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Question 12: Values and Culture

What are the best means for Canada to make its culture and experience known abroad?



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Date: 2003-05-01 20:02:58
A Ministry of Public Witness of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada

Waterloo Lutheran Seminary w Waterloo, Ontario w N2L 3C5
Ph: 519-884-0710 ext 3907 w fax 519-725-2434 w email [email protected]

The Hon. Bill Graham
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Lester B. Pearson Building
125 Sussex Drive
Ottawa Ontario K1A 0G2

April 30, 2003

Re: A Dialogue on Foreign Policy

Dear Mr. Graham;

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the future direction of Canada’s foreign policy. This discussion is most timely given the events in our world that have called into question many of our collective hopes for our global future. The world is being reshaped by many powerful currents and confronted by many viciously destructive realities.

There are many vivid symptoms of these powerful forces at work; The failure of diplomacy and the recent war in Iraq is fresh in our experience. It should remind us of the some 37 other armed conflicts – that do not garner widespread attention – throughout the world that continue to inflict horrific consequence for many people.
The battle against severe acute respiratory syndrome, the fear of West Nile Virus, and the fight to combat HIV and AIDS remind us of the frailty of human life in a world
that also sees 11,000 children die every day of hunger and preventable diseases.
We have witnessed the exponential growth of transnational corporations from an estimated 7,000 in 1970 to some 44,000 in 1998 and the perception that corporate
interests drive decisions.
We are troubled by the increasing gap between rich and poor which saw the divide between the richest 20% and the poorest 20% grow from 30 to 1 in the 1960s to 78 to 1 by 2000.
Poverty and hopelessness are further exacerbated by the crushing mountain of $US 2 trillion debt. It overwhelms many poor countries. In response, our international
system forces the thirty-three poorest among them to pay $3 in debt service for every $1 they receive in development assistance. The consequence is that many of the most vulnerable people are denied access to health care and basic primary education.
The human ecological footprint on the planet has an ever-increasing impact and affects the quality of life of all people. As part of the affluent twenty-percent of the
world’s population, we have a particular responsibility since we use 17 times the energy resources of the poorest twenty-percent.
The economic forces within our world seem to be imposing a commercial culture on people where they are no longer family, neighbours and citizens but consumers, employees and clients. At the same time there has been erosion in public confidence in governments to safeguard the well being of people and communities.
Sadly, we are painfully aware of those who would perniciously use faith as a justification for their will to power. The effects and consequences of their actions undermine the nobler contributions of faith communities to human well being.
Some have argued that we have reached the “end of history” when human choices no longer seem to matter. This is a most worrisome fatalistic view. As Christians we believe that our very nature as human beings requires of us a moral agency to make choices based upon our beliefs, values, and principles. As a national community, we agree with the Foreign Policy Dialogue Paper’s assumption that our foreign policy should be an expression of our collective ethical values. It is fundamental to the writing of the future human story of the global human family. Therefore, we would argue that rather than being merely one of “three pillars,” it should be the cornerstone of policy development. Benefits, such as increased security and human well being, may ensue but are not the imperatives for our choices. Further, we believe that by definition this implies that Canada is obligated within the family of nations to have its own views of important questions and provide an independent foreign policy. To do otherwise would be less than an honest expression of who we are. This means that priority should be given to our values in developing and maintaining a coherent foreign policy.

As we make choices, we must be mindful of the destination that ultimately directs our journey. It is our view that our efforts must involve building peace, which allows the human community to flourish and God’s creation to be sustained. Some would suggest that peace is the absence of conflict and the establishment of the rule of law that offers people minimal physical security and the opportunity to pursue “prosperity.” In our view this is an incomplete understanding of peace. In the Hebrew and
Christian scriptures, we believe God offers a richer understanding of peace as “shalom.” Shalom offers a view of human fulfillment that respects the dignity of persons,
presses us to restore and renew right relationships with others, and forces us to comply with the obligations of social justice that give preferential attention to the needs of the excluded and forgotten. In practice, a vision of shalom summons nations to pursue what churches in previous foreign policy reviews have called “common human security” as opposed to “national security,” an internationalist approach as opposed to a self-interested “continentalist” approach to international relations.

This vision of shalom has been an object of human longing, is expressed in many of the faith traditions, and is often perceived as unattainable. Realism forces us to
recognize the human capacity for oppression, injustice, and violence and our complicity to “. . . not do the good that we know we should do” as St. Paul quite astutely
admonished the early Christians. Nevertheless, a vision of shalom can help us maintain the proper orientation for our imperfect actions in an imperfect world. As we
stated in our 1998 Social Statement, “Horizons for the Reign of God,”
“Peacemaking does not turn a blind eye to wrongs that have been done, nor does it gloss over them with an easy sense of forgiveness. God’s peace does not allow the
ignoring of wrongs done. Rather we are called to acknowledge places where shalom has been denied or undermined, to repent of this state of affairs, and to commit ourselves to bring about changes that will recover shalom in the future.”

We are heartened by the examples of where such an approach has been evident in Canada’s work in international affairs. We applaud Canada’s leadership in securing an
international treaty to reduce the use of landmines. We endorse Canada’s support of the creation of an international criminal court to prosecute those who violate human rights. We agree with Canada’s decision to ratify the Kyoto protocol to address climate change. We welcomed Canada’s decision to increase official development assistance. And most recently, we commend Canada for its decision not to participate in the pre-emptive use of military force against Iraq. We hope that the Government of Canada will continue in these directions and not compromise its resolve.
Along with our ecumenical partners, we have participated in previous reviews of Canada’s foreign and defense policy. Over the years members of our church have
participated in ecumenical discussions on Canada’s foreign and defense policy with federal political parties, Parliamentary Committees, successive Cabinet Ministers,
and in various United Nations’ forums. As you know, there is a strong ecumenical consensus on foreign and defence policy directions among the Canadian churches. I am aware that you will be receiving other more detailed submissions from churches and ecumenical organizations. I would like to underscore our support for the general direction these submissions recommend.
Within the framework of shalom, the following are recommendations that reflect our hope for a foreign policy founded on and informed primarily by our values;

1) Canada should place a priority on the promotion and defense of human rights. This needs to involve assisting in the development of necessary institutions and
justice systems. Canada should also continue to support the prosecution of human rights violators through such bodies as the international criminal court. The
promotion and defense of human rights should also include economic, social, and cultural rights as outlined in the United Nations’ Conventions. Further particular
attention should be given to the experience of and impact on women.
2) Canada should work to support and strengthen the effectiveness of multilateral institutions such as the United Nations that seek to build peace in the
international community. Conversely, it needs to support changes to those multilateral institutions such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the
World Trade Organization in order to ensure more transparent, fair and accountable decision making.
3) Canada should also undertake a public review of its support of trade agreements such as the proposed Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA). The benefits of these agreements to Canadians, and particularly in communities in poorer nations, have been in question. Canadian churches have done considerable work on trade issues and are planning to undertake a discussion in 2003 and 2004 with our partners in the United States and Mexico on these questions.
4) Canada should strengthen and increase its support as well as facilitate the contribution and participation of civil society organizations. They provide an
invaluable contribution to our international efforts. We believe that this should include support for education and awareness programs within Canada in order to help
Canadians articulate new ideas and approaches to addressing global challenges.
5) Having doubled Canada’s Official Development Assistance (ODA), we believe that Canada should continue to increase ODA levels to reach the agreed upon target of 0.7%. Further, we believe that Canada should increase the “untied” amounts of these funds and channel them through civil society organizations such as Canadian Lutheran World Relief and others. These organizations work with local communities and provide an effective means for directly addressing the conditions of greatest insecurity for the most needy.
6) Canada should continue to vigorously press for genuine debt reduction for poor countries. 650,000 Canadians signed a church sponsored petition calling for
debt cancellation for the poorest countries. While Canada has taken some steps, the Highly Indebted Poor Countries Initiative has fallen short and much more needs to be done.
7) Canada’s military capacity should focus on peace keeping and peace-building rather than on peace making. We fully support the recommendations made in the submission made to the Foreign Policy Dialogue by Project Ploughshares.
8) More dialogue is required within Canada between faith communities and government before engaging in any global dialogue. Canadian churches in particular
have considerable experience in multifaith dialogue as well as intercultural exchanges. In July, for example, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada is hosting the

Tenth Assembly of the Lutheran World Federation which will bring some 2000 international guests to Winnipeg in July from 73 different countries. Many will be visiting
centres across Canada. On the other hand, the Government has not always had a good or helpful understanding of these complex relationships and the ways they are
expressed in various situations throughout the world. More discussion is necessary before initiatives by Canada are taken to foster “intercultural or interfaith dialogue.”

Many within our churches here in Canada are deeply aware of the changes that have moved us from a North American worldview focused on economic possibilities to one
fearful for its’ security. However, insecurity has been the continuing experience for millions of people throughout the world. Canada does have an important role to play as the geopolitical terrain shifts. In our view it must begin with our commitment as a nation to authentically live out the values we espouse. Well being and security will ensue. We understand this is a difficult task.

I want to thank you for the opportunity to participate in this discussion. I know that with our ecumenical partners, we will be reviewing the results of this dialogue and
your response in the fall. Please be assured of our prayers for you and your colleagues who serve on our behalf.

Respectfully yours,

The Rev. Dr. David Pfrimmer
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