skip to page content skip to site menu skip to section choice menu skip to local section menu skip to instructions menu
DFAIT logo partnership The logo for the by design elab, an independent research development and production think tank specializing in online forums for policy development, incubated in 1997 at the McLuhan Program at the University of Toronto
DFAIT Home Site Map Help Policies Partners Feedback Netcast Français
Message from the Minister
Dialogue Paper
Answer Questions
View Answers
Expert Interviews
More Resources
Discussion Forum
Final Report


News >> Bulletin >> Bulletin 3

Dialogue on Foreign Policy - Weekly Report

February 26 - March 4, 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 St. Johnís, March 3, 2003

Townhall in Charlottetown, March 4, 2003

Townhall in Halifax, March 4, 2003

Townhall in Saint John, March 5, 2003



Major Themes

"It was not until the First World War that Canada as a nation stepped out of the shadows of the British Empire. I'm not sure how or when it happened but we seem to be moving into the shadow of the United States."





Iraq continues to be a prominent theme in Townhalls, correspondence and electronic discussions. Electronic contributors support Canadian participation in multilateral institutions and emphasize peace keeping as the primary role of the Canadian Forces.

"Canada is dependent on our closest ally, and these strong ties should be maintained. Canada must, however, remain true to the values and beliefs of its own people."

"It is naive to believe that we can achieve our security independent of the U.S. We can balance our partnership with the U.S. with significant investment in the prevention of problems from AIDS to violence and mistreatment of women."

"The United States is our biggest trading partner. The United States has historically been a good ally. Few Canadians would describe Saddam Hussein as a good global citizen."

"At least the French position, as disagreeable as it might be, is well stated and well-known. So is the British position. Where's Canada? Indeed, many ask, who is Canada?!!!"

"Our values of standing by our friends -- our most important friends being the US and UK - has been trumped to standing with an organization that will not and can not support us, the UN. At the same time, we all want the UN to maintain an embargo that kills more people than a quick war with Iraq will."



"Offering non-military solutions for global problems could be Canada's distinctive role in promoting global security."



"Countries such as the U.S. are targeted for having values which closely resemble Canada's, and therefore it is only logical to conclude that given time, we too will become an immediate target for threats such as terrorism and intolerance."



"The 'environmental revolution' is coming and Canada should ensure that we are in a position to benefit from the impact of new technology."



"Canada is not a country of people who are comfortable with 'going it alone.' We are not unilateralists. Nor are we a country of people who even aspire to have the military or economic clout in the world to impose our will on other people."



"Most multilateral institutions or regimes are under severe pressure and have been rendered unworkable. Canada needs to step up the plate and undertake review how to rejuvenate these institutions."



"Institutions that are viable and of value to Canada include the G8, NATO and the Arctic Council. Institutions like the Commonwealth and the OAS are toothless and need to be put on the back burner."








"Our country is not about war, but we are definitely not about dodging responsibility. The soldiers, sailors and airmen are willing to sacrifice greatly and we must at least provide them with the equipment and manpower they need to do their jobs safely and effectively."

"The Canadian Government and the people of Canada's indifference and complete lack of knowledge of their own military is a disgrace and shows to the rest of the world how hollow this nation has truly become."

"I believe in compulsory military service, or, civil service as a training program for youth, with a choice to serve domestically or abroad in peace keeping duties, and particularly humanitarian responses."










"We may need to enter trade agreements which benefit poorer nations more than they benefit usÖ which may mean that we don't trade with countries that adhere to questionable human rights standards."

"A country has no right to expect treatment any different than how they treat others. If a country, such as the United States, chooses to enforce laws blocking trade goods from entering their country, then they do not have the right to complain when their own goods are blocked at the border of other countries."



"I think many Canadians would like to see our country be more aggressive in promoting our strong values on the world stage."

"Canada should encourage and promote these values, not force them on others. We can afford to have these opinions and they are a product of our own cultural heritage. We must recognize that ethnic or cultural practices that we might consider questionable in relation to our values might serve a very valuable purpose in another culture."

"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."


This report summarizes comments and recommendations received between Wednesday, February 26, 2003 and Tuesday, March 4, 2003. Contributions include reports from the Minister's Townhalls, answers to the discussion paper questions, correspondence, and Internet discussions (the web site is coordinated by the byDesign eLab and eCommons project). Highlights of the week's activities are provided in the left margin.


"I would like to thank you for your first-class offer for dialogue."

"DFAIT and its political masters would be able to reflect concerns and priorities of Canadians much more effectively if they narrowed their scope and worked with other agencies to cooperate."

"We seem to get cornered into a situation where we can only say no [to war] if we have support from the UN or at least two other G8 countries."

"DFAIT rides on the shoulders of volunteer organizations such as World University Service of Canada and other NGOs. But DFAIT does not lead these groups, nor even interact fully with their plans. Instead, DFAIT just offers money in the hopes that any NGO with Canadians will do a good job and represent Canada well."

"If the Government was to take seriously the plight of the homeless and the responsibilities to the Indigenous People they might have some understanding of how to act wisely and with decency in foreign affairs."

"After living in Canada for four years, my family and I were given Canadian citizenship. This should be sufficient to show that I pose no threat to the well-being of those that are around me. Why should I be treated differently than my colleagues on the basis of where I was born, which I might add, I had no control over. So please fight for the rights of your citizens, and show us that you are concerned with the way other nations treat us."



  • In both economic and military terms, Canada is viewed as becoming increasingly integrated with the U.S., to the extent that some fear that bilateral relations with the U.S. will cause Canada to abandon its traditional "Middle Power" role, peace keeping, and multilateral approaches to international relations.
  • Canadian foreign policy is ineffective in influencing the U.S. However, such support would not guarantee a favourable U.S. response to Canadian interests like Softwood Lumber.


  • Canada should use its close relationship with U.S. to bring the U.S. closer to the international community and international agreements. In addition, Canada should work to moderate U.S. policies that could make the U.S. a target for further terrorist attacks. It is important to differentiate Canadian foreign policy from that of the U.S.
  • Canada should be more aggressive in urging the U.S. to end its policy of photographing and fingerprinting Canadian citizens born in certain Muslim countries.
  • Canada should work to alleviate U.S. security concerns post-September 11th. In exchange, Canada would expect decreased U.S. pressure on Canadian domestic policy. Areas of particular concern to Dialogue participants include refugee and immigration policy.


A strong, anti-war sentiment was expressed at all Townhall meetings and throughout Internet discussions. Some participants voiced concerns about the consequences of war, especially the 'human toll' on Iraqi civilians.

Opinions/Advice Expressed by Participants


  • The Canadian Government should clearly state to Canadians and the international community its position on possible military action in Iraq.
  • Canada is being pressured to support (and join) the U.S. in an (illegal and immoral) war against Iraq for fear of economic reprisals if we fail to do so.
  • Canadians citizens need to be given more information about the situation in Iraq in order to think critically and engage in constructive public debate about the role Canada can play in diplomatic efforts or military action.
  • A war with Iraq is about oil, not weapons of mass destruction, the violation of UN Security Council Resolutions, or the suffering of the Iraqi people.

United Nations

  • UN Security Council Resolutions should be equally applied in all situations.

North Korea

  • According to the new American strategy, conditions exist for a pre-emptive war on North Korea. What is Canada going to do to ensure a peaceful solution to the impasse in North Korea and prevent a repeat of the Iraq situation?


  • Supporting efforts to resolve the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians would contribute to wider peace in the Middle East.
  • Israel has violated Security Council resolutions and yet only Iraq has been singled out for violations of Security Council resolutions.


  • While there is international concern regarding Saddam Hussein's human rights abuses in Iraq, the Afghan warlords who control most of the country have a documented history of human rights abuses. How can we prevent Afghanistan from becoming a "breeding ground for more Saddam Husseins?"

Other Conflicts Discussed

West Africa, and Central Africa.



  • Participants argued that threats to Canadian security now originate in environmental degradation, terrorism and international crime. Nuclear war is no longer the primary contributor to global insecurity.


  • Young Canadians should be encouraged to spend time abroad to engage in community work. This would both assist developing countries and create a generation of Canadians with an increased understanding of the world and Canada's role in it.

International Crime/Terrorism

  • International crime is a constant threat - Canadian military and security agencies must work together to prevent terrorists and foreign organized crime groups from coming to Canada. Officials must carefully examine refugee and immigration claimants.
  • Canada should work with other countries to stop extremists from a variety of backgrounds and should clearly state that no matter the cause, attacking civilian targets is not acceptable.

Conflict prevention

  • Conflict is rooted in territorial disputes, not abstract notions such as religion, ideology, ethnicity; even poverty plays a minor role. Canada should work to mediate fair and equitable settlements to territorial disputes, acting as an honest broker.


  • Canada should "be more explicit in its defence of, and its commitment to the environment." This could be accomplished through Canadian investment in eco-friendly technologies, and the promotion of sustainable development practices in foreign policy and development assistance.


  • "Canada should not sit by and let disasters such as the AIDS epidemic unfold in Africa. We need to be there with money, aid and medical staff and resources."


  • Immigrants have contributed economically, socially, and culturally to Canada. Canada should ensure that its policy maintains national security, but without damaging the inflow of potential Canadians that will add to the character and prosperity of Canada.
  • Immigration policy is linked to foreign policy - it affects how Canada relates to the world. We should increase numbers of poor and unskilled immigrants rather than "cherry-picking" to the detriment of developing countries.


  • Multilateral fora continue to be seen by participants as the best venue for Canada to articulate its foreign policy. Several contributors suggested that Canada should concentrate its efforts and relations in NATO and the G8, as they are viewed as the most effective international organizations.
  • Canada should encourage the strengthening of regional organizations and various NGO networks because traditional alliances are losing their influence and becoming more and more regional.
  • Canada should support organizations that bring together both rich and poor countries. Institutions such as the Commonwealth and La Francophonie can facilitate to understanding and growth in developing countries.
  • The UN must be "revamped, resurrected or dissolved." "Our participation in the UN should be strengthened, particularly by setting an example in aligning our domestic standards to international UN norms and being outspoken about respect for UN resolutions."



  • Some participants expressed strong support for peace keeping as the primary role of the Canadian Forces. However, one contributor noted that throughout Canada's military history, we have acted with distinction in all forms of conflict, not just peace keeping.
  • Post-September 11th, heightened national security concerns in the U.S. highlight Canada's inability to effectively take part in continental defence and have forced Canada to agree to allow U.S. troops on Canadian soil in the event of an attack or emergency.
  • Canadian military capability has declined because the Government believes it can rely on the U.S. for defence; we need to increase the size of the military.


  • While the Canadian Forces do not need to be large, they must be well-trained, well-armed and receive public support; a "capable and respected force."
  • Canada must recognize that it is not able to act unilaterally, and is therefore reliant on international coalitions. However, the military is unable to contribute "meaningful deployments until such time that they receive the funding they require."
  • Canada should be neutral and focus instead on providing assistance following emergencies and develop more expertise in civil engineering.
  • One participant suggested abandoning the peace keeping role in favour of focussing more on roles that further Canadian interests abroad.
  • Canada should increase military spending to improve its ability to defend itself and exercise influence internationally. Several proponents of a peacekeeping-focussed military advocated increased funding, as peace keeping operations also require soldiers to be properly trained and equipped. Decreased military spending was also suggested. One contributor argued that Canada should spend more on ODA than on the military.



  • Increasing mention of agriculture in trade discussions, with several contributions suggesting that promoting exports to developing countries while restricting their access to the Canadian market increases income disparities. It also leads to domestic environmental destruction.
  • Canadian policy and our weak dollar have allowed an economic take over of Canada by U.S. corporations.
  • Globalization does not benefit unskilled labour or groups who are not mobile.


  • Canada should support multilateral regimes that will redistribute the gains of globalization towards those who presently do not benefit. Canada should also contribute to institutional capacity building in developing countries to enable them to protect the interests of their citizens against abusive or predatory behaviour by global actors.
  • Canada should support post-secondary education for the poor in the developing world though development assistance and university exchanges with Canadian institutions.
  • Trade dispute mechanisms should allow developing countries greater leeway in their application of rules to support the health, environmental and public safety interests.
  • Canadian businesses that receive government support to operate abroad should be subject to Canadian standards and to export Canadian values in their operations.
  • The definition of prosperity should not be based on economic prosperity and consumerism. Rather, prosperity should be equated with a stable world in which to live, a good quality of life, and access to food, water, shelter, health care, education, and meaningful work.

Foreign Assistance

  • Canada should meet the target of spending 0.7 percent of GDP on Official Development Assistance (ODA) and increase offers of technical assistance. Aid should not just be financial, but include the transfer of knowledge, Canadian expertise and values.
  • Assistance should be targeted towards education, disease prevention, and investing in marginalized youth. Youth and professional exchanges should be promoted.
  • Canada should emphasize sustainable development initiatives and use Canadian domestic policy to provide an example of how to maintain good environmental practices.



  • The best way to promote values is to keep them at the forefront of Canadian foreign policy.


  • DFAIT should increase the time and resources its employees devote to projecting Canadian identity.
  • "Promoting values and culture are fine as well, but Canadians must be less parochial and look outwards to the globe. For one, 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."
  • Increase funding for "programs that send young Canadian educators, business developers and technologists abroad." Canada should invest in cultural and education programs abroad that promote "Canadian traditions, languages, history, geography, values and culture."