Canada’s foreign policy—historically and currently—is a ‘mixed bag’ at best for people concerned about protecting and enhancing the environment and the state of animals, and advancing progressive justice, gender, and social issues. The ‘mixed bag’ needs to end for Canada to be a consistently positive and reliable force in global affairs.
Canada has demonstrated that it can be a global leader on issues that, if resolved, will better serve Canadians and, more broadly, people around the world. Solving those issues will also ‘better serve’ the non-human life with whom we share this planet and on whom we depend for our very survival.
Under various Prime Ministers, Canada was a leader in:
• establishing the United Nations,
• resolving the 1956-7 Suez Crisis,
• developing the concept of peacekeeping,
• ending Apartheid,
• addressing famine in Ethiopia, and
• convincing the world’s nations to, finally, acknowledge the threat of climate change and loss of biodiversity.
However, Canada, under various Prime Ministers, also,
• actively worked to erode the scope and effectiveness of the Kyoto (climate change) Protocol when nations were negotiating it,
• sided with Japan at the International Whaling Commission,
• undermined efforts at CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) to protect endangered and threatened species,
• worked to undermine the United Nations,
• is often a de facto uncritical surrogate of US interests and ambitions in, particularly, the Middle East and Latin America, and
• sells (or has recently sold) arms to some of the world’s most repressive regimes, including Saudi Arabia and Russia(1) , fostering needless wars and human misery.
Canada’s often woefully uncritical alignment with the US means it can no longer be an ‘honest broker’ on most of the world’s most pressing issues. It is, arguably, why Canada will have difficulty winning a seat on the Security Council. Understandably, it’s reasonable for nations to assume putting Canada on the UN Security Council means little more than giving the US a second vote.
Canada’s ‘mixed bag’ on foreign policy is largely a consequence of perceived realpolitik, short-term political and ideological factors, and economic considerations that affect electorally important local regions. A factor, too, is Canada’s antiquated and undemocratic First-Past-the-Post electoral system which usually leads to extreme policy lurches, making Canada an unreliable and unpredictable ‘ally’—a peacekeeper under one government and a military belligerent under the next, all depending on the government-of-the-day elected with, too often, minority support.
The Animal Protection Party of Canada (APPC) proposes a foreign policy which emphasizes long-term progressive objectives and realism about the role a ‘middle’ power like Canada can play to serve Canadians and the global community better.
From animal and environmental protection to the complete emancipation of women to improving human development and human rights, it is in Canada’s interest that more and more of the world’s nations adopt progressive policies. Progressive principles and policies foster peace, stability, personal and economic freedom and security, and ecologically responsible development. Principles associated with conservatism and capitalism do not and can not: unfettered markets and infinite growth have proven themselves to be antithetical to ecological responsibilty and social justice.
There are two broad concepts that inform the APPC approach to foreign policy. The first is today’s geopolitical realities and the demands they place on Canada. The second is where we need to be going forward—it’s not where we are now.
APPC recognizes Canada has thousands of historic and traditional foreign policy obligations that can not—and ought not—be diminished, disregarded, or renegotiated except with great care and with careful consideration of the effects.
The APPC’s approach to Canada’s historic obligations will be informed by its commitment to peace and responsible development, to environmental and animal protection, and to a better world for all.
The obligations that will require careful consideration include:
• North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), (2)
• North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), (3)
• United Nations, (4)
• International Organisation of La Francophonie, (5)
• The Commonwealth, (6)
• The Organization of American States. (7)
There is no lack of sound advice available when considering foreign policy. (8) What’s often lacking, however, is a political honesty about Canada’s capacity to influence other nations’ policies and the assets it can or is willing to commit. They’re limited. What’s missing, too, is a clear understanding and declaration of the long-term direction, i.e. a ‘vision’ of where we should be headed.
Canada’s approach to foreign affairs is largely based on historic notions and norms of nation-to-nation relations. However, many ‘foreign policy’ issues now involve powerful non-state actors, including corporations, non-governmental organizations, and nationalist and liberation movements and militias. Globalization now means most nations are no longer (perhaps they never were) masters of their own fates.
As well, traditional allies such as the United States, the United Kingdom, and the European Union are no longer as reliable as allies as Canada may have thought they were. The evidence is clear in Canada’s current relationship with China where beyond expressing concern, i.e. ‘thoughts and prayers,’ about China holding Canadians hostage little to nothing has been forthcoming from Canada’s putative ‘allies’ in the way of support or pressure on China.
Some have argued that,
…Canada is now almost totally isolated within a tiny circle of pluralist liberal democracies, …the country needs to drop any pretense of idealism and signalling of Canadian virtues. “Canadian policy has to be interests-based,” [Janice Gross Stein, a professor of political science at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy] says. “All it can do now is protect our national interests.” (9)
This is a dangerous approach to foreign policy. It leads to a hyper-competitive, winner take-all world where little or no progress could be made on the issues that need to be successfully addressed to secure a sustainable world order that benefits all peoples and non-human life. Without progress towards that ‘Utopia,’ there will be no hope of dealing with the climate emergency nor the regional conflicts and catastrophes that put all people’s security at risk.
Canada needs a 21st-century foreign policy that takes into account and fosters mutually beneficial relationships with not only other nations but also non-state actors. To develop a 21st-century foreign policy, APPC (drawing on the example set by the Law Commission of Canada and its excellent report, Voting Counts: Electoral Reform in Canada) (10) would establish a national, independent commission.
The commissioners would include eminent persons from the diplomatic community and the non-governmental sector, including environmental and animal protection organizations, trade unions, social justice and human rights organizations, the academic community, and the corporate and financial sectors.
The commission’s three-year brief would be to consult widely and make recommendations about how Canada can advance its interests while, at the same, globally ‘fostering peace, stability, personal and economic freedom and security, and ecologically responsibility’ and make further recommendations about how best to employ the incipient political power of non-state actors to achieve those objectives.
The commission’s recommendations—based on evidence, expert advice, and best practices—would inform the APPC’s policies.
(1) Canadian arms trade, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canadian_arms_trade#Russian_Federation
(2) North Atlantic Treaty Organization, https://www.nato.int/
(3) North American Aerospace Defense Command, https://www.norad.mil/
(4) United Nations, https://www.un.org/en/
(5) International Organisation of La Francophonie, https://www.francophonie.org/Welcome-to-the-International.html
(6) The Commonwealth, http://thecommonwealth.org/
(7) The Organization of American States, http://www.oas.org/en/
(8) Seven foreign policy wishes for Canada’s new government, OpenCanada.org; https://www.opencanada.org/features/seven-foreign-policy-wishes-canadas-new-government/
(9) Doug Saunders, Justin Trudeau vs. the world: How the next government can reclaim Canada’s place on the international stage; Globe and Mail, 29 June, 2019, https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-justin-trudeau-vs-the-world-how-the-next-government-can-reclaim/
(10) Law Commision of Canada, Voting Counts: Electoral Reform for Canada, 2004;