What strategy should Canada adopt on the international stage?

There was little talk of foreign policy and international relations during the federal election campaign.

As Marie-Joelle Zahar, a professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Montreal, points out, the leaders’ discussions have scratched the surface of questions such as withdrawal from Afghanistan or relations with China. Comments are mostly limited to logos, she said, which does not allow for real reflection on these important questions.

If issues such as Afghanistan do not appear in the campaign [en raison de l’actualité]We hardly ever heard of foreign policy. This is nothing newShe stresses that international relations were not discussed much during previous campaigns, she said.

After extensive consultations (A new window) On foreign policy he showed that citizens are interested, and would like their voices to be heard on these issues. But we don’t offer them that on the listShe regrets.

It is a shame that we do not use election campaigns to explore these interactions between our international positions and the choices we have to make domestically. Because today, we can no longer think of each other without thinking of each otherSupports researcher specializing in conflict resolution.

We just have to think about the effects of climate change – which, in addition to causing droughts and wildfires, have implications for the circulation in the Arctic as many countries, including Canada, compete with each other – or on the economy after the COVID recovery, for example. Not limited.

Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker in the Arctic

Photo: The Canadian Press / Sean Kilpatrick

You remember, the government has to anticipate situations that seem distant at the moment, but can turn into crises that directly concern us.

For example, it is clear that Haitian refugees who are currently congregating at the southern border of the United States are not seeking to settle in Canada. However, if there is a tightening in US policy, it could lead to refugees moving towards the Canadian border as we witnessed a few years ago under the Trump administration., she explained.

In short, we must remember that we do not live in a vacuum.

You have to show yourself, suggest things

Jocelyn Colon, a researcher at the Center for International Studies and Research at the University of Montreal (CERIUM), notes that political parties’ electoral platforms have generally made no reference to international relations.

For example, the United Nations and peace processes are mentioned only once in the Canadian Liberal Party platform.

According to him, the current situation, in line with the trend that began under Stephen Harper and continued under Justin Trudeau, is a slow decline in Canada’s voice in the world.

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Despite promising in 2015 a return to power on the international stage, Justin Trudeau’s liberals have instead taken a conservative approach to building North American fort In matters of security and defense, foreign policy is stuck in decisions made in Washington, he said.

There is a series of psychological, intellectual and political criteria which mean that Canada, over the past six years, has been an observer rather than an actor on the international stage., a reversal compared to the period before the beginning of the 2000s, notes the person who was an adviser to former Foreign Minister Stephane Dion.

However, since the 1950s, Canada has built its reputation and national identity on the excellence of its diplomacy, he says. Canada presented ideas and initiatives that were discussed and subsequently adopted by the international community: peacekeepers, recognition of the People’s Republic of China, anti-apartheid, creation of la Francophonie and the International Criminal Court, and a treaty banning anti-personnel mines., cites as examples.

Blue helmets on the ground.

The Peacekeepers were created on the initiative of former Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson.

Photo: REUTERS/Avolabi Sotondi

We cannot name a single major initiative by Justin Trudeau on the international stage.

Quote from:Jocelyn Colon is a researcher at the Center for International Studies and Research at the University of Montreal

True, the Trudeau government has had to contend with the Trump administration’s protection and unpredictability. But, according to Colon, that does not justify giving up our distinguished and outspoken voice in foreign policy.

When Trump came to power, it was as if we in the prime minister’s office said to ourselves: “Above all, we must not offend Americans, this administration, and therefore, we will play. Safe, commented.

However, the deterioration of relations between Canada and several countries – China, Russia, India and Saudi Arabia – should prompt the Trudeau government to think about its foreign policy as a whole, according to the researcher. How do we read the state of the world today? So, what place do we want to occupy in this world, what solutions are we willing to offer?, Asked.

Lots of middle powers

Mary Joel Zahar notes that we are currently facing a pluralistic crisis. In recent years, major powers have increased bilateral agreements and tended to abandon multilateral forums and institutions such as those of the United Nations.

But Canada should definitely invest in these places for consultation and decision making, according to her. As a middle power, we must cooperate with our allies, know how to use tact and diplomacy in our relations with the American and Chinese giants, and play our cards well.

It is often said, and rightly so, that Canada has limited resources and is a middle power, so its international action is subject to real limitations.Says Mrs. Zahar.

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But, if we go back to the late 1990s, Canada’s limited resources have not prevented us from playing a leadership role on critical international issues: the Ottawa Convention on Anti-Personnel Mines or the Report on the Responsibility to Protect. which later became a standard adopted by the United Nations General Assembly, she completes.

If we look at this [période]We know that Canada’s work is powerful when it works collaboratively with other countries that share similar views. This work is powerful when it is based on the support of Canadians, and therefore when it finds resonance in the population.The researcher adds.

She says the release of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, arbitrarily detained in China for more than 1,000 days in retaliation for the arrest of Huawei’s chief financial officer in Canada, Meng Wanzhou, is a good example of the benefits of working with multiple partners.

Michael Kovrig walking and waving his right hand at people.

Michael Kovrig on the tarmac at Toronto Pearson Airport after his release and return to Canada.

Photo: Reuters/Chris Hellgren

China is an international economic player at the moment, but aims to become a major international military player. And like the United States, we can’t ignore them. We do not live in self-sufficiency. But the question is how to work with the Chinese when necessary so as not to systematically allow them to disregard international rules. And to navigate everything so that you are not alone, she explained.

Ms. Al-Zahar argues that Canada has not been able to solve this problem in isolation. It’s thanks to our relationship with the United States and probably a lot of discussions with Americans about how to fix the Huawei problem, but also through our cooperation with the European Union, with some European powers in particular, on a normative commitment against the idea of ​​hostage-taking in diplomacy that we’ve been successful in Confirm our position and free Mikhail.as you say.

It is important to know what our people can and cannot accept. Where are our internal red lines so that the government does not renounce its foreign policy?

Quote from:Marie-Joelle Zahar, Professor of Political Science at the University of Montreal

Africa and the Indo-Pacific

According to Jocelyn Colonne, Canada has also missed important opportunities in Africa, The next continent for economic development. He wonders if it’s too late, because Canada may have missed the boat.

He remembers two dominant powers, France and China, entrenched there. But the middle powers, such as Italy, India, Brazil, Turkey, South Korea and Germany, are increasingly present on African soil and trying to conquer markets., notice.

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The two researchers believe that the closure of Canadian embassies on the continent harms our relations with African countries.

Turkey, for example, has 45 embassies in Africa. Canada has 21 years, however, Turkey never took an interest in Africa until about twenty years ago, when Canada had a presence for more than a century, both in French-speaking and English-speaking Africa. South Korea, a country where neither French nor English is spoken, has more trade with Africa than we do., says Jocelyn Colonne, who also deplores Canada’s low participation in UN peacekeeping missions.

The specialist notes that the election platform of the Conservative Party of Canada contained interesting proposals about our links with Africa.

It is clear that they took note that everyone is in Africa and that to achieve economic, security and diplomatic goals, it is necessary to be present on this continent where there are 54 countries, which represent the largest political bloc in the United Nations General Assembly. If you are not on the ground, Africans will not be able to see you. The day we want to be elected to the Security Council is important, continued.

Colon attributes Canada’s failure to secure a non-permanent seat in 2020 to this lack of support from African countries.

The researchers also wonder if Canada is not missing out on opportunities in the Indo-Pacific region. Recently, Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom concluded the AUKUS agreement, which covers military supplies and intelligence sharing to counter Chinese expansion, but excludes Canada.

Submarine with crew members.

A nuclear powered submarine similar to the one to be supplied to Australia under the AUKUS agreement.

Photo: REUTERS/Michelle McLoughlin

Our means are clearly limited and we cannot be everywhere, Ms. Al-Zahar admits. But Canada must ask itself where to put its marbles according to its goals.

This region appears to be emerging as a real hot spot, with China and the United States very active. If at any time Canada finds that it does not have the necessary resources in both Africa and Asia and the Pacific, for example, […] The government will have difficult choices to make. He will have to think carefully and he will have to explain everything to the residents and make sure that he has their support., concluded.

All experts agree that the days of diplomacy that were reserved for diplomats and military personnel are over.

Quote from:Marie-Joelle Zahar, Professor of Political Science at the University of Montreal

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