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Town Halls >> Reports on Town Halls >> Montréal

Summary Report

Minister Graham's Townhall Meeting

Montréal (Gesu Hall), Friday, February 14, 2003

Anne Leahy, Director of the Institut d'Etudes International de Montréal, opened the meeting by welcoming Minister Graham and introducing the moderator (Marc Larendeau, journalist, Société Radio Canada).

The moderator introduced the Minister and the three panellists:

  • Security - Michel Fortmann, Professeur, Département des Sciences Politiques, Université de Montréal;
  • Prosperity - Pierre Fortin, Professeur, Département des Sciences Economiques, UQAM); and
  • Values and Culture - Iris Almeida, Director, Policy, Programs and Planning, Rights and Democracy.


There were a total of 42 interventions during the three sessions. Participants included representatives from the Canadian Peace Alliance, Oxfam Québec, Association du Québec des organisations de la coopération Internationale (AQOCI), Parti Québecois, Développement et Paix, Droits et Démocratie (Rights and Democracy), Women's Commission of the Liberal Party, Québec; Coalition Paix Juste; and Centre Canadien d'études et de coopération internationale (CECI).

Session on Security

Lead presentation by Michel Fortmann:
Fortmann pointed to Canada being an easy target for the media. He remarked that Canada lost its leadership role in peacekeeping and outlined areas in which Canada is well-positioned to take initiatives, including:

  • Disarmament: he stated that disarmament policy is in crisis since the arrival of the Republican administration in the U.S. Canada's expertise is illustrated in the land-mines treaty.
  • Improvement of existing treaties
  • Protection of civilians in times of war
  • Child protection
  • HIV/ AIDS; and
  • International Criminal Court

Summary of Participants' Comments and Advice:

  • Canada's security policy should commit at least equal resources for peace as for preparation for war; As well, greater funding should be allocated for peace studies at universities to match the federal funding for war studies (Security Forum funding).
  • We have to do everything to prevent war: With or without a UN resolution: no war against Iraq.
  • For Canada to be secure, it needs to respect the UN Charter.
  • If initiated, this war against Iraq would be illegal, illegitimate, and against the will of the majority of Canadians. We want a real debate.
  • If Canada joins the U.S. in a war against Iraq, it would be in violation of international law.
  • Does UN Resolution 1441 authorize recourse to war? And if it does, could there be a second resolution?
  • Canada should undertake the same role with weapons of massive destruction as it pursued with landmines.
  • The Parti Québécois opposes the war on Iraq.
  • The Women's Commission of the Liberal Party of Canada states their opposition to war. Women and children are the main victims of war.
  • Canada should do everything it can to positively influence the U.S.: "You don't let your friends drive drunk."
  • The U.S. retains weapons of mass destruction and this represents a threat. If we want security for Canada, we should distance ourselves from the U.S.
  • The security of Canadians abroad lies on the clear distinction between Canadians and Americans. In Bolivia, Canadians have to claim, "we are not gringos."
  • There is a difference between a just war and moral war. In its wars, the U.S. targets electricity, drinking water, etc.
  • There are tensions in other areas, such as Israel. We hope that Canada takes a clear stand on this conflict.
  • We have been waiting for Israel to respect UN resolutions and no action is being taken. Why such inequitable treatment between Iraq and Israel?
  • The U.S. is behaving egotistically. Our two primary considerations on foreign policy matters (i.e. multilateralism and Canada-U.S. relations) are bound to clash. We need to reinforce our positions.
  • Indication of birthplace in Canadian passports leads to racial profiling and "witch hunts." The human rights of all Canadian citizens (regardless of birthplace) must be respected.
  • "There is a relative unanimity in this room about no war and the unequal treatment of Israel."
  • The U.S. has not signed the Kyoto protocol, has not signed the landmines treaty, and we are being asked to follow the U.S. into a war to ensure their access to a resource (petroleum) that is becoming obsolete. Europe is closer to Iraq and is not feeling threatened. This war is about petroleum.
  • This war is globalization by different means.
  • Security does not result from war, but through sustainable development.
  • Security also lies in the aid that developing countries can receive from the developed countries.
  • The 'three pillars' should be redefined as follows: promotion of tolerance and of understanding; promotion of sustainable development; and promotion of peace and justice.

Summary of Security Comments Made During the Two Other Sessions:

  • Canada needs to pay more attention to the conflict in the Middle East (i.e. Israel). The Middle East has been abandoned.
  • Canada should act to ensure that the Security Council would never allow war. War is never inevitable.
  • If we tolerate illegal actions by our neighbours today, we should not object to illegal actions by others tomorrow.
  • If the U.S. decides to penalize Canada economically for our sovereign decision not to go to war, then that is the price that many Canadians are prepared to pay.

Session on Prosperity

Lead presentation by Pierre Fortin:

  • Prosperity should be addressed as development and prosperity.
  • Canada, as a member of international institutions, should be very critical of their budgets and policies.
  • In the last decade, the developing countries that have succeeded are those that have not followed the IMF policies. By contrast, those that have followed IMF policies have not succeeded.
  • In Québec, the biggest success has been seen in the field of education reform. In terms of specialization, our development aid dollars should focus on education and health.
  • The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) led to enormous success. Canadian enterprises experienced an explosion in their exports to the U.S. and to Mexico. However, NAFTA also has weaknesses (e.g. rules for investment).

Summary of Participants' Comments and Advice:

  • Our economic development policies should be tied to human rights values.
  • The Middle East is a region with the greatest deficiency in democracy and respect for women. Canada should contribute to the development of democracy in Arab countries.
  • Chapter 11 of NAFTA is a disaster for the environment and employment. For example, the maquiladora industry left Mexico to go to China.
  • Increase foreign aid, and that increase should be continuous.
  • Is NePAD really a solution for Africa's development, while a large number of African countries are at war?
  • CIDA gives money but has no audit system. It relies on the UN. Canada thus loses control.
  • How do we help new immigrants to become Canadians and learn values and rights since they often come from cultures that do not share our values?
  • Continue trade with emerging powers, but not at the expense of human rights. Human rights are the first obligations of states and include economic and political rights.
  • The three pillars do not address important priorities and should be reformulated.
  • Our three pillars differ from agreement to go to war. We need to reinforce the multilateral international governance systems to stop U.S. domination.
  • The people of Iraq need financial aid. Canada should look to assist Iraq.
  • You cannot do business without peace.
  • Canada needs to take into consideration that a war on Iraq would upset many countries that are important to Canada.
  • Twenty years ago, everybody was watching Japan and worrying about their economic power. It is no longer the case. How long will U.S. prosperity last?

Session on Values and Culture

Lead presentation by Iris Almeida:
Four challenges for foreign policy were identified:

  • Continued support for civil society: Canada's foreign policy must give full recognition to contributions of civil society (at home and abroad), and continue to support civil society engagement. In particular, civil society contributions regarding the promotion and protection of human rights should be given further attention. The efforts of civil society have demonstrated concrete results and have contributed to the excellent reputation of Canada.
  • The recognition and protection of universal values and of common objectives: Our foreign policy should not be seen in terms of the export of Canadian values, but as our important and unique contribution to the common objectives and projects of humanity.
  • Support for multilateral institutions: Canadian foreign policy must support the work of the institutions of the United Nations. Multilateralism is more important than ever.
  • Maintaining a Human Rights Framework: We must ensure that human rights principles guide our work for each one of the three pillars of the Canadian foreign policy.

Recommendations for action:

  • Canada should take on a leadership role with respect to the international recognition of the rights of Indigenous Peoples.
  • In relation to the Americas, Canada should lead by example and ratify human rights conventions (in particular, the American Human Rights Convention).
  • The discussion paper for A Dialogue on Foreign Policy does not make any mention of the work accomplished by Canada in relation to women's rights and the status of women. Women have played a significant role since the last foreign policy review.
  • Canada must increase its resources for consulting and monitoring the conduct of Canadian businesses abroad. Canadian businesses must respect universal human rights in Canada and in developing countries.

Summary of Participants' Comments and Advice:

  • It is important to consult Canadians.
  • Canada should facilitate the work of NGOs and encourage the involvement of 'volunteer cooperators' that can help promote Canadian values.
  • CIDA should be involved in sustainable development.
  • We should distinguish our policies from those of the U.S. and respect Canadian sovereignty.
  • We should show strong opposition to U.S. unilateralism.
  • Canada should organize more consultations and involve other departments and governments in these efforts.
  • International institutions should establish guidelines for mining companies. The activities of mining companies should be monitored by independent bodies.
  • We need to address the plight of the unemployed and those populations that have not benefited from globalization.
  • We should aim for 'prosperity for all' rather than 'prosperity of the few.' Canada should not export a culture of greed.
  • NAFTA is not good for citizens; it is only good for businesses.
  • The value of human rights should be integral to our international trade polices. Trade has encouraged human rights violations (e.g. NAFTA, WTO). Before Canada signs any trade agreement, an impact study should be undertaken.
  • Canada's foreign policy should be based on the well-being of people and of the planet.
  • Canada should initiate and support a ban on nuclear weapons.