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Dialogue on Foreign Policy - Weekly Report

February 12- February 18, 2003

Minister Graham launched a Dialogue on Foreign Policy on Wednesday January 22, 2003 with the release of a discussion paper. The Dialogue seeks to engage Canadians in discussions about Canada's foreign policy.

Internet Responses to the Minister's Discussion Paper:

Electronic activities

To date

Replies to questions


Discussion Groups Messages


Registered participants


Site Visits


Minister's Townhalls:

Townhall in Montreal February 14, 2003 (Report has been circulated)

Townhalls to be held in Atlantic Canada Early March, 2003

Expert Meeting:

ACUNS Roundtable February 17-18, 2003

Major Themes

While the possibility of conflict with Iraq was a popular theme addressed in many of the questions, the topic did not dominate the discussion. Prominent issues included environmental degradation and broad security.








"It would be crucial to put some distance between ourselves and the United States."

"We must recognize our geographic reality and economic power as a neighbour to the world's single super-power. As the U.S. becomes increasingly unilateral, Canada needs to retain its leadership of multi-lateral approach to world affairs as a credible check and balance."

Participant Quotes:

"Canada's role in this important international moment should be one of rejection to U.S. bullying. When did we lose our peaceful nature and become accomplices to the United States?"

«J'incite mon gouvernement, le gouvernement canadien, à s'opposer à la guerre qui se prépare contre l'Iraq. Nous sommes nombreux à prévoir que cette guerre fera bien plus de ravages que de bien et que les conséquences en seront lourdes pour le monde.»











Quote of the week

"Foreign policy should not be decided on what lies ahead tomorrow. It should look farther down the halls of time."















"Canada's multicultural character, its diversity in lifestyles and its proximity to the United States, puts it in an ideal position to play a more significant role as a conciliator, a broker of conflict resolution and a catalyst for international peace and stability."







"Intelligence gathering and international cooperation in criminal investigation and prosecution should replace the current approach of condemning entire nations for the actions of a few elites."








"Military strength must be credible, modern and combat capable. It is from this strength that we can provide for international peace."


"I for one resent having to pay for military war games. War is a useless, destructive activity and I want no part of it. I wish you would take the military portion of my taxes and allocate it to day care centres. Thank you."


"We cannot kill people and then expect them to appreciate us policing their country."






"We must be secure and prosperous ourselves before we can assist other nations."






"Making our markets more accessible to developing countries would go a long way to help people to help themselves."







«Les valeurs et intérêts les plus importants que devrait refléter notre politique étrangère, sont le respect du droit international et son maintien, le droit des personnes et des États à l'égalité et la promotion de la démocratie DE FAÇON DÉMOCRATIQUE et non en l'imposant.»





"There is no one Canadian identity, culture or experience and it is ridiculous to believe that you can generalize all of the experiences into one "exportable" ideal… Perhaps it is not our place to force our values and culture on other countries."


This report summarizes comments and recommendations received between Wednesday, February 12, 2003 and Tuesday, February 18, 2003. Contributions included are the result of: Minister's Townhalls and expert roundtables, correspondence sent to the Department, and electronic discussions (coordinated by the byDesign eLab and eCommons/Agora project). Highlights of the week's activities are provided in the left margin.

Though the possibility of conflict with Iraq is a prominent theme, it is not the primary topic in the online forum this week. Instead, issues of broad security, particularly environment protection, were most common.



Overall, participants respond positively to the Dialogue.
Among the contributions:

"I would like to thank you for the opportunity to participate in this very important discussion."

"This very forum demonstrates our ability to accommodate different perspectives within a greater whole."

"The Dialogue web site is crisp and well-organized."


There is concern that the Dialogue is not well-publicized:

"I must first commend you on an availability of a dialogue… The only problem is too few Canadians know about this dialogue, so please make its presence stronger."

In addition, some participants appear sceptical that their advice will influence policy:

"This discussion paper allows Canadians to make our views known, but what good is that if it is going to fall on deaf ears?"




  • Canada's foreign policy should be more 'humanitarian,' and should not be based on the concerns of multinational corporations and "militaristic nations."
  • Canadian foreign policy should aim to empower the disadvantaged in global society, including the poor and women.
  • Above all, Canada must maintain its image as a peaceful country.
  • The 'three pillars' have become irrelevant.
  • "I believe we need four pillars: collective security for all nations, economic prosperity through world trade, social democratic ideals in a community of nations, and education available for all peoples."
  • "On the one hand, using the 'soft power' doctrine of carrots and sticks is an easy and more diplomatic way to get what one wants. However, on the other hand, one must possess the 'hard power' assets needed to ensure credibility is established in the 'soft power' doctrine."



  • As in earlier discussions, many participants assert that Canada's foreign policy is too influenced by the U.S. Hence, they argue Canada should pursue a foreign policy distinct from the U.S.


  • Canada and the U.S. should jointly create a security perimeter.
  • Canada and the U.S. should enhance their capacity to share information with one another about security and intelligence matters.
  • If the United States imposes restrictions on Canadians entering the U.S., Canada should reciprocate when Americans enter Canada.
  • Canada must support U.S. military intervention in Iraq, as our economic prosperity depends on continued positive relations between our two countries.


Concern over the Possibility of an American-led Attack on Iraq

  • Anxiety and opposition to an American-led military invasion of Iraq is a major, but not overwhelming theme in the web-based forum. A minority of respondents are supportive of the American position. Responses on Iraq are dominated by statements opposing military action with some indicating support for military action that is sanctioned by the United Nations. Other posts argue that U.S. is acting aggressively based on unsubstantiated evidence.


  • Some participants proposed that Canada could work as a mediator in global conflicts.
  • The Australian model of regional "deputy sheriff" to the United States will not work for Canada given Canada's global interests, Pearsonian traditions, lack of "region" and other factors.

Conflicts Discussed

  • Israel, India/Pakistan, interstate and intrastate conflict in Africa, North Korea



  • Respondents reiterate that global disparity is incompatible with global security.
  • Participants also emphasized the importance of the environment, health care, and education as key preconditions to a secure Canada and a secure world.



  • Environment protection and sustainable development should be added as a fourth pillar for Canadian foreign policy.
  • Canada should promote respect for the environment in multilateral fora, particularly at the G8 and the UN.
  • Canada should work to halt the spread of infectious diseases on a global scale.
  • Canada should reduce its consumption of fossil fuels, and should not support oil companies that work with the Iraqi government.


  • "Teaching the poor in underdeveloped countries, providing humanitarian aid and otherwise giving hope to the desperate is the best way to reduce the number of terrorists."


  • Canada should carefully scrutinize the claims of refugees entering the country while not violating human rights.

Human Rights

  • Human rights should be a more important foreign policy priority for Canada.
  • Canada should not engage in diplomatic relations with states that abuse human rights.

International Law and Norms

  • Canada should promote humanitarian intervention to prevent genocide.


  • Canada should work with like-minded states to work toward sustainable economic growth in developing countries, which fosters collective security.
  • Canada should not support a second UN resolution on Iraq.
  • Canada should strengthen its ties with all multilateral institutions, as this gives Canada a stronger voice on global issues (examples cited were APEC, NATO and the G8).
  • Canada should forge stronger ties with Commonwealth states.

Conflict Prevention

  • "Canada can and should take a more active role in finding solutions for global issues, promoting world peace, sustainable development and a more equal distribution of wealth in the world."
  • "Our security priorities should lie in resolving the root causes of conflict instead of merely military responses after the fact."



  • Most advocate that the Canadian military should be given further support to ensure its effectiveness in peace keepingkeepingr operations. Others argue that Canada should delineate further resources to the navy.
  • According to some, the military is not in need of additional resources. Rather, the government should be emphasizing intelligence gathering and analysis.


  • Canada should increase the size of the military reserves in case of a natural disaster; the military should also work more closely with the Coast Guard and the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency (CCRA).
  • National defence should be Canada's first priority since continental defence undermines Canadian sovereignty.

  • Canada should act as a peacekeeper (under UN auspices) only.
  • Canada should reduce its "token involvement in US military actions" and support peaceful resolution of disputes.
  • Military should be used internally to protect sovereign borders, externally only for peace keeping under UN.



  • Most contributors agree that Canada should cultivate economic relationships with emerging economic powers: "Trade with emerging powers will increase the influence of the rule of law, civil society and increase living and health standards." A minority of posts argue that Canada's trade relations should be dependent on respect for human rights, democratic principles, and sustainable environmental practices.
  • According to some respondents, Canada's participation in NAFTA is detrimental to Canadian industry and national sovereignty. Concern was expressed regarding Chapter 11 provisions. Several participants asserted that this gives foreign companies excessive influence on Canadian public policy.
  • Several posts indicate that the discussion paper for A Dialogue on Foreign Policy makes an unfair assumption that globalization generates economic benefits for all.

Trade with the United States

  • Diversifying trading partnerships will lessen our economic dependence on the United States.

Market Access

  • Canada should promote free trade with developing countries, particularly African states adhering to democratic and human rights standards.

Foreign Aid

  • Official Development Assistance (ODA) should be increased to reflect UN targets.
  • Canada should focus attention on Africa (e.g. the AIDS crisis, malnutrition, Ethiopian famine).
  • Foreign aid should not be given to repressive and/or undemocratic regimes.
  • Canada should engage in activities that promote effective foreign aid to Asia and Africa.
  • Canada should promote innovation in eco-friendly technologies, medical research and development.

Values and Culture


  • Canadian values are perceived as different from and often contradictory to U.S. values and closer to those of Europeans.
  • Canada must adhere to its values at home before taking them to the rest of the world.
  • "There must be more pride and nationalism in Canada. With more Canadians knowing who they are, it will be easier to promote Canadian culture and experience abroad."
  • "It is not Canada's duty to enforce our morals and beliefs on other peoples of the world."· Environment protection and the non-persecution of disadvantaged peoples are important Canadian values.


  • Canadian values could be promoted through their coupling with trade and investment.
  • Canada should cultivate closer relations with the EU.
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