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 4

Dialogue on Foreign Policy - Weekly Report

March 5 - March 12, 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.

This report summarizes comments and recommendations received from Wednesday, March 5, 2003 to Tuesday, March 11, 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

Replies to questions


Discussion Groups Messages


Registered participants


Site Visits


Minister's Townhalls:

No Townhalls were held during the week.




Many participants appear concerned that Canadian foreign policy is overly dependent on U.S. demands. They indicate that our foreign policy needs to be distinguished from that of the U.S. and reflect Canadian public opinion.





"Security comes from openness, not erecting walls."

"I think Mr. Chrétien did a good job representing the views of the majority of Canadians in his ABC TV interview with George Stephanopoulos. I totally agree with his opinion, especially the 'regime change' aspect."

"The Canadian government should always condemn any act of torture from any country. I think the Canadian government should *immediately* ask for clarifications from the US regarding the deaths of some detainees in Bagram (Afghanistan), and I hope that the culprits will be put to trial as rapidly as possible. I want Canada to immediately condemn this! The US is supposed to represent liberty and human rights, not the opposite."









"Where most powers will maintain a military in order to force their own will on others, Canada maintains a military in order to carry out the will of others, most usually the United States."

"Military action and curtailing of personal freedoms are contradictory to peace and security."

"Military combat operations are undoubtedly necessary to lend a greater measure of stability to unstable situations and to protect non-combatants."







"I agree with Prime Minister Jean Chrétien when he said that the rich world has to share more with the poor countries."







"Morality and long-term national interests must be placed above short-term trade interests."











"If we are agreed on the above values, then we must view every foreign policy decision through the lens of these values. We must start vigorously opposing any requests that these rights should be abrogated for Canadians..."



"I believe that every person has the right to Enough To Eat, Clean Water, A Home, Health Care, Education, A Livelihood, a Safe Environment, Protection from Violence, Equality of Opportunity, and a Say in the Future."


This report summarizes comments and recommendations received from Wednesday, March 5, 2003 to Tuesday, March 11, 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.


"The most important aspects of Canadian foreign policy, I think, should be to promote personal safety, freedom of expression and prosperity among ALL peoples of the world. Our safety, freedom of expression and prosperity only exist if everyone's exist."

"Canada's foreign policy should always include fundamental freedoms, democratic rights, mobility rights, legal rights, equality rights, language rights, educational rights, cultural rights, social and economic rights, and the rights of minority groups."

"In this post-9/11 era, foreign policy of influential nations like the United States, Israel and Australia has been shaped solely by domestic security and nationalist factors. We can no longer rely on the U.S. - the world's only superpower - for a balanced and humanitarian foreign policy. To fill this vacuum, Canada must be prepared to respond to the next Rwanda, Bosnia, or Haiti. It must be willing to draw the world's attention to the plight of victims of war, famine, poverty and disease - even in parts of the world few care about. Such a foreign policy would be reflective of all Canadian values."

"Canada has enormous opportunity to be a strong influence for democracy, acceptance and valuing of all people in the world."

"Greater citizen participation has to begin at home. Canadians have to become more engaged in the work of the international organizations. Right now, sitting in my home, it is very difficult for me as a citizen to become meaningfully engaged in an ongoing dialogue with international organizations. This electronic forum is a good example of what can be done, but we need more of this. The Government of Canada needs to take an active role in communicating with Canadians and with encouraging Canadians to become more involved in these international organizations."


Our foreign policy should be based on Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Our policies should reflect these values and we should encourage other countries to adopt similar values.



  • Among the conclusions presented by participants:
    Our close trading relationship with the U.S. is sometimes forcing Canada to sacrifice the expression of Canadian values.


  • Canada should support the U.S. on Iraq (a minority view).



  • Participants most frequently expressed that Canada must do everything in its power to prevent war in Iraq.

Other Conflicts Mentioned

Cyprus, Sri Lanka, Israel, Columbia, Chechnya, post-Saddam Iraq scenarios.



  • Among the frequently expressed opinions: The world cannot enjoy peace and security until poverty reduction and prosperity exist throughout the world.


  • Canada should incorporate more "trust-building" initiatives into its foreign policy.

International Crime/Terrorism

  • Threats to Canada do not come from foreign governments but from terrorism. Our foreign policy must denounce terrorist activities and work to ensure that legitimate grievances are addressed before groups turn to violence.

Immigration and Refugee Policy

  • Canadians falsely think that they will not be future targets of terrorism. Instead the government must increase be more vigilant in immigration and refugee policies and increase support of security agencies.


  • Canada's foreign policy should emphasize sustainable development.


  • Canada should continue to work with like-minded states.
  • International organizations are the best fora to address global problems including poverty, disease, environmental degradation and terrorism. "Supporting the development and growth of international organizations with different areas of interest and representing different areas, is the best way to establish a decentralized and democratic approach to global governance."
  • Canada should work to ensure international organizations do not pursue an ethnocentric agenda.
  • We need to strengthen the United Nations (UN). In our efforts to the UN system, we need to recognize its failures (particularly in conflict prevention).
  • Canada should continue to support the International Criminal Court.
  • UN headquarters should be "moved out of New York" to prevent U.S. intelligence agencies from interfering with its activities.



Among the frequently expressed opinions:

  • Canada should continue its emphasis on peace keeping.
  • Canada cannot afford to support a large military. We therefore must specialize and become 'niche experts' in roles such as peace keeping or intelligence gathering. The military would then be able to coordinate and contribute more effectively to its international obligations.


  • "Our military must be in a position to act against all those who violate international law or commit crimes against humanity. This is necessary to ensure that other peoples of the world see Canada as a fair and independent nation, not a weak adjunct to the United States. More importantly, the Canadian military must be structured in a way that is conducive to Canadian geography, command, and control, and not for coordination with other military powers that are almost always acting with hidden agendas."



  • Numerous contributors argue that trade should not take a 'back seat' to the Canadian values such as human rights, democracy, environment protection, fair labour practices, prosperity for all, among others. A minority recommend that trade with emerging powers should not be contingent on adherence to these standards.


  • We need to re-evaluate NAFTA as it does not promote Canadian interests and sometimes harms Canadian values.
  • Canada should increase its work with not-for-profit organizations.
  • We should "be environmentally, socially and managerially responsible in all our dealings - at home and abroad." Canada should promote "fair trade, not necessarily free trade." Above all, we should not exploit the labour forces of developing countries.
  • Trade with emerging markets, and the promotion of free trade should be encouraged.

Foreign Assistance

  • Canada should increase the amount of aid it gives to developing countries.
  • Contributors are mostly supportive of greater foreign assistance, with some arguing that helping developing countries is a responsibility.
  • One participant suggested that supporting economic equality in all countries should be the main pillar of Canada's foreign policy.
  • Canada should increase the number of capacity building initiatives through teacher exchanges to developing countries.
  • Canada must ensure that foreign aid reaches its intended recipient (s) and not diverted for undesirable uses.



  • Participants continue to articulate that Canada should adhere to a foreign policy based on Canadian values. One participant noted that Canadian values are closer to those of European states.


  • The values expressed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights should form the basis of our foreign policy.
  • Canada should promote human rights, democracy and rule of law. Other values to promote include: fairness and reciprocity, a sense of moral obligation to assist poor and less fortunate, tolerance, and right to privacy.
  • Educational and cultural exchanges should be encouraged.
  • The Canadian government should increase funding for arts and culture; promote exchanges of artists and educators; and student exchanges where participants live with host families.
  • We should work with multilateral and international organizations that promote the values of diversity and respect for all cultures.

Intercultural/Interfaith Dialogue

  • While interfaith dialogue is important, the government has no role in it.



The following is a list of suggestions for DFAIT from one participant. Through these measures, Canada's foreign policy could better integrate sustainable development principles, the participant argued.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade should:

  • Incorporate social development and environmental objectives and standards into trade agreements (e.g. universal minimum standard on social provisions);
  • Review past trade agreements to strengthen social development/environmental outcomes;
  • Advance Canadian social and environmental standards in trade policy;
  • Ensure trade agreements are developed in transparent, accountable, and participatory fashion;
  • Promote efforts to ensure that less-developed countries are treated fairly in trade rules, including fair access to Canadian markets and assistance to developing countries to negotiate and implement multilateral trade agreements;
  • Incorporate social development and environmental objectives into trade and export subsidies and programs and foreign direct investment policies;
  • Promote corporate responsibility and accountability, fair trade, company codes of conduct, and social and eco-labelling standards. We should develop a framework convention on corporate accountability/corporate social responsibility;
  • Advance the development of a global social policy that builds upon Canada's national social policy of a strong social safety net, universal health care and education, etc.;
  • Audit the extent to which current international institutions support social development and environmental sustainability; promote social development and environmental issues at international fora;
  • Serve fair trade coffee at DFAIT/international meetings (e.g. the G-8 meetings in Alberta last June served certified fair trade coffee at every venue).