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News >> Bulletin >> Bulletin 2

Dialogue on Foreign Policy - Weekly Report

February 19 - February 25, 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. John's, March 3, 2003

Townhall in Charlottetown, March 4, 2003

Townhall in Halifax, March 4, 2003

Townhall in Saint John, March 5, 2003



Major Themes

The potential for conflict with Iraq continues to be a major theme in discussions. An increasing number of participants suggest that Canada has not met its international commitments. Concerns regarding the environment continue.

"The Canada-US relationship must be the central theme in our foreign policy. If it were not for that relationship, we would be even more marginalized internationally than we are now."

"Canada has a lot more bargaining power vis--vis the U.S. than our government has often been willing to recognize and exercise."

"It is not enough to promote justice and social well-being as values, then turn around and abrogate these values in our border arrangements with the United States or by endorsing U.S. unilateralism in relation to Iraq."

"Our security is far more closely tied to our track record on human rights issues, foreign aid, and global justice ... than on battle tanks and leaky English submarines."

"I believe that Canada needs to return to a long-lost role as peace keepers, fostering peace between and with other nations. This means diminishing [or] eliminating our military spending, and distributing more funds through humanitarian work (i.e. CIDA)."

"Since the early 1960's we have forgotten two lessons: (1) that a second class military is an expensive national indulgence; and (2) that nature abhors a vacuum and if we don't defend our sovereignty, somebody will do it for us."

"Humanitarian efforts and military operations are not mutually exclusive. For example, responses to humanitarian crises in high threat environments, such as in failed states, require combat-capable forces as much as aid workers and humanitarian organizations."

"Nobody likes a freeloader and the view of Canada from its colleagues in these organizations ranges from embarrassment on the part of the more charitable to real scorn by others who consider Canada at best platitudinous and at worst hypocritical."

"Canada should form a coalition to negotiate a more symmetrical multilateral trade deal where the U.S. doesn't hold all the cards and change the rules in its narrow self-interest."



























"In addition to increasing funding to foreign aid, we have to start using Canadian expertise in the fields of agriculture, science, technology and medicine to help other nations become self-sufficient and secure."

"We should continue to look for ways to be more democratic in our decision making at home."









"While we should never impose our values on others, there are times when we must intervene in another country's affairs. There are times when we must stop listening to reason, and start listening to our conscience."

Quote of the week

"I suspect the issue is less one of attempting to create a foreign policy more closely attuned to Canadians' concerns and priorities than in investing a foreign policy with the leadership, resources and moral and intellectual consistency to make it effective."


This report summarizes comments and recommendations received between February 15, 2003 and February 25, 2003. Highlights of the week's activities are provided in the left margin.

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).



"Reflecting the concerns and priorities of Canadians requires a process that now doesn't exist. This Dialogue is a good start. Drawing civil society into the Dialogue is important."

"Canadians welcome your invitation to comment on Canada's foreign policy at the start of the 21st century."


With regard to the Three Pillars: "Taken together, it all sounds a bit more uppity than we naturally are. It also sounds awfully 'committee.' Why not just 'Keeping Canada safe by making the rest of the world a bit more tolerable?"

"Ambiguity often serves the needs of political efforts and maintaining international relations but foreign policy directives should be clear."

There is broad support for the Three Pillars, though several participants remark that they are too vague, self-interested, or lack sufficient attention to environmental concerns. The promotion of Canadian interests is mentioned less frequently than the advocacy of values, but interests deemed essential include the protection of Canadian citizens (domestically and internationally), domestic economic security and stability, global security, the maintenance of sovereignty, and the sustainable management of resources.

Support for Canadian membership in multilateral institutions continues, though there is increasing discussion that Canada should commit fully to these arrangements or risk losing credibility.



  • While the majority of contributors recommend taking more aggressive positions on negotiations vis--vis the United States (e.g. not supporting military action against Iraq, withdrawing from NAFTA, etc.), a minority argue that Canada should not jeopardize its close relationship with the U.S., which they cite as the main source of Canada's economic prosperity and security.


  • Canada should not share information with the United States that could later be used against Canadian citizens.
  • Participants continue to argue for a foreign policy less dependent on U.S. needs and interests.


Concern Over Iraq

  • The majority of responses express concern over a possible Canadian role in military intervention in Iraq. Participants continue to favour diplomatic efforts through the United Nations.


  • Canada should work to alleviate poverty, competition over resources and other root causes of conflict, but must adopt a cautious approach to intervention.

Conflicts Discussed

  • Israel, India and Pakistan, North Korea, Chechnya

    "Our security is far more closely tied to our track record on human rights issues, foreign aid, and global justice ... than on battle tanks and leaky English submarines."



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



  • Canada should increase its attention devoted towards sustainable development and environment protection. The government also should promote the defence of biological diversity and meet the commitments of the Kyoto Protocol.
  • Resource depletion and unequal distribution give rise to conflict. Hence, Canadian policy should be able to advocate responsible, long-term resource management.


  • Canada should do more to address the problem of AIDS in Africa, and the lack of medical care for people in North Korea and Iraq.


  • Canada, a country with limited resources and influence, can best articulate its foreign policy through multilateral institutions. A minority of participants suggest that a failure to fulfill existing commitments is harmful to Canada's international credibility and future multilateral membership.
  • Several participants state that the Organization of American States (OAS) is an irrelevant "old boys club." However, one participant suggests that the OAS could become more important in light of the negotiation of the FTAA.
  • Canada should lobby for UN Security Council reform to prevent permanent members using the veto against the will of the majority. Also, within the UN, Canada should promote a renewed emphasis on its founding principles.



  • Participants continue to favour national defence and peace keeping as the primary roles for the Canadian Forces. However, greater support has emerged for increased military funding to enable the Canadian Forces to perform a diversity of roles and activities abroad.
  • Canada must ensure that it is fully able live up to its commitments to international alliances. Otherwise, it should not participate.


  • Canada should focus on initiatives such as Disaster Assistance and Relief Teams (DART) that could respond to both civil defence and overseas emergencies. In addition, Canada should develop specialized teams that could rapidly respond to foreign conflicts and/or domestic emergencies by offering services including policing, repair and emergency operation of key infrastructure, planning, communications and logistics networks.
  • Canada's intelligence gathering and analysis capabilities should be increased. In particular, surveillance of coastlines, the Arctic, and border crossings should be key priorities.
  • RCMP presence at borders and ports should be increased. The RCMP should also be more integrated into Canadian Forces missions abroad, playing a role by providing peace support and training for local police forces.
  • The Canadian Forces should be better equipped and less reliant on allies to transport them to conflict and emergency sites.



  • Participants express concern regarding the constraints NAFTA and the WTO impose on Canadian policy. While the majority of responses continue to support free trade, a significant number suggest the incorporation of labour, human rights, and environmental standards into existing and future agreements.
  • Economic prosperity is consistently seen as contingent upon international peace and security; also, wider economic prosperity will increase security, some participants said.
  • Canada should continue to promote free trade and explore emerging markets in Asia to help lessen our economic dependence on United States while remaining mindful of human rights, labour, and environmental practices.
  • Several participants suggest that Canada should either pull out of NAFTA, or renegotiate sections such as Chapter 11. Others recommend that Canada should increase trade relations with Mexico and Brazil and base a new regional agreement on those relations.
  • Canada should promote its high quality of life, economic and social stability as a means of attracting foreign investment.
  • Domestically, the government should support rural infrastructure in Canada and encourage de-urbanization.
  • Canada should focus on increasing prosperity of developing countries, and could use its close relationship with the United States to encourage it do the same.

Foreign Aid and Capacity Building

  • Canada should be more active in providing foreign assistance to developing countries but should target education (especially in fields such as engineering) and environmentally sustainable projects. Participants argue that spreading assistance too thinly ensures that it will be ineffective. Canada could also provide education and training to more foreign students and professionals.
  • Canada could also provide financial support and expertise directly to foreign businesses to help them improve labour practices and find affordable solutions to the industrial pollution problem. Canada should also support low-interest loans and provide support to low-income individuals wishing to start a business or co-operative.



  • Participants continue to support Canadian advocacy of values including human rights, democracy, respect for diversity and gender equality. Many emphasize that Canada can best promote these values through example.
  • Canadian culture is able to promote itself. The appeal of Canadian artists and personalities abroad does more to promote Canadian culture than government policy can accomplish.


  • Canada should promote transparent, open democracy with strong minority protection safeguards. Additional values to be promoted include fair and peaceful conflict resolution, international peace and security, and environment protection.
  • Canada should use the principles of the UN Declaration on Human Rights and the Canadian Charter of Human Rights to guide foreign policy.

Intercultural/Interfaith Dialogue

  • Canada should work towards increased understanding of the Arab world and wider Muslim world.
  • Cultural and educational exchanges should be increased as a mechanism to improve intercultural and interfaith understanding.
  • One participant suggests that interfaith dialogue is not a productive means to promote international security since religious extremism is rooted in poverty and disenfranchisement rather than a lack of intercultural understanding.