Three ways Canada can influence the Asia-Pacific region

By Steve Saideman

It is easy to understand why Canadian political leaders tend to focus on Europe rather than Asia/Pacific. Because of the various institutions in Europe, especially the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, we know how Canada fits in. We know what Canada’s role is in Europe, but we have a hard time imagining how Canada can make a difference in the vast waters of the Pacific and among the huge populations of Asia. The answer, to preview, is for Canada to do what it does best.

I recently spent a week in Japan, on a trip organized and paid for by that country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, so you can take what I say with a grain of salt. However, what I suggest below can advance Canadian interests, be true to Canadian values and not blow out the budget.

There are two clear realities: That Canada cannot make much of a difference in any military kind of way; and North Korea is someone else’s problem. The Canadian Navy is simply too small and currently too stressed to do much. Same goes for the Air Force. North Korea is the most immediate threat with its nuclear-weapons development, missile tests and awful regime, but Canada will have to rely on others to address North Korea. Canada simply lacks the tools to influence North Korea or provide security for the neighbourhood. So, we need to focus on what Canada can do as the region faces the growing pains of China.

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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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Introducing Canada Among Nations 2015 – Elusive Pursuits, Book Launch

By Steve Saideman

A week from today, on October 29th at noon, we are holding a book launch of the next edition of Canada Among Nations, Elusive Pursuits: Lessons from Canada’s Interventions Abroad.  The event will be in room 270, 2nd floor, Residence Commons, at Carleton University.

What is the book about?  Every year, NPSIA assesses Canada’s place in the world via a Canada Among Nations volume.  For the past few years, it has been in partnership with CIGI.  The theme of this issue is on learning the lessons from past interventions.  Why?  Because we have been profoundly frustrated by the mixed results and by the government’s refusal to learn lessons.

Afghanistan was supposed to be different, as the government did put together a serious lessons learning exercise.  At the end, it was buried–not only have I not been able to access it via Access to Information (my appeal is now more than two years old), but it was also not disseminated to the people making and implementing Canadian foreign and defence policy.

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The sorry state of Canada’s foreign policy debate

By Valerie Percival

Much of the debate about foreign policy is directed towards the elected government, and the political positions it takes on current international issues. These positions deserve public debate and scrutiny, particularly given the upcoming October election. But what about the machinery behind the elected government? Much of foreign policy actually revolves around the day-to-day performance of unelected leaders within the bureaucracy. Do we encourage these leaders to develop and maintain skills – the knowledge base, the willingness to assess available research and evidence, and the intellectual curiosity necessary to be innovative in the face of new challenges? Perhaps this should also be an issue for debate during our election campaign.

To effectively teach in the field of international affairs, professors face several challenges. The field covers pretty much everything these days, from the traditional — conflict, security, trade, and development — to the more novel — health, environment, energy, finance, and more. The field is also prolific; new ideas and ways to view the world constantly emerge. Moreover, the world itself continually changes — the unexpected is always around the corner and tomorrow will not be like today. Explaining current events can be difficult. Yet explanation is definitely easier than predicting what will happen next year, or even next week.

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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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Independence Day from Above the Wall

By Steve Saideman

There are two holidays when an ex-pat American feels most out of place: Thanksgiving (the November one) and the Fourth of July. I have yet to experience the former, as I travel south every American Thanksgiving to be with my family, but this is the thirteenth consecutive Independence Day I have spent in Canada. It has been a long time since I have seen parades and fireworks on July 4. Each year, I do reflect a bit on the State of the Union—not the speech given by the President but where the United States stands.

To be honest, I spent my first few Independence Days in Canada in a state of frustration and embarrassment as the United States was preparing to engage in an ill-considered war that did much damage all around—to the America’s reputation in the world, to the U.S. economy, to the people of Iraq and to the soldiers and marines involved in the fighting.

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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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