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Directions for Canadian Foreign Policy in the Post Chrétien Era
A CCIC Briefing Paper
September 2003


Intense policy discussions have been taking place throughout government and among advisors for Mr. Martin in preparation for the impending transition to a new government. These processes are identifying goals and options for Canadian foreign policy that take into account the context of domestic and international factors and challenges as well as new initiatives that will shape Canada's role in the world. Earlier this year, Martin leadership advisors, who are concerned with foreign policy, canvassed a number of individuals for ideas for new initiatives and directions for the new government. CCIC has been able to monitor some of these reflections, through conversations and other materials. Mr. Martin set out his vision for Canadian foreign policy directions in his April 2003 foreign policy speech, which were elaborated subsequently in his leadership campaign.

The specific foreign policy initiatives of a new government will not likely be clear until after the transition, an election and the formation of a new Cabinet, in the early months of 2004. As Prime Minister, Mr. Martin will certainly want to project an early signal that he intends a fresh approach to Canadian foreign policy, particularly with regard to Canadian/US relations, and will likely set out a broad and comprehensive vision for future policy. A pre-election budget may well signal how the new government plans to implement this vision.

In his April speech, and since then, Mr. Martin has consistently called for a substantial foreign and defence policy review, presumably following an early election. But this review is unlikely to be open-ended. A number of analytical assumptions, themes and approaches are apparent; they are shaping current discussion of options for Canadian policies, both within government and within the Martin leadership camp. These preoccupations will have a strong influence on the purview for the foreign and defence policy review, which will likely focus on implementing a vision that is set out prior to the review.

How a Martin government understands the context for Canadian foreign policy, the directions and choices available to the government, will affect how Canadian CSOs working internationally address policy issues for global justice. This briefing paper attempts to draw out some of these themes, in order to reflect on priorities which CCIC and its members might want to put forward in policy dialogue as the new government is formed over the next four or five months.

Themes that are shaping Canadian foreign policy directions

The starting point for the new government in defining Canada's role in a complex world is clearly September 11th, 2001 "when it became manifestly clear that the rules of the game had changed forever" (Martin Speech, April, 2003) How have these changes in "the rules of the game" affected the scope for Canadian policy initiative? A number of cross-cutting themes seem to emerge in the discussions of options and priorities for the new government:

Canadian vulnerability in context of US unilateralism

In its post-war foreign policy Canada as a relatively small developed country, has achieved disproportionate and global policy influence through its engagement in multilateralism. The post-September 11th world is changing in ways that are not necessarily responsive to these traditional Canadian avenues for influence on global issues and defending Canadian interests. In particular, officials and policy advisors share a concern, widely held by Canadians, with the rise of US unilateralism. The former then seem drawn to the conclusion that, given Canada's geopolitical position on the North American continent, this new context requires close measuring of all major Canadian foreign policy options against their implications for Canada's position vis-à-vis this fundamental change in the American exercise of its global economic, diplomatic and military power.

While there are clearly policy debates underway within the US administration, Canadian policy-makers fear that more explicit linkages on the part of the administration between economic issues and security interests will compound our vulnerability and scope for independent policy, based on widely-held Canadian internationalist values. Dealing effectively on an issue-by-issue basis on policy differences and irritants in the relationship with the current US administration seems less and less a workable option. The degree to which a Democratic administration would change these preoccupations within the US policy making elite is far from clear. Changes within the European Union limit our interaction with traditional allies in Europe and the emergence of other countries as international actors (China, Brazil, India - the Cancun Group of 21) will further affect Canada's influence in global arenas.

Canadian interests, particularly our deep economic integration with the American economy, requires that Canada "pursue continuously a systematic and coordinated effort to confirm and strengthen the Canada-US partnership" (April 2003 Speech). Mr. Martin goes on to state "September 11th has fundamentally changed the way in which the United States regards its own safety and security, and it should equally affect our approach as well." Deterrence/prevention of attacks on North America is a central preoccupation. In his words, "we know that the Canada-US relationship will more and more be judged in a global security context". This assumption is the prism through which the new government will determine its foreign policy options.

The new security threats pose extremely diversified and deep-rooted challenges, which will require "direct and coordinated military and non-military efforts", including strengthened national defence and safeguarding our territorial sovereignty. (April 2003 Speech) The dramatic shift in US priorities is seen to be the core challenge facing Canadian foreign policy within which the US sees us soft on their security interests. As well there is recognition that our social values are evolving and more liberal policies may diverge in significant ways that will require concerted efforts to build understanding of the Canadian approach in the US.

In his April 2003 Speech, Mr. Martin suggests that "we must develop as a matter of priority a national security policy for Canada". While addressing our interests in protecting our sovereignty, such a policy also will send a strong signal to the US that Canada can adopt a serious and comprehensive approach to its concerns. Clearly such a policy approach will have implications for refugee/immigration policy, defence integration and missile defence, border policy etc., if not the allocation of aid resources and diplomatic initiatives. Surprisingly, there seems to be little attention to undertaking significant initiatives on trade irritants with the US, perhaps recognizing that damage control is the only realistic option available to Canada where the US system encourages special interests to proactively raise trade issues.

Canadian values and interests in a pragmatic multilateralism

Policy options continue to link Canadian interests with multilateralism, recognizing that dramatic changes in the world landscape "clearly affect Canadian interests and highlight the growing need for new thinking about how the international community governs itself". (April 2003 Speech) Canada can draw on our strengths in governance and diversity to take international leadership to ensure that international rule of law evolves consistent with Canadian values. Martin states that "a world with a strong, effective and functional United Nations is much more desirable than one without". Canada must support the development of new and changing international institutions to make them more effective in addressing "global public goods".

But as noted earlier, this more traditional Canadian venue for expressing global influence is affected not only by US abuse of international rules, calling upon them in crass service to narrow US national interests, but also by the perception that the US as a global super-power may in fact be changing the rules for everyone. Responding to this new multilateral dynamic, on several occasions, Mr. Martin has stated "multilateralism is not an end in itself", but "when consistent with our values, we should be prepared to use the means necessary to achieve our international goals ... when full consensus on the right steps is not possible...".(April 2003 Speech)

He believes that "fixing multilateralism is not just a matter of strengthening the UN. It also means identifying - and using - new arrangements and rules outside of the UN." (April 2003 Speech & Interview in St. Hyacinthe, June 2003) In the context of the September 2002 US Security Policy Directive that acknowledges the use of pre-emptive intervention by US military forces with the support of "coalitions of the willing", a pragmatic approach to multilateralism leaves a wide door for Canadian participation in future pre-emptive actions, with the consequences that are now becoming apparent in Iraq.

Rather than tackle the fundamental issues of appropriate representation within the UN system and strengthening norms for action based in international law, the discussion of multilateral initiatives focus on encouraging more integrated multilateral approaches to security responses in post conflict situations. While the world may be judged by leadership to put in place "structures that allow them to make globalization work for everyone" (April 2003 Speech), the preoccupation seems to be on preparations for dealing with the security consequences of exclusion, which may in turn accentuate violence within states and more radical divisions. Similarly the approach to assuring multilateral action on "global public goods" is through the prism of non-state security threats. Security interests may increasingly define our choices for where Canada should focus limited diplomatic and financial resources within the multilateral agenda.

A 'whole-of-government approach to making foreign policy

In terms of reforming the foreign policy making process, a great deal of attention is being given to a "whole-of-government" approach, which potentially could bring greater coherence to the management of international assistance, conflict and post-conflict management, and trade and investment promotion agenda. It has been suggested that this approach would more effectively draw the interests of multiple Canadian stake-holders into the development and delivery of international policy. Policy coherence is an important objective for foreign policy. However if our foreign policy goals are interpreted too narrowly, such an approach is likely to undermine significant Canadian initiatives in support of the Millennium Development Goals and policies to enable global poverty eradication.

Canadians are perceived to be internationalist and values-based in their global outlook, especially when compared to the majority of US citizens. Nevertheless in the "whole-of-government" approach, major initiatives to strengthen citizen-based approaches in Canadian foreign policy, building on the multiple relationships of Canadian organizations with counterparts in Europe, the United States and developing countries, are not considered.

While a "whole-of-government" framework will be broadly internationalist in scope, there is a realization that the (financial, diplomatic and military) resources to support serious initiatives are very much reduced. This reality will require both significant changes in current priorities and greater focus in choosing priorities, with a continued commitment to increased financial resources (e.g. Martin commitments to defence spending, Halifax, May 2003) to meet these changing priorities. How current commitments to long-term development are situated within these priorities is unclear.

Mr. Martin has committed himself to increase international aid, but he has also stated "if there is an area where we can either choose the status quo or change, this is the one". (St Hyacinthe Speech, June 2003) He has called for greater focus on a few countries with an emphasis on health care, education and governance. Other discussions in government see support for country-led development influenced by the "whole-of-government" approach with greater integration of poverty reduction with trade, debt, environmental and security capacity concerns.

Mr. Martin is co-chair of the UNDP's Commission on the Private Sector and Development, which will issue its report in December/January. This past month he met with some Canadian NGOs to receive advice on the issues facing the Commission. He indicated that the Commission's pre-occupation is with strengthening national private sectors, including the informal and rural agricultural sectors, in terms of poverty reduction. He also indicated that CIDA will be asked to play a role in leading Canada's response to the Commission's recommendations. CIDA's just-released policy framework for private sector in development will also advance this orientation. (CCIC has prepared an analysis of CIDA's policy which is on the CCIC web site.)

It has also been suggested that the Government could consider greater coordination between departments to respond to effective Canadian responses to areas of "global public goods", with lead departments coordinating international programming in areas within their domestic purview. These notions of a coordinated cross-government response to "global public goods" has been promoted by the UNDP in recent years. How would such an approach affect the priority to poverty reduction in our policy choices in these areas?

Canadian interests in developing countries may be more directly related to both economic self-interests and global security concerns

Considerations relating to the global security agenda, driven by the US government, are increasingly affecting the allocation of aid resources by some donors (e.g. Australia, Denmark). Discussions on Canada's primary interests with developing countries for the new government seem to have returned to a more explicit emphasis on Canadian economic interests and global security concerns. As security and Canadian economic interests become increasingly the prism through which foreign policy and international cooperation with developing countries is oriented, current aid priorities that focus on important aspects for poverty reduction may be perverted or even set aside, as the new government makes choices and focuses on these core overarching concerns.

For example, China and India are seen to be central to our interest in Asia and we need to leverage our special relationships for greater engagement with the regional efforts towards economic integration and through bilateral trade agreements. At the same time, "terrorism" is seen to be a major international concern in Asia that threat regional and global stability. What are the implications of this orientation to our interests in Asia for choices that the new government will make, assuming that there is to be far fewer countries in our aid program (which current focuses on about 30 countries, with the identification of 9 as recipients of new aid resources)?

Canada's relationships with countries in the Americas are also increasingly perceived with US policy makers in mind. Canada shares a common interest in expanding trade relationships with the Americas, through which we may be able to solidify our standing in Washington. In the region itself the government will paradoxically have to confront waning interest in political support for north/south hemispheric integration and further liberalization, combined with heightened tensions arising from failures in governance and highly inequitable development. The OAS and the Summit of the Americas process are perceived to be forums where Canada can continue to advance its political and economic interests.

While Africa may retain a priority in Canadian policy, not least because of our continued role within the G8 and its Action Plan for Africa, the preoccupation seem to be with intractable conflict and instability. Canada will continue to advance the moral imperative to address poverty and protect human security in sub-Saharan Africa. But there is concern that conflict in Africa will put a heavy demand on our international resources - development, diplomatic and defence. Our relationships with Africa will be affected by our need to respond to instances for humanitarian intervention, HIV/AIDS, the impact of war on civilian populations, and inadequate governance in the context of profound development needs. Africa is also seen to be least able to deal with conflict in terms of the current capacities of regional institutions. References in some discussions have been made to Africa as a staging ground for future terrorism. There is recognition that overcoming the marginalization of Africa from the international community and the global economy will require a commitment of resources well beyond ODA, including Canadian policy congruence (DFAIT-DND-CIDA) for foreign, trade, defence and security, and development policy. But is there the political will to put these resources together for new Canadian initiatives, beyond existing commitments, which tackle the fundamental conditions affecting growing poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa? Canadian emphasis may be to rely on strengthening relations with key players such as South Africa, Nigeria or Senegal.

A Canadian military policy that fits within a post-September 11th, 2001 worldview

It seems likely that the foreign and defence policy review will focus on the roles and capacities of our defence forces and the resources required. Mr. Martin has stated that we have to examine defence policy and military spending "based on the post-September 11th model...the fight against global terrorism" (Halifax Town Hall Meeting, May 2003) It seems likely that the new government will define its military posture in light of such international security interests, in terms of our relationship with the US as a strategic ally, minimally on the North American continent, but conceivably abroad as we have done recently in providing significant peacekeeping forces for Afghanistan. Will such an approach limit our capacities, as is currently the case, to effectively respond to the needs of countries outside the security preoccupations of the US administration, such as the Congo and Great Lakes Region in Africa?

A new deal for developing countries

The new government is likely to pursue an initiative, similar to the G20 that Mr. Martin as Finance Minister promoted with G7 and major developing finance ministers to discuss solutions to the financial crises in the late 1990s. He saw it as an important agenda setting mechanism, which was more inclusive, but ultimately tied to the broad strategic interests of the G7 countries. In his April Speech, Martin proposed a "Leaders G20 to help set the global agenda" as an "approach that could be applied in other areas of global problem solving - in health, the environment, education, poverty reduction and the drive to find new ways of bringing stability, governance and law to failing and failed states".

While a Canadian initiative that opened international space for forward-looking global initiatives may be useful, proposals outside of the formal multilateral system must be accompanied by other initiatives to strengthen this system. Equally important will be the framework for including Southern leaders, both the representative choices to be made and the setting of the agenda. Recent Southern processes at Cancun are indicative of greater coordination among key southern governments. If a Leaders G20 is to have credibility, its processes to set agendas must be shaped by southern interests and not those of the G7.

Focusing our financial resources to support our international role

A more integrated international role and a "whole-of-government" approach to international cooperation implies that there must be greater coordination of financial resources to deal with new issues and crises. The International Assistance Envelope, with activities relating to ODA currently taking up about 90% of the Envelope, may be the focus for greater coordination within an agreed international policy framework. Not unlike other donor countries noted above, the Envelope could be expanded to include broader international initiatives by the new government, in the areas of peace and security for example.

Brian Tomlinson
CCIC Policy Team


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