Not your grandparents’ world: Canada needs to rethink foreign policy – Stephen J. Toope

Good overview of some of the challenges and opportunities facing Canadian foreign policy and domestic linkages by Stephen J. Toope, the director of the Munk School of Global Affairs at UofT.

Excerpts of his piece on leveraging Canada’s diversity, echoing the Trudeau Foundation’s The Pluralism Project focussing on the economic dimension of pluralism, diversity and the future of citizenship.

But can we please stop trying to rebrand multiculturalism as pluralism as the previous government tried but ultimately realized that multiculturalism was in the Charter and was embraced by a majority of Canadians. The word may be ‘tainted’ in the USA and Europe, reflecting their very different histories and experiences, but isn’t here.

Pluralism should only be used in the Canadian context in an overarching sense, capturing the diversity between and among indigenous peoples, anglophones and francophones, and the diversity created by successive waves of immigration:

The new government has already declared that our pluralism is a primary asset to bring to our global engagements. This is true if we move beyond the lofty and too-often smug assertions that “diversity is our strength.”

Although our historical record is by no means pure, by world standards Canada has created a society that is generally inclusive of newcomers. Sadly, we have done far worse as concerns indigenous peoples. Our relative success with social pluralism is an asset only if we avoid preaching and use our diversity constructively.

That means making investments in development assistance that allow us to showcase and share how Canadian pluralism works. It means contributing actively in intergovernmental forums where migration and refugee issues are thrashed out. Above all, it means finding ways to mobilize our diaspora communities to create stronger linkages for Canadian business, culture and educational institutions with countries around the world. That is not the same as cynically pandering to narrow foreign-policy interests of those same communities in the hope of gaining domestic electoral advantage.

….The French, the British, the Germans, the Spanish, the Scandinavians and the Australians have all used culture, educational exchange, people-to-people ties, online communication campaigns, and tourism promotion to create a strong public awareness of their countries all around the world. We have no Canadian equivalent to the British Council or the Goethe Institute. Canadian embassies and high commissions effectively have no program budgets. The last government cut funding to the Commonwealth Scholarship, and reduced support to Canadian studies programs around the world so much that they are now on drip feed.

We shouldn’t resurrect tired models, but a new approach to promoting the creativity of Canadians globally is sorely needed, backed with increased resources. Canadian culture could be connected to that much-vaunted pluralism to create excitement around contemporary Canada. That is a major asset. We should strike while the positive and fresh Trudeau brand is putting Canada back on the global radar screen.

After identifying and focusing upon our assets, we then need to connect those assets to the projection of both interests and values. In a world where more and more Canadians are connected beyond our borders in value-based environmental, religious or human-rights networks, and where devastating events that take place halfway around the world are known immediately, it is no longer plausible to argue that nations have only economic or other material interests. One picture of a little Syrian boy dead on a Turkish beach forced a Canadian response. Our foreign-policy calculations are not only rational, but emotional as well, rooted in shared perceptions of who we are as Canadians and, increasingly, by who we define as allies, partners and friends.

Source: Not your grandparents’ world: Canada needs to rethink foreign policy – The Globe and Mail

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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