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News >> Bulletin >> Bulletin 10

Dialogue on Foreign Policy - Weekly Report

April 16 - 22, 2003

Foreign Affairs Minister Graham launched A Dialogue on Foreign Policy on January 22, 2003 with the release of a discussion paper. The Dialogue seeks to engage Canadians in reflections about choices and priorities in Canada's foreign policy.

This report summarizes comments and recommendations received between Wednesday, April 16, 2003 and Tuesday, April 22, 2003. The report includes answers to the discussion paper questions, reports from the Minister's Townhalls and roundtables, correspondence, and Internet discussions (the website is coordinated by the byDesign eLab and eCommons project).

Internet Responses to the Minister's Discussion Paper:

Electronic activities

To date

Site Visits

56, 602

Paper Printed

21, 758

Registered participants

1, 501

Replies to questions

2, 454


Townhalls Held:

Whitehorse, April 16, 2003

Expert Roundtables Held:

Roundtable with Ethno-cultural Community Leaders
Vancouver, April 13, 2003


Quotes of the week

"Maintaining good relations with the United States is important, but not as important as sustaining the system of rules of international behaviour developed after World War II."

"This relationship [with the U.S.] is vital to our quality of life. Any thoughts to the contrary simply ignore the economic, cultural and geographic truth to the foundation of stability Canada enjoys."

"From a simple economic perspective, it is much more expensive to launch a war to clean up cesspools of terrorism, and drugs that spring from failed states, then to increase foreign aid, and to help develop third-world countries."

"HIV/AIDS disrupts family and community networks, destabilizes social and economic systems, weakens military and police forces, and erodes governance structures. Furthermore, the ease and frequency with which HIV/AIDS and its effects transcend national borders make the epidemic a regional and international security issue."

"Canadian security, that is, the well-being of Canadians, depends on a stable, rules-based international order that promotes justice and equality internationally."

"The challenge is to achieve influence in these [multilateral] fora, and I believe that implies committing resources to their major activities."

"Canada's should not spend on maintaining powerful military combat operations. Our spending on national defence should be sufficient to protect our national security, but not to deploy offshore for combat operations."

"Mainly, our military should be used for peace-keeping, but it needs more capacity to do so effectively. Equipment must be up to date. Our personnel must be trained to the highest standard and capable of serving in very difficult and dangerous situations."

"As a member of the military I believe I speak for over 57 000 [soldiers] when I say it hurts to hear Canadians say we are useless, incompetent, etc. Our military is competent and very capable - let the public see that for once. This requires active peacekeeping AND combat missions. Iceland and Pakistan can peace keep, we are capable of so much more. Give us the chance to prove it to the public and the politicians - then we'll remind the world."

"It hurts government credibility if its officials are too closely associated with the WTO or the World Bank and seemingly refuse to allow a voice to those who oppose them."

"Canada can help all nations realize the benefits of globalization by actively promoting free trade and reducing tariffs, quotas and other barriers to trade."

"I think that the crises happening in Africa should be immediately helped. It is horrifying in so many countries and for so many reasons. I would support more of my tax money going to Africa if it would lessen the suffering from HIV aids and famine."

"Economic imperialism passed off as "opportunity" or even "aid" is repugnant. Canada should support, or when necessary lead, the effort towards a global community of equality and mutual respect."

"I don't think it should be a "pillar" of Canadian foreign policy to promote "the values and culture that Canadians cherish". This should be an internal matter. Let other nations worry about their own values and cultures. We can demonstrate by example at home. That's enough."

"If we do other things well democracy will follow in its own time in other societies. We seem to feel that we can export democracy like wheat. It can't be done. It takes time."

"[T]he fundamental values of justice, peace and environmental integrity should be the first pillar. Security and prosperity are worthy goals but they will remain illusory in the long-term unless we are energetically promoting these more fundamental values in our foreign policy."

"In my humble opinion, universal realization of human rights, tolerance and appreciation for diversity, compassionate and caring of each other, open and free society, justice for all, and so on, these are the fundamental values that shall NEVER change, because these are the fundamental values to all human beings... Many other things may change, gas prices will rise and fall, an earthquake may happen here or there, disasters or even wars may not be avoidable totally, but we cannot compromise or give up the principles and values that make us as human beings."





Prominent Dialogue Themes:



  • Dialogue contributors suggest a need for stronger Canada-U.S. relations, while maintaining an independent Canadian foreign policy. Many point to history, economics and security as reasons for continued friendly relations.
  • Some participants cite U.S. military and economic strength as a threat to Canadian values and the independence of Canadian policy.


  • Canadian foreign policy should attempt to counter future U.S. unilateralism through the strengthening of international institutions and a closer relationship with the EU.
  • Ottawa must be more supportive of provinces and territories in their relations with the U.S. In particular, in the Northern Transboundary Region, which is subject to U.S. pressure to develop and would be endangered by oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.



  • A majority of contributors continue to support the Canadian decision not to participate in military action in Iraq. However, some express concern that there will be negative consequences as a result of this stance.
  • Canada must participate in the rebuilding of Iraq and advocate that the UN take the lead on humanitarian efforts.
  • Canada should cultivate close relations with the Kurdish administration in northern Iraq. Canadian businesses should also be encouraged to invest in Kurdish areas of Iraq.

Additional comments

  • Canada and other countries are not devoting sufficient resources to combat insecurity and violence. Canada is not acting enough either in military or broad security terms.
  • Canada must engage in active diplomacy, promoting non-military solutions to international conflicts.
  • Increased mention of conflicts in Africa. Canadian involvement in otherwise neglected regions would benefit these areas and give direction to Canadian policy.
  • Canada should be more vigilant in exporting military equipment, have a transparent system and monitor who is the end user.
  • Canada should work to limit nuclear proliferation - both in geographic spread and quantity.

Conflicts mentioned: Congo, Afghanistan, China/Taiwan, India/Pakistan, Korean Peninsula, Colombia, Sudan.


Terrorism and International Crime

  • Increased military spending will not make Canada safer from terrorist attacks. We must instead understand and address "root causes" including economic inequality and political marginalization.
  • Canada can avoid being a terrorist target by pursuing independent policies in the Middle East and advocating unbiased, peaceful solutions to existing conflicts.
  • Overdependence on oil exports in many Arab countries undermines the development of sustainable economies in the region, contributing to future political instability.

Conflict prevention

  • Canada should promote efforts to increase political and economic participation among marginalized groups and to address their concerns in international negotiations.


  • The federal government must take leadership in international environmental issues, also promoting them domestically in relations with the provinces.
  • Developed economies must increase resource conservation measures as they consume a disproportionate amount of resources such as oil.
  • Canada should promote alternative energy technologies, such as wind and solar, and advocate them in sustainable development in developing countries. Government should expand partnerships with NGOs in this sector.
  • Canadian opposition to drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge must be strongly articulated.


  • Infectious diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis drain the resources of developing countries. Canada should increase support for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
  • Canadian research into the nature and transmission of infectious diseases should be increased. Canadian researchers have demonstrated their skill by being the first to map the sequence of the SARS virus.

Human Rights and International Law

  • Canada should support international law, especially international humanitarian law, ensure that domestic law is in compliance with international obligations.
  • Canada should be more vocal in lobbying countries to adhere to the text and principles of the Ottawa Convention and the Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty.


  • Multilateral organizations are necessary to address problems such as international crime and terrorism that cannot be addressed by any one state.
  • Canadian membership in all organizations should be re-examined to ensure that their activities are aligned with Canadian values and interests. Also, Canadian membership must make an effective contribution to these organizations.
  • International institutions need to be transparent and not be perceived to operate in secrecy.



  • Several Dialogue contributors question the participation of Canada in NATO and the continued relevance of the organization itself. NATO was also seen as too aggressive for Canadian values.
  • Canadian Forces do not have the capacity to fulfill their domestic or international commitments.
  • Some participants argue that Canada is not sufficiently threatened to justify current or increased levels of military spending. Several suggest that the U.S. would lend assistance in times of threat or disaster.


  • Canada should re-allocate its resources to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, as part of a shift away from "adversarial military alliances".
  • The size of the military should be increased to 70,000 personnel. Heavy-lift transport aircraft should be purchased.
  • Canada can compensate for its lack of military resources by increasing intelligence capabilities.
  • The military should increase training exercises and operations with European allies.
  • The Canadian Forces should be willing and able to conduct policing duties post-conflict, including apprehending individuals indicted for war crimes.
  • Search and rescue operations could be used to generate revenue.



  • The majority of Dialogue participants continue to emphasize negative aspects of globalization such as exploitation of the poor and environmental degradation. A minority suggest that increased participation in the global economy will increase the welfare of developing countries.
  • Current treaties and trade obligations appear to some to contradict Canadian values and culture.


  • Canada should "advocate strong controls on international trade, putting human rights and environmental stewardship ahead of commercial gain."
  • To avoid overdependence on trade in commodities, Canada must invest in education and training to increase our ability to trade in value-added goods and services.
  • "Canada should focus on maintaining strong economic ties with the United States, and as a secondary matter promote trade with Europe, Mexico and Asia." Trade policy should facilitate access of Canadian firms to foreign markets.
  • Trade deals need to include compensation for those who lose their livelihood as a result of their adoption.
  • Canada should consider monetary union with the U.S.
  • Canada should advocate a Tobin tax on currency trading.
  • Export Canadian managers to increase capacity and prosperity in developing countries, establish economic relationships with Canada.

Foreign Assistance

  • Increase ODA to 0.7% of GDP.
  • Canadian humanitarian assistance must not support dictatorships that commit human rights abuses and campaigns of aggression against their citizens or those of neighbouring countries.
  • Ensure that practices of CIDA demonstrate respect for local practices. Development projects supported by Canada should be assessed for effectiveness.
  • CIDA supported projects should work towards the elimination of exploitation and abuse of sectors of society.
  • NEPAD is not the appropriate tool for African development as it priviledges economic prosperity over human development.



  • Majority support for a values-based foreign policy which promotes respect for diversity, democratic principles and equality.
  • Some participants criticize Canada for not actively promoting its values in the past, especially when they are contrary to Canadian interests or risk other relations.


  • Canada should be cautious in the promotion of values, avoiding arrogance and presuming that our values are automatically best.
  • Relations with Indigenous Peoples should be treated as a nation-to-nation relationship.
  • Our definition of democracy abroad must be expanded beyond the right to vote and multiple parties to include mechanisms to combat corruption and oppression of minorities by majority groups.
  • Promotion of democratic principles should include political participation and inclusiveness. Canada should develop a "Deep Democracy Index" which would identify a specified number of characteristics (corruption, ethnic or religious persecution, etc.), and rank countries accordingly.
  • Members of Canada’s multiethnic society should be treated as informal, "citizen-ambassadors."
  • Increase tax breaks for Canadian recording and film production companies who undertake international marketing.

Intercultural/Interfaith Dialogue

  • Dialogue contributors generally support Canadian participation in intercultural dialogue. However, caution was expressed in promoting interfaith understanding, with several participants citing a necessary separation of church and state.
  • Canada should facilitate dialogue between Muslim and non-Muslim communities. Canadian Muslims have been targetted in racial profiling since the terrorist attacks of September 11th.