Why compassion for incoming refugees is now so crucial

By Nicole Tishler

On whether and how to accept Syrian refugees into Canada, social media and political commentators have been firmly divided into two camps: those motivated by humanitarian responsibility, and those who prioritize national security.

But with the first plane of government-airlifted refugees arriving at Toronto’s Pearson Airport Thursday evening, it is ironic that the most vocal proponents of the security camp are likely candidates for undermining Canada’s future safety.

When the government first confirmed its intention to fulfill its campaign promise of resettling 25,000 Syrian refugees in Canada by the year’s end, there was widespread concern that attention to security screenings would be sacrificed in the name of expediency. When the government unexpectedly extended its campaign-promised deadline by two months, not all opposition was assuaged. Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, for instance, still takes issue with the setting of a deadline altogether, since Canada must take “all the time that might be necessary to ensure security and successful settlement.”

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Is excluding Syria’s unaccompanied men evidence-based policy?

By Simon Palamar

Among the promises the federal Liberals made in the recent election campaign were to bring 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada by year’s end, and a return to evidence-based policy making.

Now the government admits that they will not be able to settle 25,000 Syrians in Canada by the end of the year, and that it may take until February. This may be a good thing. After all, taking a few more weeks to ensure that services and support are in place is an acceptable delay, especially if it improves the chances that refugees coming to Canada will be able to successfully restart their lives here.

The more troubling issue is the decision on who from Syria will be allowed into Canada; that is, no unaccompanied males under the government-sponsored program (except for gay, bisexual, and transsexual males, who are remarkably vulnerable to predation in parts of Syria, and who should be welcomed to Canada). Is the new Canadian government  already violating its pledge to make policy on the basis of evidence, rather than ideology?

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Does Merging Improve Aid Efficiency?

By Rachael Calleja

In foreign aid, ‘efficiency’ (which is distinct from ‘effectiveness’) usually refers to the costs associated with administrating aid programs, that is, the costs of running aid agencies and activities related to ODA programming and delivery. Despite being necessary for operating an aid agency, administrative costs are frequently referred to as a negative function of ODA that donors seek to reduce. In Canada, for example, the 2007 Budget listed “improving efficiency through reduced administrative costs…” as a key way to improve the effectiveness of Canadian aid.

The 2013 merger of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) with the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) to form the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD) led some to speculate that the reorganisation would spark efficiency gains for the government by reducing the duplication of efforts and cutting administrative costs. While efficiency gains were not the main or official justification for the merger, which was said to improve the coherence of Canada’s foreign policy, some observers at the time remarked that job cuts and efficiency gains would be “hard to avoid”.

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Doing More, Better: Reflections on the Future of Canadian Assistance to Haiti

By Gaëlle Rivard Piché

Ready for change. That was the Liberal Party’s main slogan during the Canadian electoral campaign that brought Justin Trudeau into power on October 19. It is also the state of Canada-Haiti relations after four years of sullenness due to a decline in Canadian funding for Haiti’s reconstruction and successive diplomatic faux pas.

After a decade of Conservative reign driven by hard-line security imperatives and a development strategy resolutely based on economic priorities, a new Liberal government suggests a change in Canadian foreign policy. Considering Trudeau’s commitment to restore Canada’s image abroad, what will be the Canadian role in the next chapter of Haiti’s development?

In 2004, Paul Martin’s Liberal government agreed to participate in a multilateral effort towards Haiti’s stabilization and reconstruction. Under the following Conservative governments, Haiti officially remained a priority, but a shift in the rationale for aid put a stop to several bilateral programs, including quick impact projects funded by the Department of Foreign Affaires and International Trade’s Stabilisation and Reconstruction Task Force. The reduction of the budget envelope had a direct impact on the ability of the Canadian embassy to engage with its Haitian counterparts. The lack of a clear strategy after the end of the earthquake recovery phase in 2012 also marginalized the role and the importance of Canada at the donors’ table. Canada still remains a key contributor to the MINUSTAH, the UN peace operation deployed since 2004, but the foreseen end of the mission after 2016 raises serious concerns about the future of international assistance.

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Re-focusing Canadian aid: Much ado about nothing

By Rachael Calleja and Yiagadeesen Samy

As originally posted at Embassy.

The recent Canadian government announcement to boost the number of countries of focus for its bilateral development assistance from 20 to 25 will not make a big difference to its aid program. While the proposed change is laudable and, if implemented, could improve the effectiveness of Canadian aid by reducing fragmentation, we doubt this latest announcement will have any tangible effect.

Many will debate why the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burma, Benin or Burkina Faso have been added to the list of priority countries, or why Bolivia, Pakistan and Sudan are no longer on the list. But such a discussion is at best useless, and at worst counterproductive, because it distracts us from the real issues of aid fragmentation and effectiveness.

In fact, the parameters for choosing priority countries—based on their need, their capacity to benefit from aid, and their alignment with Canadian foreign policy priorities— are so broad that it is easy for anyone to justify why the 25 countries were chosen.

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Young and Unimpressionable

By Matt Gouett

One of the best pieces of advice that I have received in my time as a PhD student was regarding the importance of the head nod. The head nod, as it was explained to me, is the important point in any essay, argument or debate where you acknowledge that your point may not be the only point to be made on the subject. A head nod to the contrary argument indicates that you realize that you are not the knower of all things. A head nod to the progression of ideas put forth by Popper, Kuhn and Lakatos that continued questioning and attempts at falsifying begets better theory and practice.

It seems like head nods are few and far between among our current political class in Canada. Issues, as laid out by our politicians, are black and white; and if you sit yourself in the grey, you are labelled a waffler, weak, and implied to be unprincipled. This was especially striking to me this past week when reading Foreign Minister Baird’s comments in front of the American Jewish Committee in Washington. Among other things, Baird regaled the attendees with an anecdote about his summer job at the Department of Foreign Affairs twenty years ago where he was told by an officer that it was difficult to ascertain the “white hats and the black hats” with regard to bombings in northern Israel. Baird, then asserts, that even his early twenties self, knew that Israel was Canada’s “best friend” and Hezbollah was Canada’s “worst enemy.” He then tells the attendees that he intimated to the official that the differences between the white hats and the black hats couldn’t have been more stark.

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Corporate Involvement in Norm Diffusion: A New Trend?

By Sarah Katz-Lavigne

Much of today’s IR work focuses on the role of international organisations, states, and non-governmental and civil society organisations in the diffusion of international norms such as human rights and same-sex unions. Yet we are also seeing Western corporations jump on the norm bandwagon. This has been the case for norms including multiculturalism, as well as non-discrimination in the sphere of sexual orientation. A recent ad by Honey Maid Snacks, for example, drew positive attention for its celebration of diversity, including a same-sex relationship and a multi-racial family. In a similar vein, Italian pasta company Barilla landed itself in hot water (so to speak) when its chairman said that the company would never run an advertisement featuring a gay couple. A social media storm erupted in response, and gay rights organisations called for a boycott of the company’s products. Not long afterwards, the company engaged in damage control to try to stem the tide of criticism. In response, Bertolli (a rival company) quickly put out a pro-same-sex advertisement. In fact, this was not a first; in 2009 Bertolli had released a commercial featuring a same-sex couple. The social media sphere obligingly publicized Bertolli’s response to Barilla’s chairman’s ill-advised words. A similar uproar ensured when the president and CEO of US chicken company Chick-fil-A publicly expressed his support for traditional marriage.

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