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News >> Bulletin >> Bulletin 6

Dialogue on Foreign Policy - Weekly Report

March 19 - March 25, 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.

Internet Responses to the Minister's Discussion Paper:

Electronic activities

To date

Site Visits


Paper Printed


Registered participants


Replies to questions



Quotes of the week

"Our domestic values of multiculturalism, bilingualism, federalism, and our commitment to strive - even though we often fall short - toward tolerance as a society are ones that we should be proud of internationally. These values translate well into what I believe should be Canada's primary underlying value in foreign policy, which is the value of multilateralism and the development of international institutions for security, human rights, environmental protection, and fair trade."

Canada and the U.S. are "distinct nations with separate constituencies that have much in common, but whose histories and priorities are different enough to warrant separate decisions on policy decisions. I don't believe that our relationship with the U.S. is so superficial and delicate that we can't comfortably disagree with one another on principled grounds."









"While the down trodden may be too weak to endanger us, they have powerful friends who are not, as we have seen with 9/11 and other acts of terrorism."





"The UN has a good record of supplying foreign aid but that is the limit of it's effectiveness and credibility. The relevance of the UN is called into question when it frequently fails to uphold its own resolutions."













"Military combat operations should be a very low priority for Canada's military, since we are not threatened by invasion by any country, nor do we have any intention of invading any country."

"Turning our military, with its proud history into an international embarrassment is inexcusable. The Prime Minister should be flying around in Sea Kings instead of new Challengers."

"Today, in our feeble and futile attempts to maintain international and domestic commitments, we have stretched our uniformed men and women, and their machines to the limits and beyond. It's a disgrace, and it's a betrayal of those we would, and have, placed in harm's way."









"Prosperity is already the responsibility of other major ministries and in my mind has no place in foreign policy objectives."





"Certainly open communication and dialogue with countries should take place, but if Canada hopes to lead by example, trade, business and human rights must be linked."





"Leading by example is the purest, truest and most cost-effective way of espousing any ideal. Neither Jesus nor Buddha spent a dime of advertising. Word of mouth is where it's at."


This report summarizes comments and recommendations received between Wednesday, March 19, 2003 and Tuesday, March 25, 2003. Contributions include reports from answers to the discussion paper questions, correspondence, and Internet discussions (the website is coordinated by the byDesign eLab and eCommons project).

This report incorporates policy advice and recommendations from the National Forum for Youth, held March 21-24, 2003. The event was a key component of the Minister's Dialogue on Foreign Policy. The final report from the National Forum will be published and posted on the CCFPD website and the Foreign Policy Dialogue web site.


"The reduction of borders should be the focus of all mankind. Whether those borders are religious, nationalistic or ethnic, they themselves are one of the main reasons for conflict."

"However, rather than starting with the Three Pillars, we might better start with our various objectives and then see what headings best describe them. If we start with the same old three headings, it will warp and limit our creative thinking."

"Internationally, Canada is being listened to less and less because the whole world knows that we are a faint carbon copy of the U.S."


  • "Internationally, Canada is being listened to less and less because the whole world knows that we are a faint carbon copy of the U.S."
  • Foreign policy should be called "World Policy" to make explicit the Canadian desire to better the world, not just pursue self-interested goals. _ Resources allocated to foreign policy should be greater. The number of Missions abroad should be increased.



  • Participants believe that Canadian policy has difficulty balancing the relationship between the economic and trade interests with the threat to culture and values that U.S. media and investment pose.
  • Contributors continue to suggest a more explicit separation of Canadian and American foreign policy. In addition, a majority suggest that Canada is too economically dependant on the U.S. and must diversify its trade.



While Iraq dominated the security discussions on the website, there was not a significant increase in mention of Iraq in other areas of the Dialogue. The possibility of future participation by Canada in the war was one of many issues discussed at the National Forum for Youth. The majority of Dialogue participants that did comment on Iraq were supportive of the Canadian decision to not contribute to the U.S.-led coalition.

Additional issues:

  • The government should engage Canadians in discussions about the long-term consequences of entering a ballistic missile defence system.
  • Attention is needed to other conflicts where Canada could play a role to mediate a settlement or otherwise contribute to a lasting peace: Central America, Africa, and Israel.


Terrorism and International Crime

  • Contributors raised the question about an appropriate response to terrorism. Concern was expressed about abuse of civil rights.
  • Canada should avoid becoming a terrorist target by distinguishing Canada from the U.S. in its foreign policy. One author suggests that -Terrorism is a US construct. "We are not in danger unless we become indistinguishable from them."
  • Canada should increase its sharing of intelligence with its international allies.

Conflict prevention

  • Canada should undertake to foster trust and confidence in areas of potential conflict.
  • Canadian policy should work to halt the growing discrepancy between rich and poor, as this is a major source of instability.


  • The common definition of security should be widened to include environmental concerns. Environmental considerations should play a greater role in policy development.
  • By straining resources for economic benefit, Canada is endangering its security.
  • Favourable tax incentives should be offered to companies using environmentally friendly technologies.


  • Canada should increase its ability to prevent and respond to famine.
  • Combatting disease is made more difficult by patent rights in the pharmaceutical industry. Canada should work with other countries to make regulation in this area more favourable to developing countries in times of health crisis.


  • Canada should emphasize a multilateral approach to foreign policy through ongoing, not ad hoc, commitments. Foreign policy should be proactive, support multilateral organizations, working to increase their legitimacy and scope.
  • Institutions that have global involvement, particularly the United Nations, should be most supported. Canada should maintain membership in the G8, but recognize that it excludes the majority of international voices.
  • Canada should judge its multilateral commitments by the achievements of participation, "being a part of an organization isn't enough on its own."
  • The capacity of the UN and impartial bodies to monitor and prevent conflict over natural resources should be strengthened (e.g. Congo, Angola).



  • The Canadian military is no longer able to make meaningful contributions to any of its mandated spectrum of operations, from peacekeeping to combat roles.
  • The preference remains for the Canadian Forces to serve primarily as peacekeepers.
  • There is a link between a strong Canadian Forces and Canadian sovereignty.


  • The Canadian Forces should focus on peacekeeping activities. An increase in combat capabilities would increase pressure on Canada to support or go against the United States, and make Canada a target for terrorism and aggression.
  • The military should be small, specialized, and well-equipped, with a high priority on intelligence gathering and analysis. International activities would be focussed in areas where Canada has expertise.
  • The role of the Canadian Forces in resource monitoring and protection should be increased. Water should be seen as a genuine security issue. Canada's policy should be clearly articulated.
  • The combat capability of the Canadian Forces should only be used for the defence of Canada, or as party international coalitions.
  • The Department of National Defence should look for cost-efficiencies internally to meet funding pressures.
  • The Canadian Forces should increase cooperation with civil society organizations to foster lasting peace in conflict-prone regions.



  • Canada's efforts to remove or reduce tariffs, and to provide trade-related financial assistance to developing countries, are positive steps in sharing the benefits of global trade.
  • Canada should seek to broaden trade and economic partnerships with the EU, emerging powers, and developing countries.


  • Canada should work in partnership with developing countries and not exploit them. Institutions that govern trade should be mindful of the human impact of their regulations and rulings.
  • Canada should work to de-link trade and security to avoid economic retaliation by the U.S. for Canada's decision not to be involved in the war in Iraq. National Forum participants suggested that Canadian security could be increased by developing new trade relationships.
  • Canadian companies operating abroad should be required to meet high labour and environmental standards; this enables them to provide economic benefits, as well as a positive example to local firms.
  • Canada should change its tax policies to retain professionals, in particular in the field of medicine, instead of "robbing" them from developing countries where they are more desperately needed.
  • Canada should promote, through the United Nations, an international standard of human rights to which international traders should subscribe. If they fall below the specified levels, their trade would be penalized.

Foreign Assistance

  • Canada should avoid the practice of aid tied to the purchase of Canadian goods and services as it "distorts development priorities in recipient countries and frustrates coordinated planning."
  • Canada should be mindful that the treatment of Aboriginal Peoples creates hypocrisy in discussions of foreign assistance. Attempts to improve the living standards in developing countries should be matched among Canada's poor.



  • The best way to promote values is to demonstrate them in the daily actions of the Canadian government and its citizens.
  • Canadian values need to be better defined before they can actively be promoted.


  • Canadian values need to be better defined before they can actively be promoted.
  • Canadians should be better educated in their democratic and human rights. By promoting these rights domestically, Canada has greater legitimacy to promote these principles in its foreign policy.
  • DFAIT should increase the amount of cultural promotion undertaken in its missions abroad.
  • Cultural tourism in Canada should be promoted as a way for the world to learn about Canada.

Intercultural/Interfaith Dialogue

  • Canada should take advantage of its multi-ethnic makeup to facilitate bridges between cultures and ethnicities internationally.