Canada Foreign Policy
Monday, January 31, 2005
  Advocacy and Ideology

It took “a ‘major study’” to do it, to prove it, to force the dailies to feature the headline. Now the secret’s out in the open, and “Canada has become an irrelevant force on the international stage” [cited in “Anti-American Think Tank Pushing Canada Back to Prominence on World Stage”, by Judi McLeod, 25 January 2005, Story posted at]. The Canadian Institute of International Affairs (CIIA) asked former president of the transportation and aerospace giant Bombardier, Robert Greenhill, to conduct six months of fieldwork, during which time the executive-turned-research analyst learned Ottawa had withdrawn from the affairs of the international community. Should this have triggered concern and anxiety? According to critics of the “Anti-American” CIIA, Greenhill, contrary to what may have been desired, grew overjoyed, realizing his work pointed to something “exciting” [cited in]: Canada had become so far removed from the world that it was untainted, uncorrupt, and in the “unique” position of being one of the few, if not the only country, on the planet acceptable as an impartial mediator. The unawareness of all things outside our borders was no shortcoming, rather a strategic asset in a world plagued by conflict and divisiveness, where the services of an unbiased mediator would be invaluable. If one can’t do, one teaches; if one can’t stand up, fight terrorism, accept that means being “compromised politically” and go ahead with solving global problems, one finds virtue in ignorance and isolation. Or, I suppose that’s how the right might sum up things.

But how is it the right could be so wrong? Why advocate for a greater international role for Canada, when that just isn’t possible, given the country is so well-equipped to meddle? At least, that’s what the far left would be inclined to point out. According to some observers, motivated primarily by ideology, and a desire to sift through the facts secondarily if at all, Canada hasn’t either the additional time or energy to subvert third world governments, given it is already so overextended in doing that. Take note of what is said, by just one group, of Canada’s involvement in the Caribbean:

On February 29, 2004, an advanced force of Canadian, French and U.S. military units invaded Haiti and overthrew the elected government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Aristide was forcibly removed from the country, and the invasion force joined with rightist gangs in Haiti to unleash a rein of terror on the population. Several thousand supporters of the ousted government were killed. On the day of Martin's interview with CBC [13 December 2004], armed forces from Brazil, Jordan and China stormed into Cite Soleil, a working class neighbourhood in the capital city Port au Prince, and opened fire on supporters of the ousted government. Several protests of up to ten thousand people have occurred in Port au Prince since the coup, calling for the restoration of the Aristide government. Protests continue. [from “Paul Martin Reveals Canada’s Foreign Policy Future: Imperialism,” by Roger Annis, 15 December 2004, Autonomy and Solidarity. Story posted at].

But what can be said about Canada’s foreign policy after one takes a step back from the advocacy and ideology? A roughly year-long policy review is coming to an end, and the results of that process, just maybe, are to be made known before the time the next federal budget is tabled around 22 February 2005. According to mainstream coverage of that policy review, it seems our political elites are well aware that our strategic assets are downgraded, faded away, gone. They do, however, promise to change for the better almost everything: “The Martin government is poised to enshrine the army as Canada's pre-eminent military service, and sharply reduce the number of countries to which it gives foreign aid, while boosting international spending in areas where it believes it will have the greatest impact, sources say.” And in a bold revolutionary move, more of the diplomatic service will actually have to spend time abroad, in foreign cultures: “The foreign service initiative is intended to redress a perceived imbalance in the deployment of Canada's diplomats, whereby two-thirds of total diplomatic staff are in Canada and one-third abroad. Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew is determined to bring this ratio closer to the G8 average of 50 per cent, a source said” [passages quoted in “PM Said to Reshape Foreign Aid”, by Michael Den Tandt, Globe and Mail, 27 January 2005. Also posted at]. But how will all the money needed to do this materialize?

Won’t the Liberal government have to make good first on social policy spending priorities, perhaps most especially shelling out for the national daycare program already promised, many, many times over? And while the PM and other ministers say Missile Defence (MD) is not on the agenda, can they really continue to deflect that issue by saying nobody is pressuring, even after US President Bush has hinted future presidents may not be inclined to remain passive in the face of Canadian evasiveness? And if Bush himself tips Canada to act, how will acceptance of MD impact both how it’s justified and how past decisions are accounted for? If it is claimed MD is needed to defend the north, why was so much money blown on an obsolete Operation Narwahl? Is a cost-weary public ready to accept yet another financial scandal, this time involving, of all things, a cash-strapped military? And while on the Arctic, do Canada’s borders impact any aspect of our foreign policy? Already Hans Island is staked out by Denmark; submarines routinely pass through the area, likely mapping transit routes; nobody seems to recognize Canadian claims to the Northwest Passage; Canadian corporations are paying foreign interests fees for drilling and exploration rights; and, Arctic rangers, Canada’s main line of defence in the region, are armed with antique firearms and trained in the art of building walls of snow to block bullets and mortar fire. Perhaps there is a way to combine ideology and advocacy in a truly unique Canadian way. In the days of the ancients, political entities have not necessarily been panicked when boundaries contracted or expanded. If there are any descendants of Octavian Augustus, the governing elite may see a target for recruiting, or at the very least, a skilled advisor.

Stan Markotich
Submit comments to

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home
A discussion of geopolitics and Canada's role in the world. A series of essays to examine the components of Canadian foreign policy making. Psychological, sociological, historical, and cultural variables impacting Canada's perceptions of the world.

03/01/2004 - 04/01/2004 / 04/01/2004 - 05/01/2004 / 05/01/2004 - 06/01/2004 / 06/01/2004 - 07/01/2004 / 07/01/2004 - 08/01/2004 / 08/01/2004 - 09/01/2004 / 09/01/2004 - 10/01/2004 / 10/01/2004 - 11/01/2004 / 11/01/2004 - 12/01/2004 / 12/01/2004 - 01/01/2005 / 01/01/2005 - 02/01/2005 / 02/01/2005 - 03/01/2005 / 03/01/2005 - 04/01/2005 / 04/01/2005 - 05/01/2005 / 05/01/2005 - 06/01/2005 / 06/01/2005 - 07/01/2005 / 07/01/2005 - 08/01/2005 / 08/01/2005 - 09/01/2005 / 09/01/2005 - 10/01/2005 / 10/01/2005 - 11/01/2005 / 11/01/2005 - 12/01/2005 / 12/01/2005 - 01/01/2006 / 01/01/2006 - 02/01/2006 / 02/01/2006 - 03/01/2006 / 03/01/2006 - 04/01/2006 / 04/01/2006 - 05/01/2006 / 05/01/2006 - 06/01/2006 / 06/01/2006 - 07/01/2006 / 07/01/2006 - 08/01/2006 / 08/01/2006 - 09/01/2006 / 09/01/2006 - 10/01/2006 / 10/01/2006 - 11/01/2006 / 11/01/2006 - 12/01/2006 / 12/01/2006 - 01/01/2007 / 01/01/2007 - 02/01/2007 / 02/01/2007 - 03/01/2007 / 03/01/2007 - 04/01/2007 / 04/01/2007 - 05/01/2007 / 05/01/2007 - 06/01/2007 / 06/01/2007 - 07/01/2007 / 07/01/2007 - 08/01/2007 / 08/01/2007 - 09/01/2007 / 09/01/2007 - 10/01/2007 / 10/01/2007 - 11/01/2007 /

Listed on BlogsCanada