alone. We have to be more aware of our total interdependence and work within various global agencies to promote Canadian values abroad.
- Dialogue participant
At a time when Canada is struggling to assert our priorities in a world dominated by an increasingly isolated U.S., a new Canadian emphasis on the principles of democracy—accountability, transparency, tolerance, multi-party competition, fair elections, gender equality and respect for human rights—could set Canada apart and provide a conceptual and organizational framework for many of Canada's existing initiatives and programs. Canada's unique and successful federal system should also be discussed and promoted abroad.
- Dialogue participant

A large majority of Dialogue participants want Canada's international presence to reflect the values and diverse character of our society. This "third pillar" of Canada's foreign policy, it is argued, should be strengthened in face of current global transformations:

Canadian values could well be viewed as a unique asset and model that Canada could offer in a world growing increasingly insecure due to religious, cultural, social and economic divisions.

Some emphasize Canada's complex federal character and increasingly heterogeneous population, suggesting that our experience of democratic pluralism might be able to provide ways forward for multi-ethnic societies seeking to overcome violent divisions; Sri Lanka is cited as a place where Canada has already begun to play such a role. On the whole, participants want Canadian values integrated into a foreign policy that is fully open to both our own domestic diversity and the world's, and engaged in respectful dialogue with other countries and cultures. Many also observe that our international influence will be more credible and effective through stronger domestic performance in enhancing the place of women, visible minorities, disabled persons, first nations peoples and immigrant communities in Canadian society. Most respondents welcome interfaith dialogue as a way of fostering reflection within and outside Canada on matters of acute global concern.

Promoting our Culture and International Education

Film, song, theatre and visual arts are all calling cards, each more original than the next. The artists who have created them are representatives of our peaceful, multicultural, respectful and accepting society. International promotion of art produced by Canadians is a non-intrusive way to showcase our society.
- Dialogue participant
Higher education and research cooperation at an international level turns the forces of globalization to societies' advantage.
- Dialogue participant

Many participants recognize the value of cultural diplomacy to Canada's international relations, and say that awareness of Canadian artists around the world can open doors to many new opportunities of long-term benefit to Canadians. In the words of one contributor, such cultural diplomacy is: of the most effective ways of enabling the Canadian voice to be heard abroad ... creating a positive high profile for Canada in the foreign media and among opinion leaders and decision makers from business, government, politics, academe and the arts.

The arts and public broadcasting, along with academic, youth, student and other "people-to-people" exchanges, are seen as important vehicles for promoting Canada to the world and bringing the world to Canadians. At the same time, there are calls for substantially more resources to be devoted to the promotion of arts activities and organizations abroad, including from Canada's aboriginal and culturally diverse communities; and such expanded support needs to be "repositioned" in the priorities, organization and operations of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) in order to highlight its integral place among Canada's foreign policy objectives.

With respect to the promotion of international education and knowledge, a contributor notes that a two-way flow of students:

... promotes greater intercultural and interfaith understanding; disseminates Canadian values; builds future trade and business connections; and conveys a more modern image of Canada.

However, Dialogue participants are concerned about affordability and levels of financial support, scholarship funding, and the damage of "brain drain" from developing countries or to other developed countries. There are valuable suggestions for doing more to support Canadian studies abroad and international development studies within Canada, promoting access to Canadian educational and cultural products, and undertaking joint activities with various international educational organizations. International academic and research cooperation are also advocated as means of deepening our understanding of the challenges Canada's foreign policy must address, and as means of forging ties around the world. Educational exchange programs for enhancing mutual understanding of the United States and Canada among academics are recommended; and multilateral bodies such as the Inter-American Organization for Higher Education could be used to increase mobility of students and faculty, cross-cultural knowledge and language skills.

Making Canada Better Known to the World

Stereotypes exist, all limiting the breadth of Canada's image. There is a patent need to maintain and develop a broad reflection of Canada, in order that its models of values and cultures continue to be viewed and understood by the world.
- Dialogue participant

While Canada's international image is largely positive, many respondents are concerned about low or outdated public knowledge of Canada is abroad, arguing that we need to update our image and define more clearly what we want to project. There are calls for targeting educational and promotional campaigns in key markets, and for creativity in presenting our values and culture. This point is also underlined by provincial government contributions encouraging the "branding" of Canada as a location for economic partners, visitors, students and skilled immigrants. Among other suggestions is a proposal to improve international knowledge of Canada by reaching out to the more than 7,000 Canadian Studies scholars around the world who influence large numbers of students, foreign media and publics. It is also suggested that there be an expansion of internships, partnerships, exchanges and other outreach programs working in collaboration with government, parliamentarians, private-sector associations and NGOs.

Strengthening Canada's International Voice

Canada continues to have an excellent international reputation. But increasingly, this reputation is being jeopardized if we do not devote the resources to make substantive contributions in such areas as military capacity, development assistance or policy-making capacity.
- Dialogue participant
We need to define the "Canadian advantage." Canada must overcome the current fragmentation of messages and activities, with different federal departments and provinces making their own global sales pitches and pursuing uncoordinated policies. It is especially ironic that in an era of international interdependence, so many of our domestic initiatives are pursued in isolation from each other.
- Dialogue participant

Some Dialogue participants, concerned that Canada's overall international role be strengthened, warn that substantially greater capacities and resources are needed to advance Canadian values and interests, and to sustain credible bilateral and multilateral partnerships. Since the cumulative effects of earlier budget cutbacks have yet to be rectified, it is argued that Canadian foreign policy cannot succeed in its aims without substantial reinvestment in diplomacy, defence and development assistance. Responses observe that DFAIT itself should be bolstered in its resources and its policy development capacities, as well as in its missions abroad.

Many participants also encourage the Government to pursue improved policy coherence among the many departments and agencies that support Canada's affairs abroad. Objects of particular attention here are relations between DFAIT, the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and the Department of National Defence (DND); more coherence is also urged among policies on international trade, development assistance, environment, and sustainable development. The importance of cultivating domestic partnerships with other levels of government and with civil-society organizations is also stressed. Provincial and territorial contributions emphasize the need for cooperative federalism mechanisms in developing effective international strategies. More coordination of these multiple instruments and actors is seen as integral to strengthening Canada's ability to speak with a unified voice and carry weight internationally.

Finally, Canadians emphasize that they expect leadership from the Government in defining clear policies and in ensuring adequate capacities and coordination to support these policies. Several governmental initiatives are currently under way to improve coherence across federal departments for all aspects of Canada's international affairs. Reviews of resources and allocations within DFAIT are also ongoing.

Over the next months, the advice that citizens have given will inform the development of long-term foreign policy directions for Canada in the years ahead. The volume and variety of the contributions testify to the engagement of Canadians in international affairs, and to the strength of our democracy. Participants in the Dialogue have done much to help guide a secure and prosperous course for Canada and the world.

  • What Canadians Said
  • The Three Pillars
  • Previous: Promoting the Prosperity of Canadians and Global Prosperity
  • Current: Projecting Canada's Values and Culture