The Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute examines Canada’s changing role in the world, positioning it around two main issues. First, Russia’s successful bid to annex the Crimean Peninsula, and mounting tensions between pro-government and separatist forces in Ukraine, remind the world that NATO has a role to play, if the capability and the will is there. Canadian determination has been a driving force behind NATO and while the US debates its role in Russia-Ukraine, Canada should ask what it is doing and how it can be helpful in the region, and to NATO. Secondly, what should Canada’s place in the world be? Currently Canada holds chairmanship of the Arctic Council, and has positioned itself within the United Nations, the Commonwealth and Francophonie as a nation that does not just go along to get along. Further, our foreign policy is guided by morality within the Office of Religious Freedoms and maintains strong trade and investment through the Global Commerce Strategy, CDFAI will examine if this posture is within the Canadian interest and what more Canada has to offer as its role in the world continues to evolve.
These issues will be tackled during an invite only half day symposium. Prominent members of the civil service, Canadian Forces, and Government will be invited, along with academics and members of industry. Discussions will revolve around Canada’s changing role in the world and how our Foreign Policy should adapt.
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Panel 1 Summary: "The New Cold War"
The first panel, featuring Ferry de Kerkchove, Bob Fowler, Daryl Copeland and George MacDonald, moderated by Colin Robertson, focussed on Canada’s changing role on the international stage and the role of NATO.
Ferry de Kerckhove highlighted a few concerns affecting Canada’s international reputation, including a lack of leadership on the international stage, failing multilateral institutions, economic inequality, and a lack of leadership as the world transitions away from a unipolar world to a multipolar one. De Kerckhove ended his introduction with a warning that more attention should be paid to Russia, as it may already be a ‘dying star’ waiting to explode.
Bob Fowler focussed on the current crisis within NATO. As tensions dissipated with the fall of the Berlin Wall, not much attention was paid to the expansion of NATO in Eastern Europe, which suddenly became NATO’s responsibility to defend. Mr. Fowler cautioned that Canadians, following the war in Afghanistan and the redistribution to resources to Asia and the Pacific, are not ready for another war and public opinion should be a factor before Canada commits to a war in Eastern Europe.
Daryl Copeland argued there are three myths underlining international relations and Canadian foreign policy. First that a cold war would cause the world to shift away from military power and rely more heavily on diplomacy. Events since September 11th 2001 demonstrate that direct military engagement remains more prominent then diplomatic alternatives. Second, is the belief in the relevancy of NATO and its importance to Canadian defence policy. Copeland argues that NATO is more a generator of global insecurity than a security provider. Third, Copeland states that the increasing militarization of Canadian foreign policy has cost Canada its once proud global image.
George MacDonald posed several questions as to the future of NATO: Where does NATO go now? Is NATO still relevant, and how will it adapt to changing threats such as cyber-attacks? MacDonald argues that NATO, or any similar institutions are necessary to keep order on the international stage. MacDonald was optimistic about an increase in the defence budget following deficit reduction cuts that would allow Canada to make a greater contribution to NATO.
Moderator Colin Robertson dug deeper into the future of NATO, Canadian defence procurement, the Crimean conflict and Russia, Canada’s lack of a grand strategy, and the rising conflict between the Sunni and Shiite in the Middle East.
On defence procurement, the panelists agreed that the process, currently hampered by democracy, requires improvement. While, in terms of a grand strategy for Canada, de Kerckhove suggests a review of Canada’s defence and foreign policy to spark debate in advance of the 2014 election.
The panel was generally concerned with the recent conflicts in Syria and Iraq, as well as the rise of the extremist group Islamic State of the Levant (ISIL). Fowler believes there is little Canada can do to aid in this situation, but de Kerckhove insisted that while the West can do little, we should be spending more time trying to understand the real issues at play.
Panel 2 Summary: "Canada’s Place in the World"
The second panel of the day, featuring Neil Desai, Laura Dawson, and Roland Paris, Moderated by Chris Waddell, focused on Canada’s place in the world amidst the changing dynamics of the international stage, and the current government’s problematic relationship within government departments and the Foreign Service.
Neil Desai spoke on his experience working with the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). He explained that there are two driving forces behind CIDA’s policy making process: Interests and results. Since Prime Minister Harper has been in power, the focus has shifted to a results based policy process. Desai noted that Canada is not a large player in development, both in funding and international presence. Regarding security development, Desai explained that CIDA prefers using development as a deterrent to security issues, rather than providing aid in the form of military force.
Laura Dawson focused on Canada’s economic interests. While Canada is busy creating a strong foreign affairs and defence policy, economic interests are being harmed. For example, while Canada criticizes China’s engagement with Tibet, economic opportunities with the growing nation are disappearing. Dawson also argued that while Canada is not a big fish in the global markets, there is a lot of potential for future Canadian growth. In order to make use of this potential, the Canadian government must make it easier for Canadian businesses to do business abroad, and foreign businesses to do business in Canada.
Roland Paris argued that Harper governments foreign policy has not been principled, and must be questioned. While Canada should be doing more to work with others, this is undermined through the threatening language the government uses in its diplomatic outreach. Paris’ biggest disappointment with the Harper government’s foreign policy is that it hasn’t been very effective, which has made diminished Canada’s value as an ally on the global stage. Optimistically, Paris stated that Canada has always been good at diplomacy, historically out of necessity, and must reconnect with this tradition.
The following discussion, based around questions from the audience and comments from the moderator, Chris Waddell, revolved around the current Government’s relationship with its governmental departments and Foreign Service. Roland Paris indicated his dismay at the current governments attempt to supress the policy capacity of government departments.
While Dawson agreed with Paris, Neil Desai argued that the reason a crisis is apparent in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Development (DFATD) is due to diplomacy being increasingly technocratic. Due to this, the Foreign Service is being phased out to other branches of government, who are setting up their own international departments.