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News >> Bulletin >> Bulletin 8

Dialogue on Foreign Policy - Weekly Report

April 2 - 8, 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.

This report summarizes comments and recommendations received between Wednesday, April 2, 2003 and Tuesday, April 9, 2003. The report includes answers to the discussion paper questions, reports from the Minister's Townhalls and roundtables, correspondence, and Internet discussions (the website is coordinated by the byDesign eLab and eCommons project).

Internet Responses to the Minister's Discussion Paper:

Electronic activities

To date

Site Visits


Paper Printed


Registered participants


Replies to questions



April 4, 2003

Expert Roundtables:

Children's Rights in Canadian Foreign Policy
April 4, 2003

International Council for Canadian Studies
April 5, 2003


"There is no justifiable reason to take our international relations lightly and insult our best friends. We should be able to calmly discuss with friends if we disagree with their tactics. How can we expect them to listen when we systematically insult them?"





"Following the road to war would be shameful and an unpardonable mistake for humanity. We have far more sophisticated weapons to solve our conflicts: thousands of specialists, universities and research institutes studying every area of communications, intercultural relations and peace."









"We need to use our voice as a middle power to condemn the unnecessary use of military force, and encourage the use of diplomatic channels and international law to solve conflicts."





"We have never met an organization we didn't join. I see no reason to change this policy."













"Our military should not be used in combat situations, as those invariably result in killing of innocents as well as destruction of their property. History later proves that those combat missions were unjust."

"The Government, must do more to educate the public to the fact military leaders and soldiers do have a sense of morality, and will not deliberately engage innocent civilians in such actions. They are not killing robots that go after anything that moves. Military Forces can bring hope to oppressed peoples and send criminals to face trial, but as actual practice of this principle (as an intent of the mission) is a relatively new concept to the people and the military, it with take time to prove this is possible."

"To avoid becoming more dependant on its neighbour to the south, to preserve its geopolitical independence and to maintain its rights and prerogatives vis-a-vis its natural resources, Canada should, without question, demonstrate its capacity to act militarily."









"Respect is not generated through a display of force, but through a responsible commitment to peace."





"Car parts, for example, do nothing to promote distinctive identity, but do put bread on the table."





"As a wealthy nation with a comparatively high standard of living, it should be incumbent on us as a good member of the global community to do what we can to project our values, and help bring a better life to those that do not share in our good fortune."

"Anything that Canadians deserve, so to should everyone else have the right to, regardless of race, nationality, or religion. The best way to promote these values is to ensure that Canada is never guilty of participating in any actions that violate these rights, while at the same time encouraging their implementation and enforcement globally."









"Democracy is tough enough. Let us just support an improvement in individual freedom, and not spend too much time exporting our internal debates."

"We lead by example. The way we deal with Canadian First Nations, with Canada's natural resources, with the less advantaged is the way we maintain our world reputation. The way we apply domestically the international covenants (on human rights, environmental concerns, etc.) B that is the way we will be judged and have impact."

"There is nothing wrong with blowing our own horn a little bit more."


This report summarizes comments and recommendations received between Wednesday, April 2, 2003 and Tuesday, April 8, 2003. The report includes answers to the discussion paper questions, correspondence, and Internet discussions. Highlights of the week's activities are provided in the left margin.


Dialogue contributors continue to be preoccupied with the conflict in Iraq. The majority support the government decision not to participate in the U.S.-led coalition, arguing that to have done otherwise would have compromised Canadian values. However, a significant minority suggest that Canada has failed its traditional allies and worry that Canada will face economic or diplomatic retaliation from the United States.

A large number of participants suggest that it is necessary redefine our understanding of security. Contributors argue that an expanded definition should include environmental degradation, threats to civil liberties, and/or issues associated with quality of life, such as access to healthcare or education.

Response to the Dialogue

"I enjoyed the opportunity to discuss issues of Canadian foreign policy, as well as to read the opinions of others. I felt that the range of topics and wording was appropriate, but also felt that some of the questions were leading, or superficial. All in all, this is a very interesting paper, and effective at conveying at least some of the pressing issues in foreign policy for Canada today."

"I am happy to have participated and hope to be part of a similar forum for discussion in the future."

"I am pleased that the Canadian government is considering these issues, and that this kind of public input is accepted. This alone makes us a distinctive nation."



  • An increasing number of contributors call for an end to anti-American rhetoric, suggesting that it does not advance Canadian debates and instead threatens Canada-U.S. relations.


  • Canada should be more aggressive in trade and economic negotiations with the U.S. as "Americans respect and listen to powerful speakers."
  • Disagreements should be handled in a respectful and professional manner.
  • The government of Canada should consider an "EU-type" customs union with the United States to protect the access of Canadian producers to the U.S. market and to prevent disruptive border crossings, as occurred in the aftermath September 11th.



  • The majority of Dialogue contributors support the decision not to participate in the military action in Iraq. They argue that Canadian participation would have been contrary to Canadian values, support for multilateralism and the principles of international law.
  • A significant minority suggest that Canada has shirked its responsibility to contribute to international peace, alienated its allies and risked wider relations with the U.S.

Additional Comments

  • Canada has a responsibility, as a prosperous and peaceful country, to contribute to the safety of others. This responsibility exists despite the distance of many conflicts, or a lack of direct Canadian interests.
  • The Canadian government should be able to ensure the security of Canada and Canadians before contributing to international security.
  • World leaders need to study history and past conflicts in order to gain greater insight into current tensions and possible solutions.
  • Canada should work to strengthen the ability of international law to regulate the use of military force and humanitarian intervention. Canadian support for the International Criminal Court is part of this.

Additional conflicts mentioned: Israel, Pakistan, Balkans.


Terrorism and International Crime

  • Lessening the disparities in wealth between developed and developing countries, as well as inequities within countries, would reduce causes of terrorism and conflict.
  • Canada should increase its intelligence gathering capabilities and cooperate more with other countries to prevent threats to Canadian security. Domestic security forces need to increase their ability to monitor, infiltrate and dismantle possible terrorist cells. The RCMP should recruit more Arabic-speakers.
  • Canada should not support the U.S. war on terrorism as it is too great an infringement on civil liberties. One contributor suggests that it is "an irrational paranoid response to one tragic event."

Conflict prevention

  • Canada should act as an international mediator, seeking peaceful solutions to tensions before they become regional or international conflicts. Canada=s experiences as a successful multicultural and multiethnic society gives it special expertise in balancing group and individual rights.
  • The government should ensure that Canadian business does not directly or indirectly support local conflicts. Canadians need to be more aware of the impact of their actions in conflict-prone regions.


  • Environmental degradation should be considered a security threat and be given a higher profile in foreign policy.
  • Canada can raise awareness of the environment through support for multilateral environmental negotiations and development projects administered by CIDA.
  • Greater attention should be given to the health threats posed by toxins and radioactive materials. These are more immediate threats than climate change and actions taken will have a greater impact.


  • Canada should work to ensure that existing vaccines are made readily available to the developing world and encourage research into new vaccines for diseases found primarily in developing countries.
  • Rehabilitation and mental health must be included when peacebuilding in post-war societies.

Children's Rights

  • The promotion and protection of the rights of children should be included in the formulation of Canadian foreign policy. This includes development assistance focussed on health, early childhood development, and education, as well as the treatment of war-affected children.


  • Canada should focus its resources toward multilateral institutions that best further our values and interests. The goals and principles of these institutions need to be re-examined to ensure that they are compatible with Canadian opinion.
  • International commitments should be undertaken with caution. Canada should avoid being bound by obligations that make it unable to adapt to "rapidly changing global conditions."
  • Canada must offer greater support to the UN or accept part of the blame for its decline. Organizations with broad membership, such as the Commonwealth and Francophonie, permit Canada to continue diplomatic relations with countries which whom it might not otherwise have relations.



  • Contributors suggest a link between participation in military interventions and the risks of future terrorism. Conflict situations are perceived as fuelling desperation and terrorism is one effect of this.
  • Dialogue participants express varying opinions on whether military spending should be increased, decreased, or remain at current levels. Those who favour of an increase in spending frequently associate military strength with Canada=s position in international affairs.
  • While multilateral organizations are considered important contributors to Canadian security, several contributors suggest that if Canada cannot provide for its own defence, its claim to sovereignty is limited.
  • The Canadian Forces must have the capacity to use force, even if not a preferred option it should continue to be in the "toolbox of foreign policy."


  • The Canadian government must give clear direction to its defence policy. A full defence review, including consultations with NATO and U.S. allies, should be undertaken to produce a long-term strategy that emphasizes Canadian strengths and is useful to Canadian allies.
  • The Canadian Forces should concentrate on human security, increasing the amount of aid they distribute, and emphasizing role in disaster relief and post-conflict reconstruction.
  • Foreign activities of the military should be limited to peacekeeping under UN auspices. Canada could also provide leadership in training foreign peacekeepers and local law enforcement to sustain peace.
  • The Canadian Forces should have the capacity to deploy "a free standing, self-sustaining organization for periods up to or exceeding a year, in addition to any long standing commitments such as Bosnia."
  • Canadian Forces should focus on rapid reaction force and strengthen capacity of JTF2 Ability to get to areas quickly, help restore order, then sustain peacebuilding operations.
  • Canadians should receive elementary military-related training so that they can contribute in the event of emergency or threat.
  • Military equipment should be made, to the extent possible, in Canada. Canadian soldiers should not be operating second-hand equipment.



  • Contributors continue to support the diversification of trading partners to increase Canadian prosperity and reduce dependence on the United States. One contributor notes the irony of including multilateralism as a major tenet of foreign policy while having the overwhelming majority of trade with only one country.
  • New partners suggested include: the emerging markets listed in the Dialogue discussion paper, the EU, and the Americas.
  • Human rights and environmental records should play a role in assessing new trading partners. Several contributors question the ability of globalization to bring "benefits," arguing that the phenomenon exploits the population and environment of developing countries.


  • Canada should consider an "EU-type" customs union in North America.
  • New economic partnerships should be viewed as long-term commitments. Canada should not promote short term investments that are not aligned with Canadian values.
  • Canada should advocate structural change in international trade bodies to ensure that they reflect democratic principles and do not simply protect the interests of dominant trading countries.
  • Trade organizations should take early childhood development into greater consideration, performing child impact assessments before trade agreements are implemented. Canada should support work to find alternatives to child labour.
  • Culture should be exempted from trade agreements. Canadian trade policy should not link trade with the promotion of identity.
  • The link between immigration policy and future prosperity must be recognized. Canada should increase total immigration levels, make it easier for individuals to enter Canada on working visas, and approve a higher proportion of skilled immigrants.
  • Canada is sufficiently prosperous in an economic sense. Government policy should concentrate on measures to enhance quality of life, including access to healthcare and education. This focus should be reflected in foreign policy.

Foreign Assistance

  • Canada should continue the discussion on debt-reduction for highly indebted countries.
  • Canada should work to increase the access of developing countries to modern technologies and equipment. Projects in the communications sector could range from creating internet access to enhancing radio networks in very poor or remote areas.
  • Canada could target the management of information, offering financial support and technical advice to develop or strengthen libraries, communications infrastructure, independent media.
  • Increase the control of CIDA over development projects and funding. Promote good governance and democracy through accountability mechanisms associated with Canadian aid. Cases of tied aid should be re-examined to ensure that they benefit the recipients more than Canadian business.
  • Encourage private sector investment in developing countries/regions. Support Canadian public and private sector investments that assist local micro-enterprises.



  • Dialogue contributors continue to suggest that the best way to promote Canadian values is by providing a successful demonstration of them in Canada.
  • Cultural and student exchanges are viewed as particularly important mechanisms for the promotion of Canada. Individuals coming to Canada return with a knowledge and appreciation of Canada which they can then share, and the experiences of Canadians abroad gives them better informed perspectives on the world and Canada=s place in it.


  • Canada should "share" its experiences, not "promote" a set of values. Respect for others means that Canada should not promote its version of a multicultural, multiethnic society as a solution to others, rather, it should present to the world a set of Canadian experiences and let others take from it as they see fit.
  • While not unique in its values, Canada does provide several unique mechanisms for public consultation, ranging from royal commissions to the Dialogue on Foreign Policy. These consultations provide a model for thoughtful citizen engagement in policy-making.
  • Those promoting Canadian identity abroad must counter the outdated image of Canada as "full of Mounties, maple and snow." Canadians must recognize that how we see ourselves may differ radically from how others see us. Perceptions of Canada are often coloured.
  • Where behavior/traditions are not in line with Canadian values, either domestically or abroad, Canadian values should take precedence in government policy.
  • Canadian culture should be promoted by making Canadian accomplishments known worldwide - through support of arts, sciences, amateur athletics, the media. Would also strengthen the self-image of Canadians.
  • Mechanisms for cultural exchange include: exchanges of students and professionals, twinning projects, literature, foreign media, diaspora in Canada, and diplomatic representation.

Intercultural/Interfaith Dialogue

  • Many support efforts to foster intercultural and interfaith dialogue. However, a minority suggest that such efforts risk undermining the separation of church and state.
  • Cultural and faith discussions may be more sensitive in foreign countries than in Canada. Canada should respect this, only offering its expertise as a moderator when requested by the parties directly involved.
  • Canadian multiculturalism demonstrates peaceful incremental change, as immigrants have come from different sources over time. As more countries experience immigration, Canada can demonstrate that co-existence of cultures can be non-violent and valuable to society as a whole.


  • Canada should seek to increase its support for NGOs. Small organizations are often able to "operate under the radar" and influence activities on the ground in a way that is not viewed as interfering or being offensive.
  • Information on foreign policy-related programs and resources needs to be aggregated and accessible to others wanting to learn about Canada.
  • Canadian diplomatic representation abroad must be consistent in the policy and values it promotes. Diplomats and other government officials must be given sufficient information about the countries they are visiting and be well prepared.