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News >> Bulletin >> Bulletin 9

Dialogue on Foreign Policy - Weekly Report

April 9 - 15, 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 9, 2003 and Tuesday, April 15, 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

50, 954

Paper Printed

20, 748

Registered participants

1, 351

Replies to questions

2, 028


Townhalls Held:

Vancouver - April 14, 2003
Victoria - April 15, 2003

Expert Roundtables Held:

Focus on Human Security
Vancouver - April 14, 2003

Focus on Global Environmental Issues
Victoria - April 16, 2003


Quotes of the week

"Foreign policy is not a commodity, it shouldn't be traded and compromised on a whim. We need a solid contract with the world."

"Canada's stake in the future should be based on increasing our commitment to internationalism, the rule of law, and a world society based on mutual respect and celebration of diversity: i.e. the internationalism of the Canadian Cultural Mosaic."

"Canada's interests are prosperity, security, and a sense of independence. Our interests align closely with those of the U.S., and therefore, we should have a foreign policy similar to the American one. We can pursue our sense of independence by asserting a differing view from the Americans when it doesn't affect our security or prosperity."

"It is important that Canada be seen around the world as a nation that can make decisions for itself and not just kowtow-ing to US or multinational business interests."

"Everything depends on peace. No economic prosperity, no exchange of culture can occur if there is not peace. We must present not a pacifist policy, but one that will bring peace. We must have the willpower and the means to bring peace conflict zones."

"As Canadians we should support the building of a multilateral peace keeping force within the United Nations that does not include a Security Council with individual countries having veto powers. This force should have a mandate to protect individuals, not countries."

"Broader security measures, such as combatting environmental degradation, global poverty, climate change, affect the whole world, and therefore should be a concern for every government."

"Inequality = insecurity."

"Canada must have the political will and ability to intervene on behalf of those who cannot protect themselves. This is a fundamental obligation behind the concept of our stated policies of Human Security."

"Canada must strongly support international agreements promoting the protection of the environment. I think we should focus specifically on agreements protecting biodiversity. Yes, we should promote the economy, but with respect for the environment."

"The primacy of international law and diplomatic negotiations in multilateral organizations is the key to security, not only for Canada, but for the entire world."

"The Commonwealth and La Francophonie provide an obvious channel through which Canada can play an important role in assisting the growth of African and Asian countries and secure new ties for future Canadian economic diversification."

"While it is good to remain engaged within the UN, we must not subordinate our foreign policy to the lumbering inability of the organization."

"Our military should be used for peacekeeping initiatives only. I am proud that our troops are involved in rebuilding Afghanistan and not in this horrific war in Iraq."

"We must not tie our hands and say that the only time we will act will be with UN authority - just because the UN is incapable of reaching a principled decision (Bosnia, Rwanda, Iraq, et al) does not mean that action is not justified."

"In combat, our forces have shown that they possess a valour and degree of professional competence that far exceeds our national commitment to their welfare, in that they are embarrassingly underfunded."

"In light of recent world events we should concentrate more on Canadian/North American security before we deploy all our troops in peacekeeping roles."




"Fair trade, respect for international standards of human rights, and the protection of the natural environment should always govern international trade."

"The objective of foreign policy should always be to raise the standards of our trading partners, rather than lowering Canadian standards to meet theirs."

"Globalization spreads itself, and spreads it's own benefits. Trade is almost always a good thing."

"We should cultivate new partnerships with all countries in the world not based on the values espoused by the various 'team Canada' missions of economic self-benefits, but on values of mutual respect, increase cultural mutual knowledge."

"We should leave the future of our economic relations to entrepreneurs."

"Canada must be assured that the control it exercises over education and health must not be compromised by international treaties. The culture of a people is disseminated principally through education and it is unacceptable that education could become a commodity negotiated in the FTAA or another multilateral organization."

"We shouldn't presume that the accident of our wealth makes us wiser."

"In order to claim the moral high ground in our international relationships, we must secure our commitment to these ideals at home: We must practice what we preach."

"We must promote to the world the value of secular democracy throughout the world and actively seek the end to any and all non democratic regimes."

"Encouraging in our children the interest, understanding and respect for the many cultures and experiences that make up the peoples of Canada is a strong investment in Canada's commitment to sharing our own past and culture around the world through a process of mutual respect and interest."

"We absolutely cannot ignore the suffering and privation of others and continue to think of ourselves as moral and civilized. Whatever the cost, the price for not advancing the cause of human rights and dignity and protecting the natural environment is sacrificing our own identity and what we believe we stand for."

"Film, song, theatre and visual arts are all original calling cards. The artists represent our peaceful, multicultural, respectful and welcoming society. Promotion abroad of art produced by Canadians is a non-invasive way do showcase our society."


Prominent Dialogue Themes:

  • The role of Canadian Forces should be to defend Canada and act as a peacekeeping under international (UN) auspices. The military can be effective despite limited resources through coalitions and niche activities such as humanitarian assistance and post-conflict reconstruction.
  • Environmental degradation should be part of an expanded definition of security, particularly conflicts over water resources.
  • Canada must diversify trading partners to lessen dependence on U.S. EU and emerging countries but Canada must consider human rights, labour and environmental practices when signing agreements.
  • Canadian values are best promoted through successful demonstration domestically.



  • Canada sends mixed messages in its relations with the United States, wanting both the benefits of close relations and the ability to take strong, independent stands.
  • Canada-U.S. relations have entered a period of 'significant asymmetry.' Strains in the relationship are becoming more apparent, as demonstrated by the postponement of the Bush visit to Ottawa.
  • The majority of contributors to this issue argue that Canada must reduce economic dependence on the U.S. However, a significant minority suggest that Canada must acknowledge that our prosperity is due to positive economic relations with the U.S. and act accordingly.


  • To offset economic and political dependence on the U.S., Canada should strengthen ties with the European Union.
  • The government should undertake a campaign to educate American citizens and businesses that Canada is their largest trading partner.




  • Canada must participate in multilateral efforts to provide humanitarian assistance and rebuilding of Iraq.
  • While the majority of Dialogue participants continue to support the government decision not to participate in the military intervention in Iraq, an increased number suggest that Canada should have been involved.


  • Canada should support arms control agreements and demonstrate a commitment to international peace by refusing to posses weapons of mass destruction. DFAIT should build on the successful precedent of the landmines treaty and work to limit proliferation in other areas including small arms.
  • Canada should not support the U.S. ballistic missile defence plan and should work to prevent the weaponization of space.
  • Local populations should have the right to say no to weapons of mass destruction entering facilities in their own backyard (Nanoose Bay, Esquimalt).
  • International security organizations should be re-evaluated. The raison d'Ítre of NATO was undermined when the Cold War ended.
  • The recent focus on Iraq has drawn attention away from potential threats to international security, such as North Korea.
  • Canada should become engaged in neglected regions: Central Asia as Islamist fundamentalism becomes more influential, the South Pacific has problems of civil unrest (Fiji) and ethnic conflict (West Papua).
  • U.S. doctrine of preventative war is dangerous.
  • Canada should avoid the role of 'picking up the pieces after every conflict.'
  • Other conflicts mentioned: Tibet, North Korea, West Papua


  • Canada should continue its human security agenda, placing particular emphasis on the promotion of environmental protection/sustainable development and public health assistance to developing countries.

Terrorism and International Crime

  • Canada is not doing enough to prevent terrorists from entering the country establishing operations. Immigration policy should be tightened and intelligence-gathering capabilities increased.

Conflict prevention

  • Canada should occupy the vacancy in international politics for an honest broker in international mediation.


  • Dependence on oil and fossil fuels creates insecurity in the environment and international relations.
  • Kyoto is a symbolic victory, the problem of climate change is not solved and Canada must do more to reduce emissions. Canada can also assist developing countries who may lack the capacity to make necessary adaptations on their own.
  • Kyoto compromises (Canada pushing to get credit for clean energy exports) weaken the Canadian position. Canada must take a principled approach, working closely with the EU.
  • Canada should establish a centre for water education that could concentrate on the study of groundwater resources, the reduction of consumption in North America and circumpolar initiatives in the Arctic Council.
  • The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act must be applied to the review of all CIDA projects. Water diversions and dams, such as the Three Gorges project in China, can create large numbers of environmental refugees as populated areas are flooded.
  • The Arctic is very sensitive to changes in the global climate health. Canada must be more active in the Arctic Council and the UN Environment Programme to protect fragile ecosystem.
  • Canada must work to develop a holistic approach to the environment and sustainable development. Government should support networks that link scientific and social communities, grassroots education programs, and the participation of women. Individuals must become more aware of the environmental implications of their consumption choices.


  • Global "realpolitik" focus on traditional state-centric security causes neglect of security issues posed by threats to global public health.
  • Canadian medical expertise should be shared with developing countries. Also, distributing modern medical supplies.
  • Canada should lobby for the reform of the TRIPS Agreement to allow third world countries greater access to generic drugs to combat epidemics including AIDS.
  • The SARS outbreak highlights the need for greater participation in greater multilateral efforts to control the spread of infectious disease.
  • Greater attention must be paid to mental health, in particular, as part of post-conflict reconstruction.

Human Rights and International Law

  • The principles of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty should be extended to other areas of foreign policy.


  • Being more proactive in international institutions should be made the 4th pillar of Canadian foreign policy.
  • International organizations should work to bridge the gap between rich and poor countries.
  • Canada should not limit participation to geographic organizations (OAS, NATO), but focus also on issue-driven organizations that address the environment, human rights.
  • U.S. actions in Iraq have undermined the UN.
  • The UN Security Council should be reformed so that Permanent representation is based on population totals with veto power replaced by a double majority (requiring a majority of permanent and non-permanent members).
  • Canada should promote the creation of a World Parliament to exist alongside the UN. The Parliament would have seats allocated according to population and the UN would act in a role similar to that of the Canadian Senate.



  • Dialogue contributors continue to debate whether the primary role of the Canadian Forces should be national defence, international peacekeeping, or combat missions.
  • Many favour peacekeeping under the auspices of the UN, though some argue that combat capable forces should be used in other forms of international intervention.


  • Military spending is sufficient and would be more effective if it were directed to more frontline activities with reductions in the resources allocated to HQ.
  • Canadian Forces should be disbanded and resources put into civilian efforts in the areas of disaster relief and humanitarian assistance.
  • Canadians should be made more aware of the successes of recent military operations, for example, the role the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry played in Afghanistan.
  • The military must address the crisis of morale among its soldiers.
  • Distinguish between the military and RCMP - policing functions may be needed in conflicts, but they should not be the responsibility of the Canadian Forces.
  • Increase language training for soldiers going overseas to facilitate respect for local culture and friendly relations with local populations.
  • Greater resources must be directed toward defending Canada's Arctic and coastal territory. Canadian Forces need to work with the U.S. to ensure the security of the continent.
  • Canada should avoid becoming preoccupied with national and continental defence as it is too narrow a focus and will not achieve it's goal of protecting Canadians' security.
  • Canada should develop a rapid deployment force to aid or rescue Canadians trapped in foreign conflicts.



  • Dialogue contributors continue to advocate new economic partnerships as a means of diversifying Canada's trade and lessening dependence on the U.S.
  • Participants suggest that Canada should link its trade policy with the promotion of human rights, labour standards, environmental protection, and social needs. Some argue that trade with countries known to commit human rights abuses is tantamount to condoning abuses, though others suggest that engagement will bring about positive reforms.


  • Trade promotion should be re-oriented toward South America, Europe and China. Francophone economies in Africa are also potential partners.
  • Trade policy should reinforce an agenda of human security. Trade should not be restricted to countries where Canada will derive the greatest economic benefit, but should also be encouraged with developing countries who will also benefit economically.
  • Canada should not sign new trade agreements unless they contain provisions for the protection of labour and environmental standards. Groups that may be marginalized by the impacts of trade agreements should be included in their negotiation.
  • Canada should be mindful that a lack of capacity in emerging countries may make them unreliable partners in the areas of corruption, inefficiency, improper diversion of funds and protection of investments.
  • Canada should work to restrict the ability of multinational corporations to patent genetic materials.
  • Promote poverty eradication in developing countries through their incorporation into the global trading system. Lower tariff barriers and increase trade with South American and African countries.
  • Reduce the application of trade remedies (anti-dumping) to goods from developing countries. Make it easier for small and medium-sized enterprises to import goods. Less expensive imports from developing countries are beneficial to Canadian consumers.
  • Ensure that farmers in Third World countries receive a fair price for their good, i.e. supporting fair trade coffee initiatives, and encouraging Canadian businesses to work with farmers cooperatives.
  • Canadian business should stop being Euro-centric and strengthen ties to Asia through APEC. Canadian businesses should not be fearful of a cultural divide with Asian countries.
  • Canada should strengthen ties with the U.S. along regional lines (Pacific, Great Lakes) and adopt U.S. dollar.

Foreign Assistance

  • Canada should support the reduction or cancellation of developing country debt and discourage use of structural adjustment policies by international financial institutions.
  • Foreign assistance should emphasize the protection of the family as an institution. Policy-makers must consider the impact of foreign policy upon families.
  • Strengthen educational systems in developing countries through sponsorship of Canadian teachers to work abroad.
  • Target aid toward the reduction of the 'digital gap' between developed and developing countries.



  • Canada's ability to credibly export its values is dependant on its domestic adherence to them.
  • The promotion of Canadian cultural products and artists is viewed as a way to promote both Canadian culture and business.


  • Canada should make the promotion of 'strong global democracy' the main pillar of foreign policy.
  • Promote democratic values through engagement of civil society. Reforms led by multilateral institutions are often blocked by unwilling members.
  • Canada should strongly support adherence to the Geneva Conventions.
  • Create new international organizations devoted to the support of human rights/equality.
  • Canada can use its good name in China to influence positive change in human rights and labour practices, and the treatment of Falun Gong practitioners.
  • Canada should establish a 'Radio Free Arabia' as an alternate source of information for citizens of Arab states.
  • Canada needs greater freedom of the press, less media concentration so that Canadians can hear a variety of voices on matters of foreign policy. 'The greatest threat to our concerns and priorities as a nation is the laziness and ignorance of our people in regards to the realities of foreign lands' politics and economics.
  • Work with NZ, Australia and others to create a English language version of TV5, broadcasting internationally programs from smaller countries.
  • Funding for travelling exhibitions of art and culture should be increased. Greater support for cultural touring would create opportunities for cultural promotion and another method for Canadian business to reach new audiences.
  • Canadian sports teams should travel overseas for "friendly" matches.
  • The government should support international programs to increase the interest and ability of Canadians to volunteer overseas and in international-related positions in Canada.
  • Canadian policy development should involve more women and have greater consideration for gender outcomes. Canada must provide better support for the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

Intercultural/Interfaith Dialogue

  • Contributors suggest that Canada can and should do more to facilitate interfaith and intercultural dialogue. One contributor suggests that 'this should be one of our top priorities.'
  • Opponents of a greater Canadian involvement argue that issues of faith are inappropriate for government, or that there are internal debates, conflicts and inadequacies that must be addressed first.