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Canadian Political, Social and Historical (Re)visions in 20th and 21st Century

by Marcin Gabryś (Volume editor) Magdalena Marczuk-Karbownik (Volume editor) Magdalena Paluszkiewicz-Misiaczek (Volume editor)
Edited Collection 318 Pages

Table Of Content


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This publication was jointly financed by the Faculty of International and Political Studies of the Jagiellonian University in Krakow and the Faculty of International and Political Studies of the university of Lodz.

The series International Relations in Asia, Africa and the Americas is edited by the Centre for International Studies and Development of the Jagiellonian University in Kraków.

Cover illustration: Canadian Puzzle Leaf; copyright by Anna Misiaczek.

ISSN 2511-588X ∙ ISBN 978-3-631-81760-5 (Print)

E-ISBN 978-3-631-83838-9 (E-PDF) ∙ E-ISBN 978-3-631-83839-6 (EPUB)
E-ISBN 978-3-631-83840-2 (MOBI) ∙ DOI 10.3726/b17717

© Peter Lang GmbH
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Berlin 2020
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About the author

Marcin Gabryś is an assistant professor at the Department of Canada of the Institute of American Studies and Polish Diaspora at the Jagiellonian University, Kraków, Poland. His academic interests concentrate on Canada’s politics, in particular Canadian foreign policy and the northern regions of Canada.

Magdalena Marczuk-Karbownik is an assistant professor at the Department of American Studies and Mass Media, Faculty of International and Politbical Studies, University of Łódź, Poland. Among her interests are: international relations, Transatlantic relations (Canadian perspective), Canadian foreign policy (relations with the U.S., Poland and Ukraine).

Magdalena Paluszkiewicz-Misiaczek is an associate professor of political science, works at the Department of Canada at the Institute of American Studies and Polish Diaspora, Jagiellonian University, Kraków, Poland. In her research she concentrates on Canadian social and public policy in historical and contemporary perspectives.

About the book

Canada trying to bring together Indigenous peoples, “two solitudes” of the French and the British, as well as a variety of poly-ethnic immigrants has mastered search for consensus and compromise as the best response to national, regional, political and ethnic tensions. This book examines how the evolution of various ideas, schemes, projects, proposals and objectives influenced the Canadian political and social present. It analyses how far Canada was able to realize its initial visions and to what extent it was forced to rework and reform them. It takes into account both the ideas which have actually been implemented and the ones which never progressed beyond the conceptual sphere, yet are important from historical perspective.

This eBook can be cited

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Contents

Marcin Gabryś, Magdalena Marczuk-Karbownik, Magdalena Paluszkiewicz-Misiaczek

Canadian Political, Social and Historical (Re)Visions in the 20th and 21st Centuries?

Canada on International Stage

David Carment, Richard Nimijean

Assessing Canada’s Liberal Internationalism: Where is Canada Headed on the Global Stage?

Tomasz Soroka

Feminism and Gender Equality in Justin Trudeau’s Foreign Policy

Magdalena Marczuk-Karbownik

Big Change or Continuation? Canada’s Policy Towards the Situation in Ukraine Under Justin Trudeau (2015–2020)

Joel J. Sokolsky, Joseph T. Jockel

Rejecting the Colorado Springs Playbook? NORAD in the Age of Trump

Marilena Drăcea-Chelsoi

Canada and USA in the Arctic: Finding Solutions for Cooperation in a Constructive Way

Canadian State and Society

Jeremy Elmerich

Constitutional Memories in Canada: Devising the Revision in the Peril of Disunion

Luc Ampleman

Transport Infrastructures and Land Use Geopolitics in Canada

Iwona Wrońska

The Provinces and Canadian Immigration Policy. Evolution and Trends

Judit Nagy, Mátyás Bánhegyi

The Role of Community Interpreting in the Formation of the Korean-Canadian Community

Anna Reczyńska

Remarkable and Unexpected Returns from Canada to Poland

Marcin Gabryś

Frobisher Bay as a Model City of the Future in the Canadian Arctic

Magdalena Paluszkiewicz-Misiaczek

From Shell Shock to Operational Stress Injury – Canadian (Re)Visions of Approach Towards the Psychological Consequences of Participation in Military Operations

Short Bios of the Authors

←6 | 7→

Marcin Gabryś, Magdalena Marczuk-Karbownik, Magdalena Paluszkiewicz-Misiaczek

Canadian Political, Social and Historical (Re)Visions in the 20th and 21st Centuries?

Over the 153 years since Confederation, Canada has undergone numerous political, social and historical changes. It owes its current form of government, international position and social fabric to certain visions – or revisions – some of which can be traced back at least to the ideas of the Fathers of the Confederation. Many of these (re)visions have sprung from evolutionary and revolutionary ideas or actions taken by individual citizens as well as grassroot initiatives of various social or ethnic groups. Some have been impeded by the reactionary notions of various adversaries.

Canada is a country which, throughout its history, has been trying to bring together Indigenous peoples, the “two solitudes” of the French and the British as well as a huge variety of poly-ethnic immigrants. It thus considers the search for consensus and accommodation of the needs of its diversified population as the best response to a variety of national, regional, political and ethnic tensions and strains. Since 1867, it has been perfecting its “genius for compromise”1, both searching for new visions as well as submitting to revision the already existing solutions. Although not without numerous failures and injustices along the way, this approach has been gaining universal acknowledgement, contributing to the popularity of Canada’s “brand”.

The contributors to this volume have taken up the task of examining how the evolution of various ideas, schemes, projects, proposals and objectives have influenced the foundations of the Canadian political and social present. They have taken account of the visions which actually have been implemented and the ones which never progressed beyond the conceptual sphere, yet are important from a historical perspective. In particular chapters their authors focus on the dilemma how far Canada has been able to realize its initial visions; how often has it been forced to reform them and finally, what Canadian political and ←7 | 8→social life would be like if all the initial ideas had been put into practice without any attempts at redrafting and reworking.

The publication has been divided into two parts. The first one is devoted to the analysis of the position of Canada on the international stage. It opens with a chapter by David Carment and Richard Nimijean, Assessing Canada’s Liberal Internationalism: Where is Canada Headed on the Global Stage? The authors evaluate two competing visions of Canadian foreign policy, the one implemented by Stephen Harper’s Conservative government seeking to restore Canada as a proud and principled country taking tough stands on such issues as terrorism, collective security or the Middle East and Trudeau’s Liberal government promising to restore liberal internationalist values in Canadian foreign policy. Finally, they offer a prediction as to what the fate of the idea of Canada as a middle power might be under conditions of its declining influence and engagement internationally.

Chapter Two by Tomasz Soroka, Feminism and Gender Equality in Justin Trudeau’s Foreign Policy, presents the conceptual vision and main goals of Justin Trudeau’s self-described feminist foreign policy. Soroka analyses Trudeau’s rhetorical promises and commitments and reevaluates them, assessing the effectiveness of the practical actions, programs and initiatives his government has implemented or undertaken internationally.

Chapter Three by Magdalena Marczuk-Karbownik, Big Change or Continuation? Canada’s Policy Towards the situation in Ukraine under Justin Trudeau (2015–2020), presents a comparative evaluation of Canadian policy towards Ukraine under Harper’s Conservative and Trudeau’s Liberal governments. The author presents Ottawa’s engagement in the region aimed at the stabilization of the political and economic situation in Ukraine, being the victim of Russian aggression.

Chapter Four by Joel J. Sokolsky and Joseph T. Jockel, Rejecting the Colorado Springs Playbook? NORAD in the Age of Trump offers a brief overview of the history of the binational, Canadian-American command as well as examination of contemporary issues, particularly those related to rising tensions with the great power rivals China and Russia, threats, ballistic missile defence and matters concerning North American homeland defence and security, including the prospects for changes in the command arrangements. The authors conclude by discussing whether the policy of President Donald Trump will lead to substantial revisions in United States-Canada defence relations.

Chapter Five by Marilena Drăcea-Chelsoi, Canada-USA Cooperation in the Arctic. Efforts When Managing Challenges in a Constructive Way is devoted to evaluation of United States–Canada Arctic cooperation and partnership within ←8 | 9→the scope of the Arctic Council, NORAD and NATO. The author analyses various aspects of US-Canada cooperation – defense, intelligence, environmental protection and the mapping of continental shelves and points out challenges in bilateral relations in the Arctic, with special emphasis of the different stances on the issues of tourism and exploitation of resources.

Part two of the volume, entitled Canadian state and society, focuses on various aspects of Canadian internal and social policy. Its chapters present several (re)visions implemented in response to the following challenges: Quebec separatism, maintaining transport infrastructure, shaping immigration policy, special planning and management in the Arctic and veteran care problem.

Chapter Six by Jeremy Elmerich, Constitutional Memories in Canada: Devising the Revision in the Peril of Disunion offers a (re)vision of the debate on the history of Canada’s French-English founding duality. It analyses the parallel constitutional and identity trajectories that led to a turning point in 1995, when the stake was Canada’s unity itself. The author argues that Canada still has not learned the lesson from the conflicting patterns of misunderstanding and division among its founding peoples and has since remained in a long constitutional winter.

Chapter Seven by Luc Ampleman, Transport Infrastructures and Land Use Geopolitics in Canada discusses the complex conflictual nature of transport initiatives linked to the development, abandonment, transformation and maintenance of transportation systems in Canada. Its author argues that one can capture the complexity of Canadian political geography through an analysis of the land-use implementation of its transport systems and identifies a series of geopolitical paradigms structured around some transport development milestones in the relatively recent national record.

Three subsequent sections of the volume are devoted to different aspects of immigration policy. In Chapter Eight by Iwona Wrońska, The Provinces and Canadian Immigration Policy. Evolution and Trends, the Canadian system of immigration management is discussed. Its author presents how the vision of a federally shaped Canadian immigration policy has been challenged by attempts of provinces and territories to manage their own immigration programs allowing to attract highly skilled economic class immigrants.

In Chapter Nine by Judit Nagy and Mátyás Bánhegyi, The Role of Community Interpreting in the Formation of the Korean-Canadian Community, community interpretation theory and practice is presented on the basis of the example of the Korean-Canadian community. The authors explore the scope of the interpreters’ work in this community and discuss certain linguistic and ←9 | 10→cultural barriers which can influence the quality of interpretation services for ethnic minorities in Canada.

Chapter Ten by Anna Reczyńska, Remarkable and Unexpected Returns from Canada to Poland constitutes a revision of the mainstream of emigration studies in the Polish-Canadian context, where more emphasis has always been put on emigration to Canada rather than return migration to the countries of origin. Its author presents specific and complex vicissitudes of the lives of four people who re-emigrated from Canada to Poland, reconstructing and analysing the circumstances, motivations and conditions which influenced the decisions about returning and points out the necessity to investigate immigrants’ return more thoroughly.

Chapter Eleven by Marcin Gabryś, Frobisher Bay as a Model City of the Future in the Canadian Arctic, focuses on the late 1950s plan of transforming Frobisher City (today’s Iqaluit) into a futuristic city with a system of connected skyscrapers covered by a giant dome. It presents a mid-20th century architectural and urban projection of what modern life might be like in the Arctic, revealing also the patronizing attitude of the federal bureaucracy in Ottawa. At the same time, it offers a chance to see how ideas of Arctic development have changed in Canada over the last sixty years.

In Chapter Twelve, From Shell Shock to Operational Stress Injury - Canadian (Re)Visions of Approach Towards the Psychological Consequences of Participation in Military Operations, Magdalena Paluszkiewicz-Misiaczek focuses on the factors which have led to the introduction of new standards of assessment, treatment, prevention and support for soldiers and veterans suffering from operational stress injury. She puts special emphasis on the instrumental role of veterans whose personal engagement has helped transform the Canadian attitude to service-related mental health problems.

The publication of this volume would not be possible without the support of many people involved in the project. First and foremost, we would like to express our gratitude to all the authors of the different chapters, as they have showed enormous patience while including the reviewers’ and editors’ comments and suggestions. Secondly, we wish to thank the following for their organizational and financial support: the Faculty of International and Political Studies of the Jagiellonian University, especially Dean Andrzej Porębski and the Authorities of the Institute of American Studies and Polish Diaspora; the Faculty of International and Political Studies of the University of Łódź, especially Professor Paulina Matera. We would also like to express our appreciation to the proofreader, Tom Carter.


1 O’Grady, Jean/Staines, David (eds.): Northrop Frye on Canada, Vol. 12. University of Toronto Press: Toronto, 2003, p. 345.

←12 | 13→

David Carment, Richard Nimijean

Assessing Canada’s Liberal Internationalism: Where is Canada Headed on the Global Stage?

Abstract: Canada’s engagement with the world in the past decade was complex and contradictory, marked by two competing visions of Canada. The Harper Conservative government during the first half of the decade sought to restore Canada as a proud and principled country that was not afraid to take tough stands on complex issues, be it terrorism, collective security, or the Middle East. This was seen as a necessary corrective to years of Liberal inaction. However, many Canadians saw the government as divisive and antagonistic, leading to a Trudeau Liberal government that promised to restore Canada to its former glory rooted in liberal internationalist values.

While rhetorically the two governments were radically different, in key areas, in response to global and domestic events, a trajectory of disengagement with global issues was evident in key areas like climate change, the Middle East and the Ukraine. We situate this within the past half century of Canadian foreign policy, dominated by liberal internationalism and the idea of Canada as a middle power. While Canada’s commitment to these ideals has diminished, their rhetorical power remains strong. This affects how Canada will approach key issues in the new decade.

Keywords: Canadian foreign policy, liberal internationalism, middle power, brand politics, Brand Canada

Introduction – Assessing Canada’s Liberal Internationalism

Canada’s role as a global actor is often described in terms of liberal internationalism, the belief in constructive multilateral collaboration to pursue global and national goals. Inevitably, reference is made to Lester Pearson and his efforts in establishing and developing the United Nations, international assistance targets, and peacekeeping. Peacekeeping in particular has been memorialized in the national currency and in televised Heritage Minutes, ensuring that it became an integral part of the national consciousness. More recent initiatives, such as support for disaster relief in Haiti, Sri Lanka, and the Philippines, and the Land Mines initiative, not to mention former prime minister Pierre Trudeau’s peace initiative of the early 1980s, cemented the impression at home and abroad that Canada is a constructive middle power that works as a go-between stronger and weaker countries for the common good. Justin Trudeau’s ←13 | 14→2015 proclamation that “Canada’s back” after a decade of Conservative Party rule showed how important this vision is for many Canadians.

While prime ministers have regularly spoken about the importance of multilateralism and the United Nations, it is also a source of fodder for domestic politics and scholarly ridicule. Prime Minister Harper often ignored the United Nations, even attending the opening of a Tim Hortons donut innovation centre rather than listen to President Obama’s address to the UN General Assembly in 2009. In 2017, Prime Minister Trudeau devoted most of his UN speech to domestic issues, including Canada’s reconciliation efforts with Indigenous peoples.

Unlike countries such as Norway or Sweden, Canada is not a natural multilateral player. Canada in the past few decades has asserted its multilateralism – it has not invested the economic and diplomatic resources to live up to its posture.1 It must work hard to support a multilateral agenda. It is through multilateralism and membership in various organisations that Canada has typically addressed questions of peace and security through the rule of law, economic prosperity and competitiveness in trade and investment, and national unity and Canadian sovereignty.

In the so-called golden era of Canadian diplomacy, resolute resolve by Prime Ministers Lester B. Pearson and Pierre Trudeau sought to offset American influence. Pearson favoured a strengthened United Nations and increased contributions to NATO, while Trudeau had his “third option” to reduce Canadian reliance on the American economy. However, this era was not without rancour and discord between Canada and the USA, especially when Pearson chose to not support the war in Vietnam. Now led by Trudeau’s son Justin, Canada finds itself revisiting this well-worn challenge. Resisting American dominance under the banner of multilateral engagement always risks friction between the two countries, which explains why his government has maintained tight relations with the Trump administration even as it conveys a sense of distance and Canadian distinctiveness.2

←14 | 15→

If rhetorical adherence to the principles of liberal internationalism was the defining characteristic that separated political parties from one another, one would be hard pressed to tell the difference among them based on their actions.3 Emphasizing different values does not necessarily lead to variation in foreign policy outcomes.4 Governments can selectively apply values. In the case of Harper, while claiming to be principled and “not going along to get along,” the government regularly upheld other Canadian values, such as a belief in democracy or the rule of law. In the end, Schönwalder argues that the emphasis on values makes it difficult to realize interests, concluding that “It is no surprise then that in most domains that matter on the world stage, Canada has actually lost influence: it is now punching below, and no longer above, its weight.”5 Thus, the rhetoric of liberal internationalism aside, given this legacy, it is fair to question where Canada is headed on the global stage.

This chapter explores these themes and tries to answer this question. Rather than simply highlighting rhetoric-reality gaps, we demonstrate how successive Canadian governments reacted to major foreign policy issues and events – what Gecelovsky6 calls lightning bolts – on a pragmatic and political level. Reactions have been driven by national and political interests more so than any adherence to a set of distinct values. “Legacies” – policies, events, and actions taken by Canada that are significant and /or have had a lasting impact – will shape how Canada approaches foreign policy in the next decade, conditioned by geopolitical rivalries, transnationalism, and the decline of multilateralism.7

←15 | 16→

Foundations of Canada’s Recent Foreign Policy

Conservatives, including former Prime Minister Stephen Harper, contend that liberal internationalism is deeply connected to the Liberal Party, extending well beyond the “Pearsonian Legacy.”8 However, assumptions that liberal internationalism is solely a Liberal Party ideology are misplaced. Until recently, differences between Conservatives and Liberals in terms of their commitment to liberal internationalism have been dominated by a more significant underlying tension: between those who believed Canada’s interests were best served through deeper integration with the US as the key to Canadian security and prosperity, and those who expressed a need for an increased multilateral role to offset American hegemony.9

On the one hand, the former idea sees Canada and the US as equals, even though in reality the relationship is fundamentally hierarchical: Canada is clearly in a position of subservience to American political and economic might.10 On the other, the latter view has Canada realizing its interests through institutions that offset the challenges of international anarchy, which are increasingly complicated by the decline of American stewardship, and weaker, less cohesive institutions. Canada’s pursuit of liberal internationalism has been a constant balancing act between the unattractive realities of subservience, hierarchy, and the unpredictable and often haphazard journey through an anarchical system.11

It was not until Stephen Harper came to power that Canada’s commitment to liberal internationalism was openly questioned and criticized. Before then, regardless of which party was in power, successive Canadian governments remained committed to the idea both in principle and practice.12 For example, ←16 | 17→Louis St-Laurent, Canada’s first post-war Prime Minister (1948–1957), portrayed Canada as a responsible, connected, and active leader in international affairs, framed in terms of securing political liberty in the face of Soviet tyranny. Under St-Laurent, Canadian expressions of the importance of the rule of law became more firmly established. This paralleled a fledgling UN system that had yet to realise its potential as a vehicle for securing the peace and strengthening the global economy through institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

St-Laurent’s advancement of Canada in an interconnected world was based on assumptions of reciprocity, growth, and responsibility, best realized through mechanisms that would create a predictable and rules-based system in which Canada could navigate the world. This belief in the importance of multilateralism was as much buttressed by the perceived importance of Christian values as it was formalised principles of state behaviour.13 NATO, contra the Warsaw Pact in the 1950s, was founded on the idea of a security community with shared liberal and western values committed to advancing democracy and open societies. It was not just a defensive alliance but a system of shared values.

During these seminal post-war years, Canada found cultural expression through other institutions, first in the Commonwealth and later la Francophonie, both of which allowed Canada to remain connected to Europe through the United Kingdom and France in the face of increasing US economic and political influence. To be sure, even before St-Laurent, the Canada-US relationship was touted as an example of how states with common values could engage in co-cooperation and therein support the peaceful resolution of disputes through shared institutions without compromising their sovereignty. At the same time, successive Canadian leaders expressed concern, implicitly at times, over American domination.14 In 1957, St-Laurent tasked Lester Pearson, his Secretary of State for External Affairs, to help resolve the Suez crisis, for which Pearson later received the Nobel Peace Prize. While widely lauded, this marked the moment where Canada was shifting from a UK-centric world view to an American one.

The premise that Canada could have both a continentalist and international role was constantly challenged, mostly on the economic front. Under ←17 | 18→John Diefenbaker (1957–1963), Canada’s commitment to the concept of liberal internationalism saw only minor changes, but Diefenbaker remained a staunch nationalist economically and on security issues, wary of creeping American incursion into Canadian economic and political sovereignty. Diefenbaker’s lightning bolts were twofold. First, during the Cuban Missile crisis, Diefenbaker challenged Kennedy’s approach to confronting the Soviet Union, leading to a deep acrimonious and distrustful relationship between the two. Canadian independence was weakened as a result.15 Second, the BOMARC crisis affected Canadian sovereignty, as it led to the scrapping of the Avro Arrow and produced political divisions over the question of whether US missiles based in Canada should have nuclear warheads.

Indeed, Lester Pearson (Prime Minister, 1963–1968) won the 1963 election largely based on this issue, and his new Liberal government accepted nuclear-armed Bomarcs. At the same time, Pearson’s Liberals opposed the American war in Vietnam. Canada’s international reach expanded significantly, with a focus on strengthening international institutions, emerging development assistance policy, and a commitment to peacekeeping and global security.16 Yet Canada’s early post-war leaders began to realise that Canada’s future was structurally contingent on its relationship with the United States, a fate dreaded by thinkers like George Grant in Lament for a Nation.17 Paradoxically, however, this relationship was increasingly important for enhancing Canadian sovereignty while simultaneously having the potential to reduce it.18

Under Pierre Trudeau (Prime Minister, 1968–1979; 1980–1984), the Canada-US relationship would be seriously tested, leading to the full emergence of the concept of Canada as a middle power in international affairs. For example, Trudeau’s 1970 foreign policy review, A Foreign Policy for Canadians, paid scant attention to the US relationship. Instead, it focused on how Canada could strengthen its influence abroad through multilateral fora and by engaging ←18 | 19→so-called Third World countries. These changes recognized that Canada’s population was becoming increasingly diverse, with non-European immigrants becoming a significant part of Canada’s cultural mosaic.

Trudeau’s successor, Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney (1984–1993) subscribed to many of liberal internationalism’s key tenets, notably on the environment, support for the United Nations, and the fight against South African apartheid. However, he also believed the Canada-US relationship could be improved by breaking down barriers to free trade, dismantling Canada’s investment review agency, and deepening Canadian contributions to NATO. Like Pearson and Trudeau before him, Mulroney had to confront the realities of Quebec nationalism, which he said could be addressed through economic prosperity and greater political autonomy within Canada for Quebec. The challenges of negotiating an unpopular free trade deal (the Mulroney Conservatives won the 1988 “free trade election” even though opponents to free trade received a majority of votes due to the nature of the “first past the post” electoral system) and national unity issues linked to constitutional negotiations were partially mitigated by Mulroney’s actions on apartheid and acid rain.

Following Mulroney, Jean Chrétien (Prime Minister, 1993–2003) espoused the most succinct expression of Canadian liberal internationalism. Chrétien, like the leaders before him, focused on a few key ends: the establishment of peace and security through the rule of law, maintaining a harmonious and productive relationship with the United States, and ensuring economic prosperity and competitiveness through trade and investment.

Chrétien oversaw the rise of Brand Canada, a strategy to employ values and national identity to advance neoliberal policy goals without paying a political price.19 The Chrétien government’s 1995 foreign policy statement, Canada in the World, primarily outlined how foreign policy could advance Canada’s economic interests. The “third pillar” focused on national identity and cultural diplomacy, laying in place the idea that the world could benefit from Canadian values (which would also help Canadian economic interests).20

This comprehensive review led to an elaboration of a values strategy with the political document, The Canadian Way in the 21st Century, reflective of “third ←19 | 20→way” politics in which governments that considered themselves left-leaning or progressive grappled with the economic pressures caused by globalization and neoliberalism. In effect, Chrétien argued for a progressive welfare state, though only one that was affordable on neoliberal terms.21 Chrétien’s successor and the architect of this economic strategy, Paul Martin Jr. (2003–2006), continued this approach, ultimately refusing to extend foreign aid, despite his friendship with development activists like Bono of U2, because Canada could not afford to do so.22 Instead, Martin espoused “smart diplomacy” through “whole of government approaches” in his tripartite International Policy Statement of 2004 which advanced the concept of more closely aligning the 3D’s (Defence, Diplomacy and Development) with foreign policy objectives. In essence, Canada could do more by reducing the number of aid recipients and tackling big projects like rebuilding Afghanistan, Haiti, and South Sudan.23

Both the Chrétien and Martin Liberal governments had several successful international policy initiatives, most of which succeeded by building broad domestic coalitions. In a fiscal climate of reduced resources, Chrétien’s dominant foreign minister, Lloyd Axworthy, skilfully worked with civil society actors from both Canada and abroad to achieve the Land Mines Treaty and advance the importance and influential principles of the “Responsibility to Protect” and “Human Security.” These efforts reflected the fact that the end of the Cold War was a tumultuous time for Canada. Pearsonian peacekeeping no longer made sense in a world beset by genocide, state failure and humanitarian disaster. After failed UN missions in Somalia, Bosnia and Rwanda, Canada increasingly withdrew from UN-based peacekeeping, favouring instead more focused and robust missions under NATO leadership. This trend continued under the Martin government, which quietly and without public debate shifted Canada’s peacekeeping contribution in Afghanistan to a war footing while he was Prime Minister.

←20 | 21→

Like Trudeau before him, Chrétien understood that Canadians were distrustful of the United States under Republican control. At the end of the Cold War, it was a country claiming to be the world’s sole superpower and was beginning to exert its military might outside of the UN system, as was the case in Kosovo, Panama, and Grenada. In this regard, Chrétien’s reading of the Canadian voters’ mindset was most seriously tested when he refused to endorse the US intervention in Iraq in 2003, a position opposed by the future Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, then leader of the Conservative Alliance. This decision won Chrétien a great deal of support in Quebec but alienated the Liberal Party from Conservative voters in Western Canada.24

Stephen Harper and the Shifting Context for Canadian Foreign Policy

Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper (2006–2015) discarded many of these perceived “Liberal” foreign policy initiatives in favour of a more ad hoc strategy focused on strengthening economic relationships and helping Canadian business enter emerging markets.25 Despite his conservative economic credentials, his government actively intervened in the economy to steer Canada out of the 2008 recession. This was accompanied by a change in the values underpinning foreign policy.

Chrétien’s 2003 decision on Iraq – opposed by Harper – proved to be the foundation upon which Stephen Harper would build a radically different foreign policy that opposed the so-called Laurentian elite consensus on liberal internationalism in favour of “personal responsibility internationalism” and leading by example.26 Canada, Harper claimed, was a proud and principled country that was not afraid to take tough stands on complex issues, be it terrorism, collective security, or the Middle East. This was seen as a necessary corrective to years of Liberal inaction.

←21 | 22→

Despite his lack of foreign policy knowledge and international travel, Harper skilfully exploited foreign policy politically. He saw foreign policy as an avenue for advancing moral causes; this was connected to taking strong actions rooted in principles, and not just “talking about doing”.27 This view was buttressed by his belief that the senior civil service was not ideologically in line with the Conservatives. In 2006, the Harper Conservatives criticized Liberal foreign policy, stating that they often engaged with dictators for business purposes, while development assistance under the Liberals was often political in nature.28

Harper was perhaps thinking of the Liberals when, in September 2010 at the UN, he stated that for the Millennium Development Goals to succeed, “Written goals are a good start, but it is our actions that really matter,” and then proceeded to note how his government in four years had made substantial progress in promoting development and increasing assistance.29 Harper, in trying to overcome the historic dominance politically of the Liberal Party, highlighted prior rhetoric-reality gaps to break the Liberal stranglehold on Canadian values and symbols, many of which were heavily associated with liberal internationalism. In promoting this alternative vision of Canada as a global actor, he tried to portray conservatism as mainstream. As he said on the first anniversary of his government in 2007, “Conservative values and Canadian values […] are one and the same.”30

Harper pitched conservative values to new Canadians who, rather than putting human rights at the top of their agenda, were interested in economic advancement. His party’s anti-communist credentials were on full display when he confronted Russia over Ukraine and China over human rights.31 Neither succeeded, other than building support for the Conservatives at home.32 He ←22 | 23→and his Foreign Minister, John Baird, acceded to American requests to lead a mission against Libya’s Moammar Qaddafi in 2011, resulting in the collapse of Libya and the diffusion of conflict throughout the Western Sahel.

The Harper Conservatives often pandered to the electorate through “photo-op democracy,” promoting its voice over multidirectional public debate.33 The Harper government, especially when it was in a minority parliament (2006–2011), was in constant election mode, with every policy carefully crafted and communicated to maximize political impact. That approach was neither statecraft nor grand strategy; it reflected the new political governance in the era of the permanent campaign.34

Harper tried to change the direction and perception, if not the substance, of Canadian foreign policy.35 For Harper, Canada was a “proud and honourable ally” that should visibly promote and protect Canadian values and interests – the North, the military, good versus evil, partnering with allies, notably the United States and Israel, and not supporting dictatorships.36 In his first year in power, Prime Minister Harper stated that Canadians “want a Canada that leads.” He declared in London that Canada would “reclaim the modest leadership role we once held on the world stage” and which had presumably been vacated by the Liberals. Nearly a decade before Trudeau, Harper declared in ←23 | 24→2006, “Make no mistake, Canada intends to be a player […] Canada’s back.”37 Symbolically, Harper declared that perceptions of Canada’s relationship with the US were outdated. Canada was not a mouse and the United States an elephant, as Pierre Trudeau famously declared in 1971; instead, it was a wolverine, smaller than the American grizzly bear but ferocious in defending its territory.38

Harper attempted to rebrand Canada as a “clean energy superpower.” Recognizing the dependence of the Canadian economy on resource exploitation and trying to support his desire to promote energy development, Harper offered a message later emulated by Justin Trudeau that linked energy exploitation and environmental concern through the idea of balance and responsibility: “with great energy power comes great environmental responsibility,” Harper stated in 2007. Thus began a renewed new focus of the staples state, combined with a push to promote Canadian firms (and attract foreign firms) to increase the scope and scale of international mining and resource extraction projects, supported by albeit weak corporate social responsibility policies.39

The Harper government also tried to change the language of Canadian foreign policy as part of its rebranding efforts, which included changing government web sites and directing bureaucrats to use the term “Harper Government.” Early in its tenure, for example, his government adopted language that was quite militaristic. Portraying the war in Afghanistan in historic terms, he declared in 2006 that Canadians did not “cut and run,” because “You can’t lead from the bleachers. I want Canada to be a leader.”40 In a speech to Canadian troops engaged in the 2011 Libya conflict, he stated, “a handful of soldiers is better than a mouthful of arguments. For the Gaddafis of this world pay no attention to the force of argument. The only thing they get is the argument of force. ←24 | 25→And that you have delivered in a cause that is good and right.”41 Later, Foreign Affairs was instructed to change the language and terms used in government documents and communication, reflecting Conservative priorities and values. For example, bureaucrats in Foreign Affairs were told to stop using terms like “gender equality” and “child soldiers.”42

Thus, we saw the rise of “Brand Harper,”43 in which attempts were made to redefine Canada in terms of a strong, masculine leader who could protect the nation in an era of fragile global turbulence. In the eyes of critics, Canada under Harper had become a “warrior nation”44 not simply in terms of action; the government was seeking to transform how Canadians identified at home and in the world.45

The Harper government’s new approach to foreign policy was evident in two key geopolitical areas. In the Middle East, foreign policy became tilted towards Israel, while Harper adopted a hard line towards Russia following the annexation of Crimea – both played well with important diasporas at home.

But how effective was Harper in realizing his aims to transform Canadian foreign policy? Nimijean argues that the politics of nation brands in Canada are designed to overcome rhetoric-reality gaps that challenge the desired image.46 In the Harper era, despite outward and frequent support for the military, defence spending was stagnant. Defending the North was central to Harper’s “True North Strong and Free,” yet resources and investments were scarce (including for the military and support for the Canadian Rangers), and its environmental policies and approach to working with Indigenous peoples left much work to be done.47 On Afghanistan, the Conservatives labelled NDP leader Jack Layton ←25 | 26→“Taliban Jack” because he suggested that Canada enter into peace negotiations with the Taliban. Harper had declared that Canadians do not cut and run, yet five years later, he engineered a withdrawal.

Though Harper presided over the longest war in Canadian history, there is not a single moment during that war that we would clearly associate Harper with decisive leadership in defence of the national interest. Instead, detainee scandals and the case of Omar Khadr, both of which were initiated under Paul Martin Jr., were black marks on Canada. As a war prime minister, Harper’s accomplishments were decidedly mixed. Canada’s aid to Afghanistan the largest in Canadian history had only a limited effect. Hundreds of millions of dollars were squandered or wasted.48 However, the celebration of war was central to the effort to transform Canada’s image as a warrior nation, seen most clearly in the revelation that Ottawa had been planning a large victory celebration for the Libya mission “well before the end of the Libyan conflict” and which cost double the original budget.49

Harper differed from Canada’s great foreign policy decision-makers in that his focus was on communication and public relations. Despite carefully-timed visits to India, China and the Middle East, and despite a rhetoric that often framed foreign policy in terms of good and evil, Harper went out of his way to avoid being associated with any such leadership moments.50 Even his maternal health initiative was criticized for its narrow focus on mothers and the lack of support for safe abortion and contraception.51

Contrast this with the Chrétien era, which was pockmarked with decisive moments that both united and divided Canadians, such as the Balkan wars, the Congo, Rwanda, or Iraq. All serve as examples of a prime minister who tried to shape Canada’s image as a humanitarian and responsible player in foreign ←26 | 27→policy, engaging in crises that both galvanized and divided the nation. The lightning bolts which make or break a leader.

While Harper claimed that he offered a “principled foreign policy” in contrast to predecessors, former Ambassador to China David Mulroney complained of “the steady encroachment of domestic political considerations into our foreign policy calculations.”52 For example, his government used foreign aid policy to appeal to domestic political bases, the same criticism he levelled against the Liberals.53 Harper may have transformed Canadian foreign policy, though not in the way intended. Foreign policy was used for domestic partisan purposes, employing values and rhetoric to attack opponents and marginalize critics, including the academic and research community.54 Despite a blunt discourse, the Conservative government more often than not reacted to global crises rather than shaping responses, given the need to advance Canadian interests as well as their own.55 In the 2015 federal election campaign, Harper derided his opponents as being soft on terror. While his approach may have mobilized his base, it remains that after a decade in power, and given a turbulent international political economy, this message wore thin, as critics suggested it was outside of the main of Canadian values. This set the stage for a return, at least rhetorically, to a liberal internationalist foreign policy.

Justin Trudeau and Canadian Foreign Policy

In anticipation of the 2015 federal election, Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party correctly anticipated that foreign policy would be a key area for highlighting policy distinctiveness and thus began preparing policies steeped in liberal internationalism. This was key for fending off Harper’s attacks that Trudeau was a neophyte who, if in power, would endanger Canada. Defending Canadian citizenship and promoting peace and diversity, particularly as the 2015 Syrian ←27 | 28→refugee crisis continued, allowed the Liberals to emerge as a surprise winner. The Liberal narrative framed the Harper government as out of touch with Canadian values, something a Trudeau government would rectify.

The first step was foreign affairs minister Stéphane Dion’s introduction of the concept of “responsible conviction.” This idea provided a framework for making tough foreign policy decisions when values and interests were in conflict. While making the Trudeau government look different from Harper’s, critics wondered how the Liberals could justify continuing the Harper government’s decision to allow the sale of light armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia despite the claim that human rights are a core Canadian value.56

When Dion was replaced as minister by Chrystia Freeland, the Trudeau government poured considerable energy into renegotiating NAFTA in an attempt to redirect attention away from its weak standing on the Saudi file. Ironically, the effort to further deepen Canada’s integration into the US political economy was framed as necessary for Canada’s economic future, and was defended through an articulation of the idea that Canada was a strong and sovereign country, thus reversing decades of concern that tighter integration would threaten Canadian sovereignty and distinctiveness. The contradiction reveals the stakes at hplay – that Canada is fundamentally an American country that uses distinctiveness and multilateralism to convey to others that it is not.

This explains why Justin Trudeau’s initial success at garnering international acclaim for Canada, linked to his celebrity, dissipated.57 The failure to deliver on key issues, perhaps fed by his reported disinterest in foreign policy, combined with political scandals and poor focus on emerging foreign policy issues quickly diminished his political celebrity.58 The rhetoric-reality gaps did not stop there and it was openly questioned whether the Trudeau government had a chance at winning the election of 2019, or even if Trudeau would lead them.

For example, the Liberals promised more transparency and public consultations. They promised to hold a full and open debate in Parliament to ensure that Canadians were consulted on the implications of trade deals and they pledged to conduct a full inquiry to ensure that the light-armoured vehicles sold to Saudi Arabia would not be used against their own citizens. They claimed ←28 | 29→they would consult on deepening relations with China and India. In the end, these public consultations were mere window dressing to support decisions and directions that had already been made within the PMO, such as selling more arms abroad and pursuing failed free trade talks with India and China.59

Beyond the rhetoric, Trudeau’s commitment to defence followed the Conservative line. This included an active air campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq, continued participation in Ukrainian and NATO exercises in Central and Eastern Europe and increased Canadian commitment to the region, and eventually the deployment of special forces to the Middle East and Africa. With regard to Canada’s engagement in the Middle East, Trudeau eventually stopped all CF-18 operations in Iraq but deployed even more soldiers throughout the region, while transitioning towards increased training for Iraqi forces. There was very little public discussion about why Canada was doing these things and what broader strategic purpose they served. Was the goal to weaken opponents like Iran, Russia, and Syria, or strengthen respect for human rights and the rule of law? Under Minister Chrystia Freeland, who framed much of Canada’s foreign policy ventures in geopolitical “us” versus “them” terms, there was little that distinguished her approach from Harper and Baird’s.60

These military continuities in some ways challenge the idea of a growing divide in Canadian opinion on foreign policy and, more importantly, whether the Liberals were turning Canada away from liberal internationalism.61 Trudeau’s Liberals claimed that Conservative values, far from being “one and the same” as Canadian values, were actually outside the dominant Canadian perspective. However, if anything, Canada under Trudeau remained as committed to military operations as Harper.

This no doubt disappointed Canadians who supported the Liberals in the 2015 election, since increased military commitments have not been matched by substantive efforts to build a more inclusive foreign policy. Once in power, Trudeau continued to espouse left-of-centre “values” even as they were abandoned ←29 | 30→(electoral reform) or severely watered down (refugee policy). Instead, concrete actions appealed to right-of-centre voters, including increasing defence and security spending and troop contributions to NATO, taking on Russia, Iran and Venezuela, and pursuing free trade deals, especially the single-minded focus on renegotiating NAFTA.

Where Trudeau did diverge from his predecessor was mostly on the rhetorical front. “Canada’s back” on the world stage, Justin Trudeau declared after his election victory, and was ready to take a leadership role on global issues, as he declared at the COP 21 environmental conference in Paris in 2015.62 Securing a seat on the UNSC would be the ultimate proof of global recognition of Canada’s resurgence and would appeal to its domestic base. Trudeau claimed he would unleash his diplomats by giving them greater freedoms to represent Canadian interests without being hemmed in by his own office, a criticism often levelled at Harper, who was very details oriented.63

Surprisingly, the Liberals did not conduct a meaningful foreign policy review in its first term and were unlikely to do so under minority government in the second, though there have been calls for such a review following Canada’s failure to win a seat to the United Nations Security Council in June 2020.64 Trudeau’s rhetorical commitment to consultation and the desire to pursue a “big tent” strategy of engaging those who supported his party, such as women, youth, and Indigenous peoples, remains problematic. Though Trudeau claimed that public diplomacy was crucial to his government’s success in order to legitimize his ideas of accountability and openness, the record thus far has been quite weak.65 In foreign policy, the Trudeau government has maintained the traditional Liberal formula for success, campaigning from the Left but governing from the Right.

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This is a reminder that international relations and the world of foreign policy are increasingly intertwined with domestic politics. However, it is not necessarily through actual policy and action – rather, it is the projection of Canada’s national identity abroad that then is used to inform domestic politics.66 For those Canadian voters who placed a great deal of emphasis on how Canada is perceived in international affairs, Trudeau’s gambit was to distance himself from his predecessor’s record of confrontation with the Foreign Service and alienation from international institutions. For example, the Liberals changed the Department of Foreign Affairs’ name to Global Affairs Canada, reflecting Trudeau’s post-election declaration that Canada was “back” and would reengage Canada with pressing global issues.

While the government felt compelled in 2017 to release statements on foreign policy, defence, and development assistance, they were contradictory: while touting the feminist dimensions of its foreign policy, specifically development assistance, the Liberals promised no new money for this portfolio.67 Meanwhile, the Liberals, in response to criticism from Donald Trump about poor defence spending by NATO allies, promised to increase Canadian defence budgets by more than 70 %. This reflects the fact that Chrystia Freeland’s stewardship over foreign affairs led to a hard power orientation despite Trudeau’s liberal internationalist rhetoric.68

In recognition of the importance of maintaining a strategic relationship with the US, Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland charted a course that was very closely aligned with American interests. Unfortunately, while Dion was committed to diplomacy, that was never high on Freeland’s agenda. For example, the Vancouver summit on North Korea ignored two of the three countries sharing a border with North Korea, namely Russia and China. Freeland’s unveiled support for protestors in Tehran, while not having an embassy there, is an example of disruptive diplomacy over constructive engagement. The reversal of the pledge to restore diplomatic relations with Iran hampered Canadian efforts ←31 | 32→to deal with the families of Canadians killed on a plane shot down by Iran in 2020. Canada acceded to the American request to detain Huawei executive Meng Wangzhou and has refused to consider releasing her, even though there is a high-level push to do so to secure the release of the “two Michaels” facing criminal charges of spying in a way that is consistent with the rule of law.69

At the same time, the Liberals under Justin Trudeau continued the Harper emphasis on the political communication of foreign policy. Just as Stephen Harper’s pandering to diaspora groups propelled his Conservatives to three election wins, the Liberals staked their claim to gender equality and its feminist foreign policy agenda, environmentalism, reconciliation with First Nations, and diversity. Trudeau’s personal obsession with identity politics and virtue signalling proved to be an imperfect platform upon which to build effective diplomacy, especially when the rhetoric could not keep pace with reality.

Two other areas are worth highlighting. Trudeau promised a proud return to peacekeeping, central to how Canadians identify.70 In August 2016, the government committed 450 million CAD, 600 soldiers, and 150 police officers to a future mission. Despite these promises and speculation regarding a potential deployment to Mali, in November 2017, Prime Minister Trudeau announced that Canada was instead prepared to offer up to 200 rapid-response ground troops for future UN peacekeeping operations.71

Then, after years of consultation, Canada agreed only to a limited role in Mali. Despite efforts to conjoin Canada’s peacekeeping efforts in Mali with a seat on the UN Security Council, Canadian forces departed after less than a year in-country; Canadian peacekeepers were replaced by Romanian soldiers.72 The Liberals cannot point to a clear outcome where their mission made a difference in Mali. Indeed, the situation there has deteriorated significantly as it ←32 | 33→has in Haiti, where Canada is drawing down its aid programme. Meanwhile, its participation in South Sudan was jeopardized because, despite initiatives to promote the role of women in peacekeeping, Canada could not ensure the minimum required number or female peacekeepers, reflecting a general problem in recruiting women into the military.73

The Harper and Trudeau governments reveal the growing importance of foreign policy rhetoric and posturing for domestic politics. The trajectory of Canadian foreign policy has not deviated;74 the communication of it has, however. While the Liberals continue to signal a commitment to multilateralism, Canada continues to be deeply integrated with the US, challenging its ability to deal with a changing international order dominated by the struggle between China and the US75 and to address its poor record in meeting its environmental promises given the growing impact of climate change.76 The Trudeau government has largely continued Harper’s trade and investment agenda, especially in terms of support for resource extraction and pursuing free trade deals, though Trudeau’s rhetoric makes it, echoing Chrétien, “neoliberalism with a human face.”77

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The Next Decade: Looking Ahead

Today under Justin Trudeau, there is a realisation that Canada’s commitment to and involvement in multilateralism and international institutions have begun to shift due to changes in the global economy.78 The Liberals now realise that the multilateralism that Canada helped develop and which was initially beneficial for Canada as a middle power works differently today. Thus far, there is a desire to seek out like minded democratic states to confront the symptoms of these systemic shifts, such as illiberalism and democratic backsliding, but these actions are clearly insufficient:

If Canada has fallen behind in market competitiveness, it is largely because our multilateral engagement has mostly focused on the dominance of an established power and the institutions it upholds rather than those institutions that are not dominated by an established power. Canada’s relative economic and political decline globally might explain why traditional middle powers seek to preserve the status quo and why leaders seek to convince audiences abroad and at home of their importance.79

The international political economy faces a number of pressing issues over the coming decade, but in an integrated world, the ability of most countries to address them is affected by and often constrained by their position in the hierarchy of countries and their relation to the two dominant powers, the USA and China. These two powers have shown a willingness to pursue their interests by sacrificing the interests of allies and other partners, a phenomenon reinforced by responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Canada is in a difficult position. It is heavily dependent on the USA for its prosperity and its security and defence by virtue of numerous agreements that constrain Canadian sovereignty.80 However, the Trump administration has regularly asserted its interests over Canada’s in its struggle with China even if it makes life more difficult for Canada. The American extradition request of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, resulting in strained Canada-China relations, is a prime example.81

Countries like Canada – significant countries economically but lacking influence politically – find themselves forced to rethink their strategy for ←34 | 35→engaging in this new climate or face increased diminishment. Current international relations are dominated by a climate of self-help and self-interest, yet many countries cling to the notion that international law can and does guide state conduct. Meanwhile, China and the US show us otherwise, sanctioning both friend and foe alike. This affects how Canada will approach and address emerging intersecting issues that resist simplistic solutions rooted in rhetoric.

Much of the challenge of intersecting issues centres on climate change. The Trudeau government has been consistent in its support for multilateral efforts to deal with the global climate change crisis. While this was central to the claim that Canada was back on the world stage and willing to help, the record shows otherwise. Not only has the Trudeau government accepted Harper’s watered-down emissions targets; since the Chrétien government signed the Kyoto Accord in 1997 and ratified it in 2002, Canada’s record has worsened. The federal government still does not have a plan on how it will overcome current shortfalls to achieve its 2030 emissions targets, yet it insists it can be achieved while it charts a path for Canada to virtually eliminate greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.82

Politically, Canada’s climate change debate is focused on cost and the federal carbon tax strategy. The opposition Conservative party and a group of provincial premiers, including the powerful Doug Ford of Ontario and Jason Kenney of Alberta, have argued against a carbon tax primarily on the grounds that it worsens the economy. Kenney in particular has pressured the federal government to support the expansion of the oil sands despite warnings from environmentalists, a task more urgent for Alberta given the collapse of oil prices during the 2020 COVID-19 crisis.83 This contributed to a national unity crisis following the 2019 federal election. The governing Liberals were shut out of Alberta and Saskatchewan, and Quebec reiterated its opposition to the idea of a transnational pipeline. In response, Alberta premier Jason Kenney stated: “If you [Quebec] want to benefit from our oil and gas wealth, stop blocking oil and gas pipelines.”84

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This is yet another reminder of Harold Innis’ observation of the cyclonic impact of the staples economy and the requirement of governments to obsess about managing the political impacts of resource industries in crisis.85 In this case, the short-term nature of the crisis has led the federal government to deal with western concerns. Meanwhile, the crisis has broadened as Indigenous peoples’ grievances with respect to the impact of pipelines on the environment and the failure to recognize Indigenous sovereignties have resurfaced, resulting in widescale protests across Canada in February 2020. The stop-start approach to acknowledging and implementing UNDRIP because of worries about perceived differences between aspiration (politically good) and what it means to implement UNDRIP (politically worrying) reveals the extent of the political challenge the government believes it faces.

While the government is focused on resolving these political crises, its ability to develop and communicate policy to emerging challenges wanes. It needs to develop an approach for achieving reconciliation with Indigenous peoples – often cited as fundamental to the government’s goals – with its economic strategy, Arctic policy in the context of climate change, challenges to Canadian sovereignty by Russia, the United States and China, and debates over the evolution of Canada’s energy-based economy.

Moreover, climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic require Canada to rethink its refugee policy, since the number of applicants are expected to increase.86 Prime Minister Trudeau has sought to distinguish Canada’s approach to that of the United States, but a sudden increase of refugees seeking to enter Canada from the United States after Trump was elected left the government unprepared logistically or politically to deal with this surge. A hardening of Canadian public opinion led to a new communications strategy that contrasted with Trudeau’s dominant narrative.87

This is compounded by a failure to think strategically about future relations with Asia, particularly China, which poses unique challenges for Canada in the ←36 | 37→context of broader Canada-US relations.88 Since the Harper years, Canada has flip-flopped on tighter economic ties and concern about human rights, treating them as “either-or’s.” Soothing prime ministerial rhetoric alone will not allow Canada to assert itself in this unequal triadic power relationship.

Conclusion

The principles of liberal internationalism have influenced the foreign policy of both Liberal and Conservative governments for more than a half-century. However, they have been unevenly applied, as leaders have struggled to balance the imperatives of the Canada-US relationship with the desire to be a more independent, multilateral country seeking to achieve goals important to Canadians and allies alike.89 Moreover, as Canadian governments’ commitment to international engagement began to decline in the 1990s,90 the rhetoric and values dimensions of foreign policy increased in importance as the political role of foreign policy for domestic politics increased. Stephen Harper was the first prime minister to openly question the utility of the principles of liberal internationalism, pointing to rhetoric-reality gaps, yet his foreign policy had its own gaps, as Justin Trudeau argued in 2015 through a resurgent discourse of liberal internationalism and Canadian values. His success reflects the fact that many Canadians continue to cling to the belief that Canada is still a middle power internationally. They believe that Canada can still lead the world in norm setting and big ideas.91

However, the ongoing trajectory of foreign policy from the Harper era to the Trudeau era shows how rhetoric, more than ideology or committing resources and developing policies to live up to these values, dominates Canadian foreign policy. Trudeau’s doubling down after the 2019 election on the importance of Canada winning a seat on the UNSC suggests that domestic politics ←37 | 38→and image will continue to dominate Canada’s role on the global stage. Despite ongoing disengagement globally, an ongoing diminished foreign aid effort,92 a minimalist implementation of its feminist foreign policy,93 and a continuation of the Harper government’s promotion of corporate interests in mining and development assistance, the government has ramped up the rhetoric. UN Ambassador Marc-André Blanchard stated that he was “cautiously optimistic” about winning the seat even though its two competitors do more in foreign aid (Norway) and peacekeeping (Ireland). As for Canada’s challenges in meeting its emissions targets, the ambassador stated that “Canada’s engagement on the issue is being seen as “leadership” by other nations.”94 In the end, Canada was defeated, receiving even fewer votes than the Harper government did in 2010.

This highlights how liberal internationalism will continue to inform debates about Canadian foreign policy. The ideals are powerful and maintained by many, regardless of the actual content of foreign policy. In the case of foreign policy, the tussle between liberal internationalism and warrior nation masks Canada’s growing disengagement internationally, regardless of the party in power, and it threatens Canada’s ability to deal with a new international order.

What then might be the fate of liberal internationalism under conditions of declining influence and engagement internationally? Canada’s politicians today are tactical (as opposed to strategic) in their thinking – opting for short- to medium-term policy choices that are popular with reachable voters and forestalling long-term structural transformations that could adversely affect their power base. Short of a fundamental rethink of how Canada engages in the world and to what ends, accompanied by an increased commitment to action, Canadian foreign policy will be unable to address the big challenges of the next decade.

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Massie, Justin: “Making Sense of Canada’s “Irrational” International Security Policy: A Tale of Three Strategic Cultures”. International Journal, 64 (3), 2009, pp. 625–645.

Mayeda, Andrew: “Harper Celebrates One Year of Tory Power”. The Ottawa Citizen, 24.1.2007, p. A-4.

←42 | 43→

McKay, Ian/Swift, Jamie: Warrior Nation: Rebranding Canada in a Fearful Age. Between the Lines: Toronto, 2012.

Montgomery, Marc: “Lack of Women Soldiers Nearly Cost Canada a Un Peacekeeping Mission”. RCI Net, 19.2.2020.

Nerenberg, Karl: “Harper Moves Oh-So-Slowly toward Mining Industry Transparency”. rabble.ca, 4.3.2014.

Nimijean, Richard: “Articulating the ‘Canadian Way’: Canada™ and the Political Manipulation of the Canadian Identity”. British Journal of Canadian Studies, 18 (1), 2005, pp. 26–52.

Nimijean, Richard: “Brand Canada: The Brand State and the Decline of the Liberal Party”. Inroads 19, 2006, pp. 84–93.

Nimijean, Richard: “The Politics of Branding Canada: The International-Domestic Nexus and the Rethinking of Canada’s Place in the World.” Revista mexicana de estudios canadienses, 11, 2006, pp. 67–85.

Nimijean, Richard: “Domestic Brand Politics and the Modern Publicity State”. In: Kozolanka, Kirsten (ed.): Publicity and the Canadian State. University of Toronto Press: Toronto, 2014, pp. 172–194.

Nimijean, Richard: “Migrant Spirit Contested: Competing Visions of Canada’s National Identity in the 2015 Federal Election”, TransCanadiana, 9, 2017, pp. 335–352.

Nimijean, Richard: “Where Is the Relationship Going? The View from Canada”. In: Carment, David/Sands, Christopher (eds.): Canada-US Relations: Sovereignty or Shared Institutions?. Palgrave Macmillan: London 2019, pp. 39–59.

Paris, Roland: “Are Canadians Still Liberal Internationalists? Foreign Policy and Public Opinion in the Harper Era”. International Journal, 69 (3), 2014, p. 275.

Payne, Roger: “ ‘America First’ and U.S. Canadian Relations”. In: Carment David/Sands Christopher (eds.): Canada-US Relations: Sovereignty or Shared Institutions?. Palgrave Macmillan: London, 2019, pp. 61–83.

Pinkerton, Charlie: “Mali Worsens as Canada Eyes Mission Finish Line”. iPolitics, 1.4.2019.

Pugliese, David: “Ceremony to Celebrate Libyan War Victory Cost Double Original Budget: Documents”. The Ottawa Citizen, 12.3.2012.

Rankin, L. Pauline: “Gender and Nation Branding in ‘the True North Strong and Free’ ”. Place Branding and Public Diplomacy, 8 (4), 2012, pp. 257–267.

Ruff, Kathleen/Calvert, John: “Rejecting Science-Based Evidence and International Co-Operation: Canada’s Foreign Policy on Asbestos under ←43 | 44→the Harper Government”. Canadian Foreign Policy Journal, 20 (2), 2014, pp. 131–145.

Schönwalder, Gerd: Principles and Prejudice: Foreign Policy under the Harper Government. Ottawa: Centre for International Policy Studies, 2014.

Seligman, Steven: “Canada and the United Nations General Assembly (1994–2015): Continuity and Change under the Liberals and Conservatives”. Canadian Foreign Policy Journal 22(3), 2016, pp. 276–315.

Simpson, Jeffrey: “The Rise of ‘Small Ball’ Politics”. The Globe and Mail, 29.1.2014.

“ ‘Canada is back,’ says Trudeau in Paris. ‘We’re here to help’ ”, The Toronto Star, 30.11.2015.

Tiessen, Rebecca/Black, David: “Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy: To Whom Is Canada Back?”. In: Nimijean, Richard/Carment, David (eds.): Canada, Nation Branding and Domestic Politics. Routledge: New York, 2019, pp. 39–45.

Urban, Michael Crawford: “A Fearful Asymmetry: Diefenbaker, the Canadian Military and Trust During the Cuban Missile Crisis”. Canadian Foreign Policy Journal, 21 (3), 2015, pp. 257–271.

Walkom, Thomas: “Justin Trudeau’s Neo-Liberalism with a Human Face: Walkom”. Toronto Star, 19.12.2016.

Walsh, Marieke: “Ottawa Examining How to Surpass 2030 Emissions Reduction Targets”. The Globe and Mail, 5.12. 2019.

Walsh, Marieke: “Canada on Track to Substantially Miss 2030 Emissions Reduction Targets, Government Data Shows”. The Globe and Mail, 20.12.2019.

Webster, David: “End of the Innocents: Engagement and Decolonization in the Global South since 1968”. Canadian Foreign Policy Journal, 24 (3), 2018, pp. 329–343.

Wells, Paul/Smith, Marie-Danielle: “Inside the Canadian Establishment’s Fight with Trudeau over China”. Maclean’s, 25.6.2020.

Young, Graeme: “Political Decision-Making and the Decline of Canadian Peacekeeping”. Canadian Foreign Policy Journal, 25 (2), 2019, pp. 152–171.


1 Macdonald, Laura: “Canada Goes Global: Building Transnational Relations between Canada and the World, 1968–2017”. Canadian Foreign Policy Journal, 24 (3), 2018, pp. 358–371; Webster, David: “End of the Innocents: Engagement and Decolonization in the Global South since 1968”. Canadian Foreign Policy Journal, 24 (3), 2018, pp. 329–343.

2 Nimijean, Richard: “Where Is the Relationship Going? The View from Canada”. In: Carment, David/Sands, Christopher (eds.): Canada-US Relations: Sovereignty or Shared Institutions?. Palgrave Macmillan: London, 2019, pp. 39–59.

3 Seligman, Steven: “Canada and the United Nations General Assembly (1994–2015): Continuity and Change under the Liberals and Conservatives”. Canadian Foreign Policy Journal, 22 (3), 2016, pp. 276–315.

4 Schönwalder, Gerd: Principles and Prejudice: Foreign Policy under the Harper Government, retrieved 5.1.2015, from https://www.cips-cepi.ca/publications/principles-and-prejudice-foreign-policy-under-the-harper-government/.

5 Ibid.

6 Gecelovsky, Paul: “Of Legacies and Lightning Bolts: Another Look at the Prime Minister and Canadian Foreign Policy”. In: Bratt, Duane/Kukucha, Christopher J. (eds.): Readings in Canadian Foreign Policy: Classic Debates & New Ideas. Oxford University Press: Don Mills, 2015.

7 See also Keating, Tom: “The Twilight of Multilateralism in Canadian Foreign Policy?”. In: Bratt, Duane/Kukucha, Christopher J. (eds.): Readings in Canadian Foreign Policy: Classic Debates & New Ideas. Oxford University Press: Don Mills, 2015; Daryl Copeland, “ ‘Canada’s Back’ – Can the Trudeau Government Resuscitate Canadian Diplomacy?”. Canadian Foreign Policy Journal, 24 (2), 2018, pp. 243–252.

8 Paris, Roland: “Are Canadians Still Liberal Internationalists? Foreign Policy and Public Opinion in the Harper Era.” International Journal, 69 (3), 2014, p. 275.

9 Bow, Brian: “Paradigms and Paradoxes: Canadian Foreign Policy in Theory, Research, and Practice”. International Journal, 65 (2), 2010, pp. 371–380.

10 Anderson, Greg: “David and Goliath in Canada-U.S. Relations: Who’s Really Who?”. Canadian Foreign Policy Journal, 25(2), 2019, pp. 115–136; Carment, David/Sands, Christopher: “Introduction”. In: Carment, David/Sands, Christopher (eds.): Canada-US Relations: Sovereignty or Shared Institutions?. Palgrave Macmillan: London 2019, pp. 1–13; Massie, Justin: “Making Sense of Canada’s “Irrational” International Security Policy: A Tale of Three Strategic Cultures”. International Journal, 64 (3), 2009, pp. 625–645.

11 Gecelovsky, Paul: “Of Legacies and Lightning Bolts”; Massie, Justin: op. cit.

12 Carment, David/Sands, Christopher: op. cit.

13 Gecelovsky, Paul: “From Humane to Responsible: Stephen Harper, Narrative and Canadian Foreign Policy”. Canadian Foreign Policy Journal, 2019, pp. 1–17, retrieved 12.12.2019, from DOI:10.1080/11926422.2019.1684962.

14 Carment, David/Sands, Christopher: op. cit.

15 Urban, Michael Crawford: “A Fearful Asymmetry: Diefenbaker, the Canadian Military and Trust During the Cuban Missile Crisis”. Canadian Foreign Policy Journal, 21 (3), 2015, pp. 257–271.

16 Webster, David: op. cit.; Young, Graeme: “Political Decision-Making and the Decline of Canadian Peacekeeping”. Canadian Foreign Policy Journal, 25 (2), 2019, pp. 152–171.

17 Grant, George: Lament for a Nation: The Defeat of Canadian Nationalism. McClelland and Stewart: Toronto, 1965.

18 Clark, Sean: “Steady March toward Greatness? Tracing the Evolution of Canada’s International Position”. Canadian Foreign Policy Journal, 22 (3), 2016, pp. 228–248.

19 Nimijean, Richard: “Articulating the ‘Canadian Way’: Canada™ and the Political Manipulation of the Canadian Identity”. British Journal of Canadian Studies, 18 (1), 2005, pp. 26–52; Nimijean, Richard: “Brand Canada: The Brand State and the Decline of the Liberal Party”. Inroads, 19, 2006, pp. 84–93.

20 Macdonald Laura: op. cit.; Nimijean, Richard: “Articulating the ‘Canadian Way’ ”.

21 Nimijean, Richard: “Brand Canada”.

22 Blanchfield, Mike: “Canada ‘Can’t’ Afford to Hike Foreign Aid”. The Ottawa Citizen, 19.4.2005, p. A–3.

23 Carment, David/Prest, Stewart/Samy, Yiagadeesen: Security, Development and the Fragile State: Bridging the Gap between Theory and Policy. Taylor and Francis, Hoboken 2009; Carment, David/Samy, Yiagadeesen: “Canada’s Fragile States Policy: What Have We Accomplished and Where Do We Go from Here?”. In: Black, David R./den Heyer, Molly/Brown, Stephen (eds.): Rethinking Canadian Aid. University of Ottawa Press: Ottawa, 2016, pp. 227–239.

24 Harper, Tim: “Canadians back Chrétien on war, poll finds”. The Toronto Star, 22.03.2003, retrieved 4.8.2020, from https://web.archive.org/web/20110706184537/http://25461.vws.magma.ca/admin/articles/torstar-24-03-2003c.html.

25 Keating, Tom: op. cit.

26 Gecelovsky, Paul: “From Humane to Responsible”; Ibbitson, John: “How Harper Transformed Canada’s Foreign Policy”. The Globe and Mail, 31.1.2014, retrieved 1.2.2014, from http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/how-harper-transformed- canadas-foreign-policy/article16626348/.

27 See Martin, Lawrence: Harperland: The Politics of Control. Viking Canada: Toronto, 2010, pp. 79–82.

28 Blanchfield, Mike: Swingback: Getting Along in the World with Harper and Trudeau. McGill-Queen’s University Press: Montreal, 2017, p. 34.

29 Harper, Stephen: “Statement by the Prime Minister of Canada at the Milleninum Development Goals High-Level Plenary in New York”. 21.9.2010, retrieved 23.9.2010, from https://pm.gc.ca/eng/media.asp?category=3&id=3650.

30 Cited in Mayeda, Andrew: “Harper Celebrates One Year of Tory Power”. The Ottawa Citizen, 24.1.2007, p. A–4.

31 Carment, David/Sadjed, Ariane: Old Enemies, New Technology, Opencanada.org, 12.12.2014, retrieved 12.12.2014, from https://www.opencanada.org/features/old-enemies-new-technology.

32 Carment, David/Landry, Joe: “Civil Society and Canadian Foreign Policy”. In: Bratt, Duane /Kukucha, Christopher J. (eds.): Readings in Canadian Foreign Policy: Classic Debates & New Ideas. Oxford University Press: Don Mills, 2015.

33 Brabazon, Honor/Kozolanka, Kirsten: “Neoliberalism, Authoritarian-Populism, and the ‘Photo-Op Democracy’ of the Publicity State: Changes to Legislative and Parliamentary Norms by the Harper Government”. Canadian Journal of Political Science, 51 (2), 2018, pp. 253–277.

34 Cappe, Mel: “Let’s Respect the ‘Faceless Bureaucrats’ Who Keep Canada Running,” The Globe and Mail, 12.4.2013, retrieved 13.4.2013, from https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/lets-respect-the-faceless-bureaucrats-who-keep-canada-running/article11133773/; Ibbitson, John: “How Harper Transformed Canada’s Foreign Policy”; Simpson, Jeffrey: “The Rise of ‘Small Ball’ Politics”. The Globe and Mail, 29.1.2014, retrieved 30.1.2014, from https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/the-rise-of-small-ball-politics/article16566918/; Delacourt, Susan: Shopping for Votes: How Politicians Choose Us and We Choose Them, 2nd edition. Douglas & McIntyre: Madeira Park 2016.

35 Paris, Roland: op. cit.

36 Carment, David: “Canada’s Led Itself into a Corner”. The Globe and Mail, 6.12.2012, retrieved 7.12.2012, from https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/canadas-led-itself-into-a-corner/article6003394/; Carment, David: “Religious Freedom? This Office Is About Ethnic Votes”. The Globe and Mail, 21.2.2013, retrieved 22.2.2013, from https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/religious-freedom-this-office-is-about-ethnic-votes/article8901119/.

37 Qtd. in “Harper tells U.S. audience ‘Canada is back,’ ” The Globe and Mail, 20.9.2006, retrieved 23.3.2018, from https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/harper-tells-us-audience-canada-is-back/article1103642/.

38 “We’re No Mouse, We’re a Wolverine,” The Gazette, 7.2.2007, retrieved 28.10.2020, from https://www.pressreader.com/canada/montreal-gazette/20070207/281719790114207.

39 Nerenberg, Karl: “Harper Moves Oh-So-Slowly toward Mining Industry Transparency.” rabble.ca, 4.3.2014, retrieved 4.3.2014, from https://rabble.ca/blogs/ bloggers/karl-nerenberg/2014/03/harper-moves-oh-so-slowly-toward-mining-industry-transparency.

40 “Canada Committed to Afghan Mission, Harper Tells Troops.” CBC News, 13.3.2006, retrieved 7.12.2013, from https://www.cbc.ca/news/world/canada- committed-to-afghan-mission-harper-tells-troops-1.573722.

41 Harper, Stephen: “Statement by the Prime Minister of Canada while in Trapani, Italy.” 1.09.2011, retrieved 25.6.2020, from https://www.canada.ca/en/news/archive/2011/09/statement-prime-minister-canada-while-trapani-italy.html.

42 Collins, Michelle: “ ‘Gender Equality’, ‘Child Soldiers’ and ‘Humanitarian Law’ Are Axed from Foreign Policy Language”. Embassy, 29.7.2009, retrieved 29.7.2009, from http://embassymag.ca/page/printpage/foreignpolicy-7-29-2009.

43 Rankin, L. Pauline: “Gender and Nation Branding in ‘the True North Strong and Free’ ”. Place Branding and Public Diplomacy, 8 (4), 2012, pp. 257–267.

44 McKay, Ian/Swift, Jamie: Warrior Nation: Rebranding Canada in a Fearful Age. Between the Lines: Toronto, 2012.

45 Gravelle, Timothy B. et al.: op. cit.

46 Nimijean, Richard: “Domestic Brand Politics and the Modern Publicity State”. In: Kozolanka, Kirsten (ed.): Publicity and the Canadian State. University of Toronto Press: Toronto, 2014, pp. 172–194.

47 Healy, Teresa/Trew, Stuart: The Harper Record 20082015. Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives: Ottawa 2015.

48 Carment, David/Samy, Yiagadeesen: “Throwing Aid at Afghanistan Is Not Working”. Embassy, 18.7.2012, p. 12.

49 Pugliese, David: “Ceremony to Celebrate Libyan War Victory Cost Double Original Budget: Documents”. The Ottawa Citizen, 12.3.2012, retrieved 24.4.2012, from http://www.ottawacitizen.com/news/Ceremony+celebrate+Libyan+victory+cost+double+original+budget+documents/6290176/story.html.

50 Carment, David/Sadjed, Ariane: op. cit.; Carment, David/Samy, Yiagadeesen: “Canada’s Fragile States Policy”.

51 Dib, Lina: “UN Agency Slams Harper’s Maternal Health Policy”. iPolitics, 9.3.2016, retrieved 24.6.2020, from https://ipolitics.ca/2016/03/09/un-agency- slams-canadas-maternal-health-policy/.

52 Cited in Maher, Stephen: “Conservative ‘Principled Foreign Policy’ Amounts to Little More Than Vote-Seeking”. National Post, 7.3.2015, retrieved 14.2.2020, from https://nationalpost.com/news/canada/stephen-maher-canada-foreign-policy.

53 Brown, Stephen: “All About That Base? Branding and the Domestic Politics of Canadian Foreign Aid”. Canadian Foreign Policy Journal, 24 (2), 2018, pp. 145–164.

54 Ruff, Kathleen/Calvert, John: “Rejecting Science-Based Evidence and International Co-Operation: Canada’s Foreign Policy on Asbestos under the Harper Government”. Canadian Foreign Policy Journal, 20 (2), 2014, pp. 131–145.

55 Carment, David: “Was It Ever John Baird’s Foreign Policy?”. Opencanada.org, 27.2.2015, retrieved 28.2.2015, from https://www.opencanada.org/features/was-it-ever-john-bairds-foreign-policy/.

56 Carment, David/Samy, Yiagadeesen: “Canada’s Fragile States Policy”.

57 Marland, Alex: “The Brand Image of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in International Context.” Canadian Foreign Policy Journal, 24 (2), 2018, pp. 139–144.

58 Coulon, Jocelyn: Un Selfie Avec Justin Trudeau: Regard Critique Sur La Diplomatie Du Premier Ministre. Québec Amérique: Montréal, 2018.

59 Carment, David (ed.): 2017 Trudeau Foreign Policy Report Card. Iaffairscanada: Ottawa, 2017; Carment, David (ed.): 2018 Trudeau Foreign Policy Report Card. Iaffairscanada: Ottawa, 2018; CBC News: “China wants no ‘progressive’ elements in any free trade deal with Canada: envoy”. CBC News, 10.4.2018, retrieved 31.5.2018, from https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/china-trade-canada-progressive-1.4613602.

60 Carment, David/Nimijean, Richard: “Trudeau’s Precarious Hold on the Liberal Foreign Policy Agenda”, iPolitics, 9.7.2019, retrieved 9.7.2019, from https://ipolitics.ca/2019/07/09/trudeaus-precarious-hold-on-the-liberal-foreign-policy-agenda/.

61 Gravelle, Timothy B. et al.: op. cit.; Young, Graeme: op. cit.

62 “ ‘Canada is back,’ says Trudeau in Paris. ‘We’re here to help’ ”. The Toronto Star, 30.11.2015, retrieved 27.4.2017, from https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2015/11/30/busy-day-for-trudeau-at-paris-climate-change-talks.html.

63 Blanchfield, Mike: “Trudeau Relaxes Conservative Control of Diplomats, Urges Them to Engage”. National Newswatch, 5.11.2015, retrieved 25.6.2020, from https://www.nationalnewswatch.com/2015/11/05/trudeau-relaxes-conservative- control-of-diplomats-urges-them-to-engage/.

64 Connolly, Amanda: “Canada’s Security Council Seat Loss Drives Home Need for Foreign Policy Reset: Experts”. Global News, 19.6.2020, retrieved 22.6.2020, from https://globalnews.ca/news/7080009/canada-foreign-policy-review/.

65 Carment (ed.): 2018 Trudeau Foreign Policy Report Card; Carment, David (ed.): 2019 Trudeau Foreign Policy Report Card. Iaffairscanada: Ottawa 2019.

66 Nimijean, Richard: “The Politics of Branding Canada: The International-Domestic Nexus and the Rethinking of Canada’s Place in the World.” Revista mexicana de estudios canadienses, 11, 2006, pp. 67–85.

67 Blanchfield, Mike: “Liberals’ ‘Feminist’ Foreign Aid Policy Doesn’t Include New Spending”. Huffington Post, 9.6.2017, retrieved 22.6.2017, from https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2017/06/09/canadian-press-newsalert-new-dollars-scarce-in-feminist-foreign-aid-policy_n_17015280.html.

68 Carment, David/Nimijean, Richard: “Justin Trudeau ou l’étalage de vertu”. Le Monde diplomatique, October 2019, p. 11; Daryl Copeland: op. cit.

69 Wells, Paul/Smith, Marie-Danielle: “Inside the Canadian Establishment’s Fight with Trudeau over China”. Maclean’s, 25.6.2020, retrieved 25.6.2020, from https://www.macleans.ca/politics/ottawa/inside-the-canadian-establishments- fight-with-trudeau-over-china/.

70 Young, Graeme: op. cit.

71 MacCharles, Tondra/Camion-Smith, Bruce: “Canada to Spread Its Peacekeeping Efforts Around”. The Star, 15.11.2017, retrieved 16.11.2017, from https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2017/11/15/canada-to-spread-its-peacekeeping-efforts-around.html.

72 Pinkerton, Charlie: “Mali Worsens as Canada Eyes Mission Finish Line”. iPolitics, 1.4.2019, retrieved 3.4.2019, from https://ipolitics.ca/2019/04/01/mali-worsens-as-canada-eyes-mission-finish-line/.

73 Montgomery, Marc: “Lack of Women Soldiers Nearly Cost Canada a Un Peacekeeping Mission”. RCI Net, 19.2.2020, retrieved 19.2.2020, from https://www.rcinet.ca/en/2020/02/19/lack-of-women-soldiers-nearly-cost-canada-a-u-n-peacekeeping- mission/.

74 Ibbitson, John: “Trudeau’s Foreign Policy vs. Harper’s: There is Little Difference”. The Globe and Mail, 8.3.2014, retrieved 9.3.2014, from https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/trudeau-taking-foreign-policy-cue-from-tory-playbook/article34241539.

75 Carment, David/Nimijean, Richard: “Canada’s China-U.S. Conundrum”. Hill Times, 24.2.2020, p. 27.

76 Walsh, Marieke: Canada on Track to Substantially Miss 2030 Emissions Reduction Targets, Government Data Shows”. The Globe and Mail, 20.12.2019, retrieved 22.12.2019, from https://www.theglobeandmail.com/politics/article- canada-on-track-to-substantially-miss-2030-emissions-reduction-targets/.

77 Walkom, Thomas: “Justin Trudeau’s Neo-Liberalism with a Human Face: Walkom”. Toronto Star, 19.12.2016, retrieved 21.12.2016, from https://www.thestar.com/opinion/commentary/2016/12/19/justin-trudeaus-neo-liberalism-with-a-human-face-walkom.html.

78 Macdonald, Laura/Paltiel, Jeremy: “Middle Power or Muddling Power? Canada’s Relations with Emerging Markets”. Canadian Foreign Policy Journal, 22 (1), 2016, pp. 1–11.

79 Carment, David (ed.): 2019 Trudeau Foreign Policy Report Card, p. 15.

80 Carment, David/Sands, Christopher: op. cit.

81 Carment, David/Nimijean, Richard: “Canada’s China-U.S. Conundrum”.

82 Walsh, Marieke: “Ottawa Examining How to Surpass 2030 Emissions Reduction Targets”. The Globe and Mail, 5.12.2019, retrieved 7.12.2019, from http://www.theglobeandmail.com/politics/article-ottawa-examining-how-to-surpass-2030-emissions-reduction-targets/.

83 Borzykowski, Bryan: “What the Turmoil in Oil Markets Means for Canada’s Economy”. Maclean’s, 21.4.2020, retrieved 21.4.2020, from https://www.macleans.ca/economy/economicanalysis/what-the-turmoil-in-oil-markets-means-for-canadas-economy/.

84 CBC News: “Kenney Blasts Quebec Premier for ‘Historically Inaccurate’ Stance on Equalization”, CBC News, 20.8.2019, retrieved 21.2.2020, from http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/kenney-legault-equalization-payments-spat-1.5252267.

85 Bradford, Neil/Williams, Glen: “What Went Wrong? Explaining Canadian Industrialization”. In: Clement, Wallace/Williams, Glen (eds.): The New Canadian Political Economy. McGill-Queen’s University Press: Montreal, 1989, pp. 54–76.

86 Fraser, Nicholas A. R.: “Reassessing Canada’s Refugee Policy in the COVID-19 Era”. Policy Options, 3.6.2020, retrieved 3.6.2020, from https://policyoptions.irpp.org/magazines/june-2020/reassessing-canadas-refugee-policy-in-the-covid-19-era/.

87 Nimijean, Richard: “Migrant Spirit Contested: Competing Visions of Canada’s National Identity in the 2015 Federal Election”, TransCanadiana, 9, 2017, pp. 335–352.

88 Doran, Charles: “The United States and Canada: In Search of Partnership”. In: Carment David/Sands Christopher (eds.): Canada-US Relations: Sovereignty or Shared Institutions?. Palgrave Macmillan: London, 2019, pp. 17–38.

89 Roger Payne: “ ‘America First’ and U.S. Canadian Relations”. In: Carment, David/Sands, Christopher (eds.): Canada-US Relations: Sovereignty or Shared Institutions?. Palgrave Macmillan: London, 2019, pp. 61–83.

90 Greenhill, Robert/McQuillan, Megan: “Assessing Canada’s Global Engagement Gap”. Opencada.org 6.10.2105, retrieved 20.10.2015, from https://www.opencanada.org/features/canadas-global-engagement-gap/.

91 Carment, David/Landry, Joe: op. cit.

92 Brown, Stephen: op. cit.

93 Tiessen, Rebecca/Black, David: “Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy: To Whom Is Canada Back?”. In: Nimijean, Richard/Carment, David (eds.): Canada, Nation Branding and Domestic Politics. Routledge: New York, 2019, pp. 39–45.

94 CBC News: “Canada’s UN Ambassador ‘Cautiously Optimistic’ About Landing Security Council Seat”. CBC News, 15.2.2020, retrieved 17.2.2020, from https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/chris-hall-canada-wide-pipeline-protests-a-bump-on-the-road-to-reconciliation-garneau-says-1.5463366/canada-s-un-ambassador-cautiously-optimistic-about-landing-security-council-seat-1.5463396.

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Tomasz Soroka

Feminism and Gender Equality in Justin Trudeau’s Foreign Policy

Abstract: Rhetoric focusing on women’s rights and feminist perspectives has a long tradition in Canadian political discourse. Over the years, numerous Canadian diplomats and representatives abroad have frequently emphasized the importance of gender equality in their informal addresses and official statements in various international fora. In 2015, however, Justin Trudeau, Canada’s new prime minister, brought feminism-oriented discourse to a new level by announcing the promotion of feminism, women’s rights and gender equality as the cornerstones and highest priorities of his government’s foreign policy. This chapter presents the concept and main goals of Trudeau’s feminist foreign policy. It also analyses Trudeau’s rhetorical promises and commitments and compares them with the practical actions, programs and initiatives his government has implemented or undertaken internationally in order to deliver the promise of establishing a more feminized foreign policy. It attempts to assess whether Trudeau’s feminist approach has proved effective and successful.

Keywords: Canada, Trudeau, feminism, gender equality, foreign policy, feminist foreign policy, international relations

Introduction

Rhetoric focusing on feminist perspectives has a long tradition in Canadian political discourse. Over the years, countless Canadian diplomats and politicians have emphasized the importance of gender equality in their informal and official statements in various international forums. In 2015, however, Justin Trudeau, Canada’s newly elected prime minister, brought feminism-oriented discourse to a new level by announcing that the promotion of gender equality would be the cornerstone of his government’s foreign policy (FP). Not only did he proudly proclaim himself a feminist but also repeatedly evoked the notion of feminist foreign policy (FFP), which was expected to become one of Canada’s top international brands.

This chapter discusses the Trudeau government’s rhetoric, programs and initiatives undertaken with the aim of establishing a more feminized FP. It attempts to assess whether Trudeau’s feminist approach has been unique and successful in bringing significant changes to the global discourse and policymaking on women’s rights.

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Feminist Foreign Policy: What Is in the Definition?

Historically and globally speaking, the very concept of FFP is relatively new. As Lyric Thompson and Rachel Clement rightly point out, the idea of FFP has its roots in a number of post-war international agreements, conventions, declarations and foreign policies that have attempted both “to bring a gendered lens” to international relations and to the legal protection of the rights of women and girls.1 A basic normative international framework for women’s rights is today provided by, among others, the United Nation’s (UN) Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 (UDHR), the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the Vienna and Beijing Declarations and Platforms for Action or the UN Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace, and Security of 2000.2 More recently, in 2015, the UN adopted a list of 17 global Sustainable Development Goals, “the blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all” by 2030. One of these goals is gender equality, “a fundamental human right” and a “foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world”. The goal is to be achieved by providing women with equal “access to education, health care, decent work, and representation in political and economic decision-making processes”.3 While alongside other commitments, all these declarations and resolutions are important in addressing women’s rights, they are worded in rather vague and generic terms and do not translate automatically into meaningful feminist policies worldwide.

As for FFP, it is equally difficult to point out to a single, cohesive or clearly defined FFP theory, just as it is impossible to concisely define feminism without referring to the variety of forms it takes. Briefly, FFP could be defined as an external policy “that places at the centre of the analysis such things as gendered discrimination, inequalities and violence as well as the lack of inclusion and representation of women and other marginalised groups”.4 As for more ←46 | 47→comprehensive classifications, two policy advocates from the International Center for Research on Women offer a broader definition of FFP:

An even more comprehensive set of characteristics of FFP was offered by a panel of 40 feminists who gathered on the sidelines of the 63rd UN Commission on the Status of Women in March 2019 to discuss the emergence of FFPs. At that meeting, the so-called gold standard for FFP was adopted, according to which FFPs should be: a) rights-based, i.e. acknowledging that women’s rights are irrevocable human rights; b) transformative, i.e. delivering real change; c) inclusive and intersectional, i.e. not encompassing only women’s issues, but also “intersecting identities through which power has traditionally been expressed or denied – race and ethnicity, religion, age, rurality, ability, gender identity, sexual orientation and more”; d) comprehensive and coherent, i.e. demanding changes on all domestic and foreign policy levels: in the military, international trade and investments, development assistance, education and health, the environment; e) subject to transparency and accountability mechanisms. The proposed principles, as the paper summarizing the above-mentioned discussions indicates, “represent an ideal benchmark” for FFP and “it is unlikely that any country will meet all principles all the time”.6

In fact, all the above definitions of FFP are based mostly on the existing FFPs that have so far been adopted by name, content and practice by four countries: Sweden (2014), Canada (2017), France (2018) and Mexico (2020).7 Since ←47 | 48→their respective gender-oriented approaches vary, it is justified to note that FFPs should rather be defined by the concepts, norms and practices of feminism in a particular country. Canada, officially adopting its own FFP in 2017, was the second country globally to do so.

The Rise of Trudeau’s Feminist Policy

In Canadian law, women’s rights are protected on various levels. Constitutionally, they are enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which ensures that all protections “apply equally to male and female persons”,8 without discrimination based on sex.9 In federal law, apart from legislative acts regulating labour relations and voting or property rights, the Canadian Human Rights Act of 1977 enforces gender equality by prohibiting discrimination in any sphere of public and political life based on “sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, marital status, family status, genetic characteristics, […] pregnancy or child-birth”10. Similar guarantees are provided in provincial human rights legislations and have been confirmed by the adjudications of the Canadian courts.11

Internationally, the Canadian government has declared itself “a world leader in advancing gender equality”, pointing to Canada’s achievements in enhancing women’s rights, particularly by endorsing initiatives aiming at the eradication of gender-based violence or by advancing LGBTQ rights and women’s reproductive and health rights.12 While particular aspects of Canada’s female-oriented policies have faced high profile international critique,13 independent ←48 | 49→NGOs generally admit that “Canada is among the global leaders in women’s equality”.14

Canadian discourse on feminism was undoubtedly elevated to a new level after Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party won the federal election in 2015. The newly elected prime minister, long before Canada officially announced the adoption of its own FFP, had made headlines with countless references and commitments to the feminist cause. These included his famous “because it’s 2015” phrase, justifying the appointment of Canada’s first ever gender-balanced cabinet,15 and his self-identification as a feminist, which he repeated on various occasions on social media, during interviews, in public addresses16, even in his memoir17 and a biographical note on governmental webpages.18

Internationally, he first made it clear that a feminist perspective was going to be included in the Canadian FP conduct at a conference held by UN Women in March 2016, where he called for “a normalization of gender equality and a feminist approach” and to “establish gender equality as integral to human rights and an equality perspective”.19 At the same time, The Globe and Mail published the prime minister’s reflections on the discussions he had taken part in at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos. In his commentary, Trudeau ←49 | 50→remarked that “it is time for the full and equal participation of women in our social, political and economic worlds to be the norm, not the exception”.20

Feminism, thus, was entering the Canadian foreign policy agenda gradually. The process seems to have started with the publication of the International Assistance Review: #DevCanada in mid-2016. It was the first governmental FP publication explicitly prioritizing a “feminist approach” to all Canada’s foreign aid policies, including in such spheres as health, climate change and ecology, governance and human rights, or peace and security. The paper encouraged Ottawa to demonstrate “leadership on women’s empowerment and gender equality”.21 Another breakthrough came in late-2016 with the publication of a parliamentary report. It made 17 recommendations referring to Canada’s future participation in peace operations and negotiations, which included the increase of the number of women in senior UN positions and peace operations, the adoption of a “zero-tolerance” policy on sexual abusers among peacekeeping troops, and the allocation of at least 15 % of foreign aid funds for gender equality projects.22 These recommendations paved the way for the official adoption of Canada’s two-pillar-based FFP in June 2017.

Canada’s FFP. Pillar 1: Feminist Military and Defense Policy

The first pillar was revealed on 6 June 2017 with the release of a new defense policy, whose objectives were outlined in the policy paper titled Strong, Secure, Engaged: Canada’s Defence Policy. In the message opening the paper, Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s foreign minister, writes that “progressive, feminist foreign policy” will ultimately help “restore constructive Canadian leadership in the world”.23 The paper outlines a number of Ottawa’s concrete women-specific ←50 | 51→commitments in defense and military policies. Regarding Canada’s support for UN peace operations, the increased involvement of women in peace and security operations is listed as one of the four core elements of Canada’s future approach.24 An important part of Canada’s feminist approach is a commitment to work closely with the UN in order to “end conflict-related sexual violence”, including UN peacekeepers being more rigorously held accountable for sexual misconduct.25

Other commitments refer to women’s representation and gender integration in the Canadian Armed Forces. The new military policy pledges to “attract greater numbers of qualified women” and to “continue to integrate gender perspectives into the analysis, planning, execution and evaluation of all operations”.26 To that end, the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) established a concrete target of “increasing the representation of women in the military by 1 percent annually towards a goal of 25 percent” by 2026.27 Gender military integration is planned to be achieved by the application of a so-called Gender-Based Analysis Plus (GBA+) mechanism in all defence activities.28 The improvement of female integration into the army is planned to be achieved by prioritizing diversity, inclusion, the elimination of harassment and discrimination, the creation of “more personalized and flexible career options”, and by mandatory gender-sensitive trainings in all Canadian Armed Forces’ and Department of National Defence activities.29

Canada’s FFP. Pillar 2: Feminist International Assistance Policy (FIAP)

The second pillar of Canadian FFP was unveiled just three days later when Canada’s first feminist official development policy was officially inaugurated. ←51 | 52→Its goals were outlined in the flagship policy document titled Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy: #HerVoiceHerChoice. Symbolically, the new policy was announced by two female ministers in Trudeau’s cabinet: the aforementioned Chrystia Freeland and Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of International Development.30 The backbone of the new policy is the so-called 4R plan, in which the Rs stand for: rights, research, resources, and representation.

The FIAP is thus presented as rights-oriented and inclusive policy, based on the universal principle that “women’s rights are human rights” and that “all people must enjoy the same fundamental human rights, regardless of sex, […] sexual orientation, gender identity”.31 But it is also a matter of Canada’s security and wellbeing. As stated by Freeland, “Canadians are safer and more prosperous when more of the world shares our values”.32 Feminism and the rights of women are, in her opinion, at the core of the Canadian value system. Therefore, Canada must position itself at the forefront of global efforts to promote gender equality.

The FIAP also aspires to be a research-based and science-informed policy. The policy paper extensively quotes reports and statistical data from numerous NGOs and international organizations, including the UN, OECD, WEF and World Bank.33 The purpose of this is to point to the tangible and measurable benefits that can be brought about if gender equality is achieved worldwide. Those benefits would include, the growth of domestic product by 12 trillion USD in a single decade, the reduction of extreme poverty by 12 % globally and the decrease of chronic hunger by 17 %.34

The new feminist foreign aid policy, at least on paper, is devised as a resource-based plan, intended to achieve ambitious gender-equality goals. In its structure, the FIAP encompasses six “action areas”, of which “Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women and Girls” is the core part. Within that part, Ottawa pledges to fight actively against gender-based violence and financially support the grassroots movements promoting women’s rights by dedicating 150 million CAD for that purpose by 2021–22. Furthermore, Canada’s bilateral aid is planned to become almost exclusively feminist-oriented with a promise ←52 | 53→to allocate, by 2021–22, no less than 95 % of international assistance initiatives which “will target or integrate gender equality”.35

In other action areas – which include human dignity (i.e. humanitarian aid, healthcare, education), sustainable economic growth, environment and climate action, inclusive governance, and peace and security – the new policy paper lists several other targets to be met by 2022. These include: a) a doubling of investment, i.e. 650 million CAD, for the promotion of the sexual and reproductive rights of women in developing countries, including access to safe and legal abortions, contraception and sexuality education; b) the contribution of 3.5 billion CAD to programs supporting maternal and child healthcare; c) “providing 2.65 billion CAD in climate finance to help the most vulnerable countries adapt to and mitigate climate change and make the transition to low-carbon, climate-resilient economies”; d) to direct no less than 50 % of Canada’s foreign aid to sub-Saharan African states, where it is most needed and can make the most significant difference.36

Last but not least, the FIAP’s ultimate objective is to increase the representation of women and girls in policymaking, security, peacebuilding, diplomacy and economy. That goal is to be attained through the mechanisms of gender balancing and gender mainstreaming. The former is simply concerned with establishing inclusive structures and a gender-sensitive environment so that the rate of women involved in such structures would gradually increase until, most idealistically, full gender equality has been achieved. The latter’s role is to ensure that all government policies, services and institutions incorporate gender-sensitive planning, budgeting and structures, and fight gender inequality at all possible levels.37 The GBA+ framework, or a long-term intention to direct foreign aid almost exclusively to projects advancing women’s empowerment, are good examples of Canada’s gender mainstreaming policies.

Announcing the FIAP, Minister Bibeau described the policy as “the most ambitious and progressive in the history of Canada’s diplomacy” – one that “will make Canada a global leader in promoting gender equality”.38 Canada’s new feminist policy, even before it was fully launched, had been advertised as pioneering, with remarkable potential and so “heavily packaged” that “it is almost ←53 | 54→guaranteed to draw resounding applause wherever it goes”.39 Other observers considered it promising and “potentially groundbreaking work that could gain traction globally”.40 Some were even overenthusiastically interpreting the new policy as “as progressive […] as one can imagine” and the one thanks to which “Canada is boldly positioned to become the feminist killjoy of international development assistance for years to come”.41

To be fair, however, the overall concept of Canada’s FFP is not particularly innovative or original. It is largely based on the earlier Swedish model of FFP. The basic structure of Canada’s FIAP, for that matter, emulates the Swedish concept of basing FFP on action areas, guided by six long-term objectives. Also, the very idea of an approach based on gender mainstreaming and on a so-called 4R scheme was first incorporated into the Swedish FFP.42 In 2018, a similar structure and objectives were adopted by France in its own FFP.43 Additionally, Mexico’s Política Exterior Feminista, from what has so far been announced, is intended to focus around similarly defined goals and focus areas.44

Notwithstanding this lack of originality, the commitments and obligations that comprise Canada’s FFP are notable and, no doubt, ambitious. But, three years after its announcement, has the Canadian FFP proved effective? Has ←54 | 55→Ottawa lived up to its own declarations and to the expectations of its international partners?

Canada’s FFP Under Trudeau: Achievements

The list of Canada’s so-called feminist achievements is by no means short. Some of those successes are discussed in the government’s policy papers. Among them are: Canada’s assistance initiatives empowering women in Afghanistan and the Philippines; community centres for survivors of sexual violence established with Canada’s help in northern Iraq; micro-agricultural projects that have activated over 4,500 women in Senegal; water management projects in Cambodia; mine clearance and repatriation of displaced persons in Colombia; humanitarian assistance for Syrian and Iraqi refugees; and Canada’s financial contribution to the development of a new vaccine against Ebola.45

Admittedly, after the adoption of FFP, Canada has been more active in supporting gender-equality initiatives on multiple international forums. To that end, in November 2017, the Trudeau government adopted a roadmap for the implementation UNSC Resolutions on Women, Peace and Security, called Canada’s National Action Plan 2017–2022 (CNAP).46 The document “uses gender inclusive language” and its subtitle – Gender Equality: A Foundation for Peace – clearly indicates that the protection of women’s rights and the meaningful participation of women in conflict resolution and peacebuilding are to be targets tightly integrated to the Peace and Stabilization Operations Program, government of Canada’s main platform for its conflict prevention and peacebuilding policies.47

Also, in November 2017, Canada hosted the UN Peacekeeping Defence Ministerial meeting in Vancouver, which gathered over 550 delegates from almost 80 countries.48 At that meeting, Canada inspired the start of the Elsie Initiative for Women in Peace Operations. The program is aimed at removing barriers to uniformed women’s participation in UN peace operations by ←55 | 56→developing funds, training schemes and research. It is supported by the so-called Contact Group of like-minded countries, comprising of 12 members,49 with Canada being the leading donor to the Elsie Initiative Fund.50

Furthermore, in cooperation with the EU, Canada organized the first-of-its-kind Women Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (WFMM) in Montreal in September 2018, attended by top female diplomats from almost 20 countries. The WFMM discussed various international and security issues with a goal of bringing the female perspective to foreign affairs.51 Canada also held the triennial Women Deliver Conference in Vancouver in June 2019, which gathered over 8,000 participants from all around the globe, where collective actions for the promotion of gender equality and women’s sexual and reproductive rights were discussed, and where Canada committed to multimillion investments for various women-oriented initiatives internally and internationally.52

“We made history by integrating gender equality and women’s empowerment into all G7 themes” – reads Ottawa’s assertion relating to its feminist policy agenda under Canada’s 2018 G7 presidency.53 Indeed, owing to Canadian initiative, feminism was put to the fore of G7 discussions during the Canada-hosted G7 Leaders’ Summit in Charlevoix, Quebec. Ottawa’s efforts resulted in a G7 pledge to invest almost 4 billion CAD to support education for women and girls and with the creation of the G7 Gender Equality Advisory Council (GEAC), an independent body comprising representatives of NGOs, governments, private ←56 | 57→companies and artists.54 In 2019, under the French G7 presidency, the GEAC issued its own list of several dozen recommendations of good practices for the global advancement of gender equality.55

Last but not least, Canada was seeking a rotating seat on the UNSC. The election of new non-permanent members to the UNSC was held in September 2020. In the official presentation of its candidacy, Ottawa committed to five key priorities, including the advancement of gender equality. “Together, we can make gender inequality history” – read Canada’s presentation. As a future UNSC member Canada promised, among other things, to support “the meaningful participation of an increased number of women in peace operations” and to “promote and demand accountability for sexual violence in conflict”.56 Had Canada won a seat on the UNSC, this would have certainly been presented by the Trudeau government as its success and an upgrade to Ottawa’s international position. While Canada’s bid for a UNSC seat might not have been driven by purely altruistic motivations, Aldous was still right to notice that for the “benefit [of] the world and global security”, Canada could have used its strong voice to contribute to protecting marginalized groups”, including vulnerable women and girls.57 Canada, however, lost the election. One of the reasons for the loss was that the other two bidders, Norway and Ireland, have for years had equally good – if not better – records of global involvement. The former, proportionately to its GDP, is a much larger contributor of development assistance than Canada, while the latter, compared to Canada, “has double the number of blue helmets and an unbroken record of missions dating back to 1958”.58 Another explanation of why Canada failed to win a seat, as some observers emphasize, was Trudeau’s “dilettante” foreign policy, which was reflected, among others, ←57 | 58→in the erosion of Canada’s commitments to human rights, economic equality and peacekeeping policies, and in the “unclear message” that was sent worldwide by the Canadian FFP. As one NGO leader noted, Canada “was supposed to have a feminist foreign policy”, in which “every single decision that’s relevant to Canadian international relations should be examined through its gender dimensions. Are we doing that? I don’t necessarily see that with Saudi Arabia or our relations towards China.”59

Trudeau’s government has also raised feminist issues in with the Trump administration, though with mixed results. On the one hand, Canada succeeded in persuading the US to create the Canada-United States Council for Advancement of Women Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders (CUSCAWEBL), an advisory body made up of ten powerful female business leaders from both sides of the border. The council’s key goals are to remove barriers limiting female participation in business leadership and advance gender equality at workplace.60 On the other, the CUSCAWEBL can hardly be considered a masterpiece of feminist diplomacy. Its creation and operation have been met with harsh criticisms for, among others, giving Donald Trump an opportunity to falsely proclaim his seemingly feminist inclinations and for the council’s membership, irreflective of Canadian and American ethnic, racial and economic diversities, with all council members being wealthy and, in all but one case, white women.61

The Trudeau government also put forward gender issues during negotiations over the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA). Ottawa’s proposal called for the inclusion of a separate gender-related chapter in the new trade agreement with the aim to “guarantee that the modernized NAFTA will not only be an exemplary free-trade deal, [but also] a fair trade deal”.62 ←58 | 59→However, due to the Trump administration’s opposition to the idea, all those efforts turned out to be futile. The text of the renegotiated new deal contains no gender chapter but only limited provisions on gender non-discrimination employment policies.63 Apparently, it was easier to include gender-related declarations in the agreements that the United States was not a part of. For instance, the 2016 Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, a renegotiated former Trans-Pacific Partnership after the withdrawal of the United States, in article 23.4 addresses the importance of gender equality in economy, trade and employment. Also, some of Canada’s bilateral free trade agreements, including with Chile, emphasize ambitious gender-equality goals.64

Nonetheless, all those initiatives to raise feminism in conversations with the Trump administration, in a relatively tense and difficult period of bilateral relations, seem to indicate that the Trudeau government’s commitment to gender equality is real and exceeds the limits of purely rhetorical diplomacy.

Last but not least, Canada – as the country that invented the modern points-based immigration system – has been globally famous for advocating women- and family-friendly immigration and refugee policies. In that field, Justin Trudeau as prime minister can be credited for significant achievements. In late 2015, just after the victorious parliamentary election, his government successfully resettled over 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada in just three months, and in subsequent months that number more than doubled. Trudeau’s refugee policy has also given preference to the most persecuted and vulnerable groups, i.e. women, families with children or LGBTQ persons.65 Such policies, however, came with a price that was to be paid in bilateral relations, for example with Saudi Arabia whose authorities have been repeatedly criticized by the Trudeau ←59 | 60→government officials for arrests of civil society activists and repressions against women’s rights advocates.66

Canada’s FFP Under Trudeau: Limitations and Failures

Apart from ambitious commitments, good intentions and unquestionable accomplishments, Canada’s FFP, just like all other FFPs around the globe, has its limits and has often come under fire for being “tokenistic in nature and unrepresentative of practical outcomes”,67 i.e. for not living up to the promises made and expectations created. Indeed, there is a discrepancy between the prioritization of gender equality in Canada’s FFP and some actual policies of the Canadian government.

Firstly, Canada has often been depicted as a country that puts economic and military interests ahead of principles, values and women’s rights. This aspect has been particularly exposed after the Trudeau government refused to halt exports of Canadian light-armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia, despite the country’s abysmal record on women’s rights and its use of purchased weapons against civilian opposition and to instigate conflicts in neighbouring Yemen.68 Srdjan Vucetic estimated in 2017 that as many as “15 % of Canada’s military deals were with buyers with ‘bad’ or ‘very bad’ human rights records”.69 This bad trend seems to be continuing. In April 2020, a new deal was struck allowing for the resumption of the exports of Canadian weapons to Saudi Arabia.70 The Saudi arms deal reveals one of the paradoxes of Canada’s FFP – rhetorically, Canada is a vocal critic of repressive regimes violating women’s rights, but at the same time its feminist policy appears toothless as it ignores the need to adopt a set of appropriate sanctions, applied automatically whenever another country contravenes Canadian feminist principles.

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Secondly, to describe Canada’s FP conduct as a feminist foreign policy is in fact an overstatement. Unlike in Sweden, Canada’s feminist approach is not comprehensive; it does not encompass all the government’s external operations and policies, such as bilateral trade, economic relations or arms trade. In actuality, the feminist perspective applies only to selected aspects of Canada’s military and defense policies and to foreign aid. In other words, Canada’s FFP is primarily focused on the promotion of gender equality in relations with developing or under-developed countries, either through foreign aid funds or peacekeeping initiatives. Critics might say that it is much easier to be assertive and principled towards those whose economic position and political posture are weaker than in relation to those who, like China or Saudi Arabia, have a much stronger global footing.

In its rhetorical reassurances and policy papers, the Trudeau government has continuously repeated the narrative that Canada is the global leader in advancing women’s equality and empowerment. A glance at the international rankings and statistical data, however, presents a somewhat different picture. In the most recent WEF Global Gender Gap Report, Canada is ranked 19th among the world’s most gender-equal countries.71 Given the fact that 153 countries were ranked in the index, Canada’s overall position is not low, though not really high enough for a country that pronounces itself as a gender-equality leader. Especially given that Canada compares rather poorly to all the Nordic countries, including Sweden (ranked 4th), whose policies Canada is attempting to emulate.

Nor can Canada be regarded as a global leader among official foreign aid donors. In the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee’s (DAC) index, Canada lags behind many other OECD member states in terms of the volume of official development assistance (ODA) donated to recipient countries (GNI). As of 2018, the DAC estimated Ottawa’s total annual foreign aid at 4.65 billion USD, which ranked Canada only 10th among the 30 OECD member states.72 By comparison, Sweden, a country with a population almost four times smaller than Canada, at the same time donated 5.84 billion USD within its ODA policies. Proportion-wise, Ottawa’s ODA grants were equivalent of 0.28 % of ←61 | 62→Canada’s gross national income (GNI), which ranked Canada in a rather distant 15th position.73 Astonishingly, under Justin Trudeau the annual foreign aid budget has not increased compared to Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s ODA expenditures, despite Trudeau’s declarations that he would bring Canada back to being a more generous foreign aid donor.74

Also, the promise of increasing women’s representation rates in the Canadian army has not been fulfilled. As of February 2020, women constituted 15.9 % [should spell out the word percent] of total regular force and reserve members, which was more than 3 % below the planned level for 2020.75 On top of this, there is an unsolved systemic problem with a gap in the Criminal Code of Canada, which allows certain groups of Canadian peacekeepers to avoid prosecution in Canada for sexual crimes committed on missions. The problem is long-lasting and has strained Canada’s relations with the UN.76

All these shortages obviously fuel the critique of Trudeau’s policies and expose him to accusations of hypocrisy. Some critics claim that he is more preoccupied with a rhetorical focus on gender equality than with the implementation of a genuinely feminist-oriented policy. As Brown and Swiss put it, “Under the Trudeau government, Canada certainly talks the feminist talk, but it is reluctant to walk the feminist walk”.77

There have also been accusations of the instrumentalization of women’s empowerment in Canada’s FFP. Contrasted with the Swedish model policy, which states clearly that “gender equality is an objective in itself”,78 Canada’s FFP – some critics claim – should not be viewed as “being feminist for gender equality’s sake”. It rather serves as a convenient tool, instrumentally used, to ←62 | 63→present Canada as a progressive nation in order to achieve other foreign policy objectives, such as economic profit or the seat on the UNSC.79 Besides, Canada has its own systemic and unsolved problems with gender-related economic gaps, discrimination and violence, particularly against Indigenous women. Oftentimes these problems attract the attention of media and put into question the Canadian government’s ability to integrate feminist principles in its own society, not to mention its global feminist leadership or its moral right to lecture others about gender equality.80 Apart from this, certain elements of Canada’s FFP can simply be judged as over-idealistic or unworkable when confronted with realpolitik. For instance, Canada’s insistence on dedicating its foreign aid funds to improve access to safe contraception and abortion may face obstacles that would make the whole policy ineffectual, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa – a new region of focus for Canadian FIAP – where abortion is currently criminalized and contraception considered by many as culturally unacceptable.

Finally, there is an issue of representation and credibility. Canada’s feminism, whether related to foreign policy or not, similar to feminism in other Western countries, tends to be perceived in the developing world as an articulation of a largely Euro-American model of emancipation, perhaps fit for middle-class, white women, but not necessarily acknowledging the perspective of women in impoverished regions and countries. At best, such an approach can be viewed as a failure to recognize that “a modern western democratic solution may not be appropriate in all scenarios”.81 At worst, it is regarded as “the latest postcolonial export of northern countries, well-intentioned perhaps but ultimately equally uninformed by the voices and perspectives of those on the receiving end”.82

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Conclusion

Canada officially adopted its FFP in mid-2017. The achievement of the policy’s most important goals is extended over years, with key targets to be met no sooner than by 2022. Too short a time has passed since the adoption of Canada’s FFP to be able to formulate any conclusive remarks on its long-term successes or failures. It is equally impossible to predict whether Canada’s FFP, at this early stage of its implementation, will prove effective in bringing lasting changes to global policymaking and discourse on gender equality. For the time being, thus, the new policy should rather be taken as a signpost of Trudeau’s intentions and the directions his government plans to take. Trudeau’s commitment to gender equality, even his self-identification as a feminist, seems to be sincere. But also, as Chapnick argues, the new feminist branding strengthens “the Trudeau government’s forceful and deliberate messaging about diversity as a Canadian strength”, which can, at least partially, explain why feminism has been embraced so strongly by Justin Trudeau and its cabinet.83

It remains to be seen whether the feminist label with which the Trudeau government has branded its policies will last longer than Trudeau’s term of office, and, most importantly, whether the feminist agenda will become a long-term integral part of Canada’s foreign policy. Canada’s FFP is extensive and ambitious, but mostly in terms of spending plans and targets. To a large extent, the new policy has still not gone beyond rhetorical declarations and statements. The financial aspects of Canadian FFP can be questioned. While the declarations of streamlining gender-aware funding are robust and signal a positive change, surprisingly little is said about reporting practices or a transparency framework. Except for some ways of tracking progress proposed in the NCAP,84 there are no legally binding annual mechanisms of evaluating the implementation of FFP; instead, there are verbal promises and mostly voluntary commitments. In this regard, Canada’s FFP lags behind its Swedish and French counterparts. The Swedish government, for that matter, published in August 2018, an extensive guidebook, designed as “a resource for international work relating to gender equality”;85 Thompson and Clement call the document “a key standard to model ←64 | 65→the feminist principles of transparency and accountability”.86 As for the French accountability framework, the objectives and expected outcomes of France’s FFP are meticulously described in the government’s policy paper, with precisely defined result indicators and a timeline for the completion of the goals.87

Compared with these schemes, the Canadian FFP is rather vague. This ambiguity was noticed in the 2018 OECD review of Canada’s FIAP. While the review praised Canada for being “a strong advocate of gender equality”, it also exposed the shortages of the new policy and left the Canadian government with an extensive list of recommendations. One of them, which still remains to be followed, specifies that “Global Affairs Canada should complete and disseminate policies for the six priority action areas in its feminist international assistance policy and provide updated guidance and tools which will enable staff and partners to implement them”.88

Notwithstanding the critique it has been facing, the Canadian FFP is playing an important role in elevating feminism from a theoretical concept in international relations toward a policy which seeks practical changes. But the achievement of Canada’s FFP’s goals will require the adoption of a broader and better-funded model. The extension of the feminist agenda to other areas of Canada’s external policy, including bilateral trade and the economy, seems to be a necessity if Canada wishes to deliver its gender equality objectives and to earn international trust and respect as a genuine feminist leader. Otherwise, Trudeau’s progressive rhetoric will not change the status quo and, highly likely, the new policy will exist only as an adroit catchphrase, “a tokenistic feminist bubble”; it will serve merely as “a principled feminist statement without the will required to apply it more broadly”.89 As such it will bring no lasting change and might fade away with the end of Justin Trudeau’s term of office.

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References

Aggestam, Karin/Bergman Rosamond, Annika/Kronsell, Annica: “Theorising Feminist Foreign Policy”. International Relations, (33) 1, 2019, pp. 23–39.

Aldous, Maj Amanda: Canada’s Feminist Foreign Policy: Practical Leadership or Discursive Hypocrisy? Canadian Forces College, 2018.

Amnesty International: Canada: Submission to United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, 2019.

Brewster, Murray: “Canada Strikes New Deal with Saudi Arabia, Clearing Way for Armoured Vehicle Sales”, CBC News, 9.4.2020.

Brown, Stephen/Swiss, Liam: Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy: Game Changer or Fig Leaf? In: How Ottawa Spends: 2017–2018. Graham, Katherine A. H./Maslove, Allan M. (eds.): Carleton University: Ottawa, 2017, pp. 118–132.

Canada-United States Council for Advancement of Women Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders Members: Council Goals: Leading Women’s Economic Engagement. 2017.

Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Part 1 of the Constitution Act, 1982, being Schedule B to the Canada Act 1982 (UK), 1982, c. 11.

Canadian Human Rights Act, R.S.C., 1985, c. H-6.

Cecco, Leyland: “Canada’s Failed UN Security Council Bid Exposes Trudeau’s ‘Dilettante’ Foreign Policy.” The Guardian, 18.6.2020.

Centre for Feminist Foreign Policy: Feminist Foreign Policy, 2020.

Chapnick, Adam: “The Origins of Canada’s Feminist Foreign Policy”. International Journal, 74 (2), 2019, pp. 191–205.

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1 Thompson, Lyric/Clement, Rachel: “Is the Future of Foreign Policy Feminist?”. Journal of Diplomacy and International Relations, 20 (2), 2019, p. 78.

2 For more see: Leeuwen, Fleur van: Women’s Rights Are Human Rights: The Practice of the United Nations Human Rights Committee and the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Intersentia: Antwerp, 2009.

3 United Nations: Goal 5: Sustainable Development Goals: Achieve Gender Equality and Empower All Women and Girls, 2019, retrieved 28.2.2020, from https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/gender-equality.

4 Aggestam, Karin/Bergman Rosamond, Annika/Kronsell, Annica: “Theorising Feminist Foreign Policy”. International Relations, 33 (1), 2019, p. 24.

5 Thompson, Lyric/Clement, Rachel: “Is the Future of Foreign Policy Feminist?”, p. 78.

6 Ridge, Alice et al.: Feminist Foreign Policy Key Principles & Accountability Mechanisms. International Women’s Development Agency/International Center for Research on Women/NYU Center for Global Affairs: 2019, pp. 4–7, retrieved 1.3.2020, from https://iwda.org.au/assets/files/Feminist-Foreign-Policy-Discussion-Summary-IWDA-ICRW-NYU.pdf.

7 Some elements of FFP have been incorporated under particular initiatives or, periodically, as parts of foreign policy strategies by other countries. See: Centre for Feminist Foreign Policy: Feminist Foreign Policy, 2020, retrieved 4.4.2020, from https://centreforfeministforeignpolicy.org/feminist-foreign-policy.

8 Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Part 1 of the Constitution Act, 1982, being Schedule B to the Canada Act 1982 (UK), 1982, c. 11, retrieved 1.3.2020, from https://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/Const/page-15.html, section 28.

9 Ibid., section 15.

10 Canadian Human Rights Act, R.S.C., 1985, c. H-6, section 3, retrieved 1.3.2020, from https://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/H-6/page-1.html.

11 Scotti, Valentina Rita: “Women’s Rights and Minorities’ Rights in Canada. The Challenges of Intersectionality in Supreme Court Jurisprudence”. Perspective on Federalism, 9 (3), 2017, pp. 198–204.

12 Women and Gender Equality Canada: Gender Equality Achievements, 2019, retrieved 1.3.2020, from https://cfc-swc.gc.ca/commemoration/gew-ses/achievements-realisations-en.html.

13 Gabryś, Marcin/Soroka, Tomasz: Canada as a Selective Power: Canada’s Role and International Position after 1989. Księgarnia Akademicka: Kraków, 2017, pp. 86–87; Amnesty International: Canada: Submission to United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, 2019, p. 5, retrieved 1.3.2020, from https://www.amnesty.org/download/Documents/AMR2011142019ENGLISH.pdf.

14 Devillard, Sandrine et al.: The Power of Parity: Advancing Women’s Equality in Canada. McKinsey Global Institute: 2017, retrieved 01.03.2020, from https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/gender-equality/the-power-of- parity-advancing-womens-equality-in-canada.

15 Tiessen, Rebecca/Swan, Emma: Canada’s Feminist Foreign Policy Promises: An Ambitious Agenda for Gender Equality, Human Rights, Peace, and Security. In: Hillmer, Norman/Lagassé, Philippe (eds.): Justin Trudeau and Canadian Foreign Policy. Palgrave Macmillan: Cham, 2018, pp. 188–189; Liberal Party of Canada: Minister of Status of Women Mandate Letter, Ottawa 2015, retrieved 2.3.2020, from https://phajdu.liberal.ca/news-nouvelles/minister-of-status-of-women-mandate-letter.

16 Chapnick, Adam: “The Origins of Canada’s Feminist Foreign Policy”. International Journal, 74 (2), 2019, pp. 194–197.

17 Trudeau, Justin: Common Ground. HarperCollins: Toronto, 2019, p. 195.

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19 Tiessen, Rebecca/Swan, Emma: op. cit., p. 189.

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21 Global Affairs Canada: International Assistance Review: #DevCanada. Ottawa 2016, pp. 3, 7, retrieved 2.3.2020, from https://www.enterprise-development.org/wp-content/uploads/iar-presentation-eai-eng.pdf.

22 Nault, Robert D. et al.: An Opportunity for Global Leadership: Canada and the Women, Peace and Security Agenda, Report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, 42nd Parliament, 1st session. Ottawa: 2016, retrieved 2.3.2020, from https://www.ourcommons.ca/Content/Committee/421/FAAE/Reports/RP8433298/faaerp03/faaerp03-e.pdf.

23 National Defence and Security: Strong, Secure, Engaged: Canada’s Defence Policy. Ottawa, 2017, p. 7, retrieved 2.3.2020, from https://www.canada.ca/content/dam/dnd-mdn/documents/reports/2018/strong-secure-engaged/canada-defence-policy-report.pdf.

24 Ibid., p. 84.

25 Ibid., p. 55.

26 Ibid., p. 85.

27 Ibid., p. 23.

28 GBA+ is an analytical tool mandated by the federal government across its departments and agencies, which policymakers must use “to assess the potential impacts of policies, programs, services, and other initiatives on diverse groups of people, taking into account gender and a range of other identity factors”. Ibid., p. 24.

29 Ibid., pp. 104–105.

30 Global Affairs Canada: Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy: #HerVoiceHerChoice. Ottawa, 2017, pp. ii–iii, retrieved 2.3.2020, from http://international.gc.ca/world-monde/assets/pdfs/iap2-eng.pdf.

31 Ibid., p. 11.

32 Ibid., p. i.

33 Ibid., pp. 76–77.

34 Ibid., p. 2.

35 Ibid., pp. 9, 18–19.

36 Ibid., pp. 25, 26, 44, 75.

37 Global Affairs Canada: Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy, pp. 11–13.

38 Qtd. in Tiessen, Rebecca/Swan, Emma: op. cit., p. 190.

39 Urback, Robyn: “You’re a Feminist, Mr. Trudeau. We get it.” CBC News, 7.4.2017, retrieved 3.3.2020, from https://www.cbc.ca/news/opinion/feminist- prime-minister-1.4059243.

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41 Brown, Stephen/Swiss, Liam: Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy: Game Changer or Fig Leaf? In: How Ottawa Spends: 20172018. Graham, Katherine A. H./Maslove, Allan M. (eds.): Carleton University: Ottawa, 2017, p. 128

42 Government of Sweden: Swedish Foreign Service Action Plan for Feminist Foreign Policy 2015–2018, Including Indicative Measures for 2018. Stockholm 2014, retrieved 3.3.2020, pp. 3–14, from https://www.government.se/495f60/contentassets/66afd4cf15ee472ba40e3d43393c843a/handlingsplan-feministisk-utrikespolitik-2018-enge.pdf.

43 Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs: France’s International Strategy for Gender Equality (2018–2022). Paris 2018, pp. 13–15, retrieved 3.3.2020, pp. 3–14, from https://www.diplomatie.gouv.fr/IMG/pdf/meae_strategie_-__en_cle076525.pdf.

44 Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores de México: México anuncia la adopción de su Política Exterior Feminista. Gobierno de México, 2020, retrieved 3.3.2020, from https://www.gob.mx/sre/prensa/mexico-anuncia-la-adopcion-de-su- politica-exterior-feminista?state=published.

45 Global Affairs Canada: Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy, pp. 20–68.

46 Global Affairs Canada: Canada’s National Action Plan 20172022. Gender Equality: A Foundation for Peace. Ottawa 2017, retrieved 3.3.2020, from https://www.international.gc.ca/world-monde/assets/pdfs/cnap-eng.pdf.

47 Aldous, Maj Amanda: op. cit., p. 9.

48 United Nations: UN Peacekeeping Defence Ministerial Conference, Vancouver, Canada. 2017, retrieved 3.3.2020, from https://peacekeeping.un.org/en/un-peacekeeping-defence-ministerial-conference-vancouver-canada.

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50 United Nations: Elsie Initiative Fund for Uniformed Women in Peace Operations, 2019, retrieved 4.3.2020, from http://mptf.undp.org/factsheet/fund/EIF00.

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54 The Charlevoix G7 Summit Communique, European Council, 2019, retrieved 4.3.2020, from https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2018/06/09/the-charlevoix-g7-summit-communique/.

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Details

Pages
318
ISBN (PDF)
9783631838389
ISBN (ePUB)
9783631838396
ISBN (MOBI)
9783631838402
ISBN (Book)
9783631817605
Language
English
Publication date
2021 (January)
Published
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2020. 318 pp., 2 fig. b/w, 5 tables.

Biographical notes

Marcin Gabryś (Volume editor) Magdalena Marczuk-Karbownik (Volume editor) Magdalena Paluszkiewicz-Misiaczek (Volume editor)

<B>Marcin Gabryś</B> is an assistant professor at the Department of Canada of the Institute of American Studies and Polish Diaspora at the Jagiellonian University, Kraków, Poland. His academic interests concentrate on Canada’s politics, in particular Canadian foreign policy and the northern regions of Canada. Magdalena Marczuk-Karbownik is an assistant professor at the Department of American Studies and Mass Media, Faculty of International and Political Studies, University of Łódź, Poland. Among her interests are: international relations, Transatlantic relations (Canadian perspective), Canadian foreign policy (relations with the U.S., Poland and Ukraine). Magdalena Paluszkiewicz-Misiaczek is an associate professor of political science, works at the Department of Canada at the Institute of American Studies and Polish Diaspora, Jagiellonian University, Kraków, Poland. In her research she concentrates on Canadian social and public policy in historical and contemporary perspectives.

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Title: Canadian Political, Social and Historical (Re)visions in 20th and 21st Century