Can Canada Make a Difference?


August 22, 2022

On this episode of the Global Exchange, Dick Fadden speaks to Kerry Buck, Ben Rowswell, and Peter van Praagh about how Canada can contribute on the world stage.

This episode is an extract from our conference "After the War: What Kind of World for Canada?" which happened on May 10th, 2022. This event was made possible thanks to the support of our strategic sponsors Lockheed Martin Canada, General Dynamics, Irving Shipbuilding, and Davie Shipyard, and of our Bronze conference sponsors, Enbridge and TD.


  • Kerry Buck is a retired career diplomat, a fellow at the University of Ottawa' Graduate School of Public and International Affairs.
  • Ben Rowswell is a former career diplomat and the President of the Canadian International Council.
  • Peter van Praagh is the President and Founder of the Halifax International Security Forum.


  • Dick Fadden is a member of CGAI's Advisory Council.
  • Colin Robertson is a former diplomat, and Senior Advisor to the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.


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  • Timothy Reid
    commented 2022-09-01 21:14:26 -0400
    Some good points but also some sketchy ones made by the [very Ottawa-centric] panellists as well as a lot of important issues barely if not completely omitted:

    Where should we lead? Not one mention of Africa, which is the one area of the world that will continue to grow but which also faces huge challenges, Canada is uniquely able to play an out-sized role in assisting [bilingual non-superpower/non-colonial power with lots of experience in the resource and infrastructure. We do actually have a lot of investment over there but the fragility of the countries puts that in danger as we get shoved aside by other countries like China, Russia, UAE, Israel, France etc. who have realized its importance. Sadly, when we are not ignoring the continent, we are propping up mass-murdering dictators like Paul Kagame or offering our usual vacuous wokeness.

    Development of personnel was lightly touched upon, but not delved into, especially the uncomfortable reasons for much of our lack of foreign policy/service ability. For decades, hiring has been [contrary to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (drafted by a Canadian)], based on identity discrimination and cronyism. So, already you are not starting with the best candidates. These people are then not properly developed by training and time on the frontlines, particularly in regard to issues of peace & security. As Kerry Buck said, “careers are made in Ottawa”. It has always puzzled me to see that those occupying senior positions in the peace & security areas have little to zero background, especially field experience. Colleagues from other countries have noticed this. This seems to be a lot to do with the same themes of identity politics, cronyism and poor bureaucracy mentioned above. When I have met those responsible for a certain country or region in Ottawa, they often have never even visited the countries in question. On the rare occasions I have actually seen Canadian diplomats in the field, they are usually kept far away from the action, as our military increasingly are as well.

    The few Canadians these days who actually get close to the sharp end are civilians recruited specifically for the mission and treated worse than summer interns by the Canadian Government, for ex. the OSCE Monitors in eastern Ukraine or the Long-Term CANEOM election observers [who were the first to suggest that we should be training the increasingly out of control volunteer battalions to improve their discipline & quality]. So, all the real life knowledge they have gleaned is lost.

    There should be a department or division specifically dedicated to peace & security, like we have for trade where people spend most of their career in the field, working directly for Canada or on loan to international organizations. In eastern Ukraine, many other countries certainly did that with seconded diplomats, police, military, etc. Time in the field [graded for difficulty] should be the prime consideration for promotion.

    Kerry Buck briefly mentioned that we have to figure out why we want to be a part of certain organizations. Indeed, it is a standing joke that Canada wants to be a part of every club while usually contributing next to nothing and certainly no heavy lifting. There are many organizations that we belong to that either do little or make things a lot worse and which are at best a waste of money. Often, we could make a contribution just by withdrawing from them or suspending our participation. Did we need to let France put a Rwandan war criminal at the head of the Francophonie or be in a Commonwealth that goes against its own human rights report, welcomes in Rwanda and hosts summits in Kigali? Do we need to spend $615 million on a one-day G7 summit? Our bids for the UN Security Council were ridiculous. we would get more influence by using the money to add more robust peacekeepers on the frontlines. The UN itself often does more harm than good these days; partially thanks to the “Canadas” of the world. We are NOT “great conveners”. That is just our weaselly way of “making a contribution” as opposed to hard resources. When you invite an indicted war criminal to be on panel of “protection of civilians” at a UN peacekeeping conference, there is something wrong. Appointing people with no experience as UN Ambassadors does not help.

    Immigration is a mixed blessing, particularly the way Canada does it: giving it out after only a few years of effective residence, allowing people to buy it, allowing multiple citizenship, birth tourism and especially the identity-based ethos that has been promoted by the Government. Besides undermining the economic viability of ours social services, this undermines social cohesion and creates powerful ethnic lobbies who associate more with their “mother country/ country of origin” than Canada. I have met many such “Canadians of convenience”. Our “first past the post” system gives these lobbies immense leverage as a few thousand dollars and just a few hundred directed votes can decide an election. We may be on the “right side” in Ukraine but we are there for the wrong reasons and in many other regions, we often support the more guilty side. For example, hard-core members of the Israeli lobby have held important posts in our government, like Michael Levitt, one of the founders of the Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee [the Canadian version of America’s AIPAC] and Chair of the House of Commons Foreign Affairs and International Development Committee. Before that he served as Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on International Human Right] or Irwin Cotler, Former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada and founder UN Watch, an NGO controled by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee [AIPAC]. Numerous Canadian politicians of Chinese and non-Chinese ancestry have lent themselves to manipulation by Chinese interests. When many come just to have the passport “for a rainy day”, that creates many difficult situations when things go badly. Besides creating more tribalism -which is the early stage of racism – It creates hostages and/or people who need rescuing and/or resources back in Canada though they often have barely contributed to Canada’s taxes. Sometimes, they show up as terrorists, asking Canada to take care of them. Unfortunately, the problem grows on itself. The more foreign influence is encouraged, the more it will gain leverage and demand more influence. Eventually, Canada will resemble Lebanon’s dysfunctional sectarian government. Citizenship should be unique. It should take 10 years to get, of which at least 7 in Canada or in Canada’s service. This could be shortened somewhat by accomplishing certain things like mastery of multiple official languages or service in the military or designated public service organizations. There should be no more birth tourism and those born abroad should have to claim their citizenship and renounce others by a certain age. This is to become a citizen and have the right to vote, make political contributions and serve in certain government jobs. We can always have categories of long-term and/or occasional residents that allow talent to still come and work in Canada and enjoy benefits as long as they are contributing with an option to become citizens if they give up other nationalities. Another potential measure is to charge an “expat tax” [like an insurance policy], so that if someone suddenly wants to come back and enjoy services, the costs will have been covered. Abandoning identity politics and adopting such measures cannot eliminate tribalism by themselves but it will help.
  • Cgai Staff
    published this page in The Global Exchange Podcast 2022-08-22 15:21:43 -0400

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