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News >> Bulletin >> Bulletin 5

Dialogue on Foreign Policy - Weekly Report

March 12 - March 18, 2003

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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.

This report summarizes comments and recommendations received from Wednesday, March 12, 2003 to Tuesday, March 18, 2003. Contributions include reports from Minister's Townhalls, answers to the discussion paper questions, correspondence and Internet discussions (the web site is coordinated by the byDesign eLab and eCommons/Agora project).

Internet Responses to the Minister's Discussion Paper:

Electronic activities

To date

Site Visits


Paper Printed


Registered participants


Replies to questions



Quote of the week

"Canadians should be able to explain what it is about being Canadian that makes it the best country in the world in which to live. If we can achieve these lofty goals, we will have become the model for the rest of the world that we seek to be. Our foreign policy should be nothing more than an extension of our domestic policy. I thank you for the opportunity to express my views."

Major Themes

The conflict in Iraq continues to be a dominant theme in the electronic discussions and Minister's correspondence. Contributors also express concern that a U.S. preoccupation with preventing terrorism will have a detrimental impact on Canadian policy making, and in particular, the privacy rights of citizens.

With respect to international peace and security, contributors emphasize that Canadian peace keeping and development assistance should be concentrated in countries that request foreign involvement.





The paper states that a "military force capable of defending our country and supporting our foreign policy abroad" is central to Canada's security agenda. Being a serving member of the Canadian Forces for the past twenty years, I believe that I am qualified to state with a degree of certainty that we are nowhere near having that capability.

"Military measures do NOT improve security. In many cases, they have the opposite effect. Are the Israelis more secure after implementing their current repressive measures? Is the USA more secure after the Afghanistan campaign?"





"Since free trade and international globalization we have given up humanitarian principles for dollars."

"Canada should focus on cultivating relationships with any and all nations regardless of their status as a world power, as long as that relationship does not compromise our position as a nation that promotes respect for equality and diversity."

"The foreign policy priority for the governments of all western democracies should be to press repressive regimes to become responsible to their people and to manage the country for the benefit of its citizens."





"What is Canada's culture? Canada is a nation full of people of diverse cultures, ethnic and religious backgrounds. This is good. Unfortunately, we have failed to establish, develop or identify values, beliefs, or traditions that signify what it means to be 'Canadian.' This is not good because it means that we have failed to encourage or inspire our own people to embrace and identify with each other on any sort of common ground."





"In my opinion, the third of the pillars - promoting Canadian values and culture - is the most important. Living outside of Canada has made me realize how important the Canadian identity is to the global community. People I meet from all over the world regard us as peace-loving, friendly people, who respect the environment and, most importantly, people from all cultural backgrounds."


This report summarizes comments and recommendations received from Wednesday, March 12, 2003 to Tuesday, March 18, 2003. Contributions include reports from Minister's Townhalls, answers to the discussion paper questions, correspondence and Internet discussions (the web site is coordinated by the eLab Design and eCommons project). Highlights of the week's activities are provided in the left margin.


"Instead of the current three pillars, I would suggest health and safety, environmental protection, economic and legal justice, and democratic, accountable governance."

"What has been somewhat lacking is... the necessary attention to ensure that the right amount of cross-fertilization occurs between the three pillars, which currently seem to operate more like stove pipes than pillars supporting a meaningful structure."

"More than any other policy area, the leaders of the country have a huge influence over the population in terms of foreign affairs. A strong, early, confident, and unequivocal statement is, on many issues, enough to sway public opinion in either direction."

"Statements [in the Dialogue paper] such as [no relationship] - is more vital than the one we share with the US", "our closest ally" and especially "because of the unmatched global power of the US," illustrate to me and I suspect to the rest of the world that we are developing our foreign policy around a dependence on and fear of the US rather than on the interests, cultures and beliefs of the Canadian people."


  • The majority of participants who spoke of the three pillars viewed them positively. However, some suggest that Canada could do more to make policies within each pillar more effective, and improve the relationships between the pillars.
  • Trade and economics are seen as having a disproportionate influence on the development of foreign policy when compared to justice and human rights.


  • Canadian foreign policy should aim to better the world, not just Canada, and be driven by long-term goals.
  • More attention should be paid to Africa and circumpolar affairs.
  • Canada should establish a World Foreign Policy Centre where international delegates would engage in policy discussions based on the three pillars of Canadian foreign policy.



  • Some participants express concern that the U.S. is behaving as a "bully" in international affairs and that U.S. foreign policy is a threat to Canadian culture and sovereignty.
  • Others condemn anti-Americanism as "myopic, unhelpful and it diminishes us as a nation."
  • Canada is too economically dependant on trade. This dependency makes Canadian policy-making vulnerable to undue pressure from the U.S.


  • Canada should not let U.S. concerns over terrorism dominate the Canadian agenda.
  • Canada should distance itself from U.S. foreign policy as the current approach will encourage more terrorist activities.
  • Canadians should make the distinction between individual Americans and American policies.



"If enforcement of UN resolutions requires the use of force, so be it. We expect force to be used to support our civil legal system, why should a country's leaders be treated differently?"

Additional issues:

  • Failed and failing states are becoming the greatest contributor to global insecurity. Canada should use its experience in post-conflict reconstruction to increase the capacity and effectiveness before they fail.
  • Canada should only contribute peace keeping or combat forces when there is international agreement (ie. UN-sanctioned) or a clear crisis (Rwanda).



  • Contributors suggest that the Canadian Forces do not have the capacity to fulfill their domestic and international obligations. Poor equipment, including the Sea King helicopter, is harming Canada's reputation with its allies and keeping Canada from being a relevant player in international affairs.


  • Canadian Forces should act primarily as peace keepers internationally and receive increased resources for the defence of Canada.
  • Canada must ensure that its equipment and personnel are fully interoperable with the U.S. and other allies.
  • Canada should ensure its military is of the size and has the resources necessary to proportionally contribute to international peace and security.
  • Canadian Forces should cooperate with the training of military personnel in developing countries and assisting them "in times of natural disasters and need." Canada should export its model of a democratically controlled military.
  • The Department of National Defence should increase policy coordination and cooperation with DFAIT and CIDA.



  • Contributions continue to be dominated by the belief that Canada is too economically dependant on the U.S. and needs to diversity its trading partners.
  • NAFTA favours the U.S. and has not protected Canadian access to the U.S. market, as it was intended to do.


  • Canada should promote trade with the EU to lessen economic dependence on the United States.
  • While Canada should promote Canadian investment in China and India, but ensure that companies operating there employ the same labour standards there as they would in Canada. This will increase prosperity and provide a positive example.
  • Increase attention to Northern affairs, devote resources to solving Arctic problems then export expertise throughout the circumpolar world.
  • Canada should open its agricultural trade to developing countries and remove tariffs on goods from LDCs.
  • Canada should not continue economic and trade relations with countries known to abuse human rights.

Foreign Assistance

  • Canada should increase foreign assistance and direct aid to stable countries where it will be used effectively and for the intended purposes.
  • Aid could be focussed on one or two regions, and emphasize good governance, infrastructure, health and education. Aid should have a lasting effect.
  • In addition to financial aid, Canada should export its federal structure and relatively successful balance of individual, minority and majority rights.



  • The values as outlined in current foreign policy are "synthetic Canadian values created by governments and academic elites in the last thirty years."
  • The government does not do enough to promote Canadian culture abroad.


  • Canada should strengthen ties with the EU as Canadian values are more in sync with those held in Europe than in the United States.
  • Canada should be more aggressive in its promotion of Canadian values abroad, especially democracy, and should fully value them at home in order to provide an example. Canada has not been vocal enough in criticising human rights violations in countries such as Saudi Arabia.
  • Canadian foreign policy has the promotion of Canadian culture as a pillar, however, DFAIT does not devote adequate resources to this its promotion.
  • Canada should increase public funding of the arts and support for cultural exchange, both of people and ideas.
  • Canadians need to be more aware of the work and successes of Canadians abroad.

Intercultural/Interfaith Dialogue

  • Canada should work to increase understanding between different cultures and faith as lack of understanding only increases fear, mistrust and the possibility that groups may act irrationally and aggressively towards others.
  • Canada should increase tolerance between nations and ethnic groups, but should not involve itself in matters of religion. "It is not possible for our government to establish policy based on religious morals and convictions, and still represent the interests of all Canadians."