Canada: International relations, defense and foreign policy November 2023-

Written by  //  February 21, 2024  //  Canada, Foreign Policy  //  1 Comment

Jeremy Kinsman: Foreign Policy and the Next Election
In the eventual election campaign, there will no doubt be over-heated attention to foreign interference in our elections, or to ritualistic carbon abatement clauses in our treaties, but little debate about Canada’s role in the world.
(Policy) It is a great pity that Canadian foreign policy and Canada’s role in the world are unlikely to figure prominently in the next election campaign. Most Canadians may not notice, being submerged in the familiar water of Canada World.
The inwardness of minority government reinforces the effect of more or less total self-involvement. Public and political priorities are pocketbook issues: housing costs, an over-stressed and increasingly dysfunctional health monopoly in most provinces, and clogged streets in the bigger cities, where higher population density has outstripped services.
… The George W. Bush administration didn’t like Canada’s defection on the 2003 invasion of Iraq, but were we ever right. As we had earlier been right to give American distress our full spontaneous support, heart and soul, after 9/11. That mix revealed the authentic Canada — globalist, neighbourly, and truthful in our voice, though some Canadian voices advised against disagreeing with Washington for the sake of our bilateral interests. Chretien did the right thing instead, as did his predecessors who accepted the challenge of leading.
Justin Trudeau doesn’t operate on the same level or with the same grasp. Maybe Canadians are OK with that. But if there is one question Canadian professionals and internationalist citizens hear out there in the world more than any other, it’s “What’s happened to Canada?”
Leadership matters. Others can argue that Justin Trudeau has positioned Canada on files with which he is more familiar. No question, his successive ministers of the environment have been international climate activists. As minister of trade and then a high-profile minister of foreign affairs, Chrystia Freeland brokered a norm-setting economic cooperation agreement with the European Union (EU) and safeguarded our existential NAFTA arrangements with the US. Trudeau’s hands-on leadership enabled Canada to manage the COVID pandemic better than almost all developed-country peers, though our participation in global pandemic management was pretty self-involved.
Overall, though, on foreign affairs, and on defence, our capacities to lead were degraded by neglect from the centre. The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) used foreign postings as offerings to Liberal party loyalists, many of whom stumbled in comfort. Trudeau is liked by other leaders, because his decency is what they expect from Canada, but he brings little to the debate except assent (though on Ukraine, it counts). Events have caused us to lose all influence in Beijing, Delhi, and, of course, and inevitably, in Moscow.
… It would be gratifying if a decisive Arctic policy were a feature of the election campaign. Sustained materiel and financial aid to Ukraine ought to be, especially if the Conservative base seems influenced by MAGA Trump supporters in the US to favour cutting back on support. Trudeau has to reiterate why Ukraine’s defence is our own, and that of the most essential of international norms. But it isn’t just a matter of sanctioning Russians. It needs strenuous Canadian leadership to build back world-wide recommitment to viable and fair international rule of law.

19 February
Opinion: Trudeau and Poilievre are both flailing on foreign policy
If the prime minister’s Israel-Gaza stance is phoney, the Conservative leader’s Ukraine excuses are baloney. We can do without the hypocrisy.
Shachi Kurl
This latest chapter of Trudeau’s contradictory and, at best, garbled approach to the war in Gaza was written when comments from Liberal MP Rob Oliphant (who did not know he was being recorded) were exposed by the CBC, showing the parliamentary secretary for Foreign Affairs deeply conflicted over his own government’s response to the Israel-Hamas conflict. “My heart hurts,” he is heard to say, expressing to a constituent his unhappiness with the federal response to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and its decision to suspend funding to UNRWA, the UN agency responsible for helping refugees.
…if political perdition for the Liberals comes in walking that line, so too may salvation. Conservative voters are near unanimous in their belief that Canada is siding too much with the Palestinians. A majority of NDP voters say the opposite, that Canada is giving too much support to the Israelis. Liberal voters are divided. Nearly 19 points down in vote intention polls, Trudeau can neither afford to lose the votes of Canadian Jews who have supported him in the past, nor of Canadian Muslims who have done the same.Trudeau is attempting to manage an approach that satisfies no one, including members of his own caucus.
Poilievre chides him for it, which is all a bit rich. After all, he is the leader who just painted himself and his caucus into an embarrassing corner, failing to support a key Canadian ally, by voting against legislation to update a free-trade agreement with Ukraine. Poilievre’s explanation was that it contained a reference to carbon pricing.

8 February
Joly urges more funding to hire Canadian diplomats as Ottawa cuts spending
Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly is asking MPs to support more funding for Global Affairs Canada, despite the Liberals undertaking cutbacks across the government.
Joly said earlier this week that the United States, France and rapidly developing countries are staffing up to meet the challenges of an increasingly complex world.
She cited the countries known as BRICS, which stands for Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, known as emerging market countries.
Canada needs more diplomats if it wants to have an influence in the Indo-Pacific and other key regions of the world, Joly said.

1 February
Rêver d’être norvégienne
Laura-Julie Perreault
Cette fois, ce ne sont pas les politiques environnementales, les réformes féministes des forces armées et les infrastructures impressionnantes que j’envie, mais plutôt les prises de position du pays scandinave à l’égard de la guerre entre Israël et le Hamas. Des positions qui sont les siennes. Et qui reposent sur des principes forts à l’égard de la primauté du droit.

22 January
Les réseaux sociaux au cœur de l’exercice de la diplomatie
Stéphane Paquin, Professeur à l’École nationale d’administration publique
(CORIM) Depuis quelques années, les réseaux sociaux se sont imposés comme le moyen de communication privilégié des gouvernements. La tendance est la même pour la communication diplomatique. Les États utilisent de plus en plus les réseaux sociaux pour atteindre des objectifs de politique étrangère.
La e-diplomatie est même devenue en quelques années l’outil le plus important de la diplomatie publique. Ce dernier concept représente l’art de communiquer d’un gouvernement pour renforcer sa capacité à façonner l’agenda public international par la persuasion. La diplomatie publique s’adresse aussi aux individus, plutôt qu’uniquement aux gouvernements.

15 January
Missing in Davos: Prime Minister JUSTIN TRUDEAU and his Cabinet may be studiously avoiding the stage at the confab, but some of Trudeau’s best friends in the world of summitry will be present for the Alp talks.
… Few Canadians are on the summit’s program, but one staple of the five-day elite-a-thon will make an appearance: Mark Carney. The two-time central banker will cover familiar turf in a Thursday session on monetary policy under attack in a fractious time.

10-12 January
Government’s support for ICJ ‘does not mean’ it backs genocide claim against Israel, PM says
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says that although Canada supports the International Court of Justice, that doesn’t necessarily mean it supports the premise of South Africa’s case against Israel.
Canada reviewing genocide claim against Israel at ICJ, Freeland says
Asked about South Africa’s claim before the International Court of Justice that Israel is committing genocide in Gaza, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said Canada is “aware of the filing and reviewing the case carefully” but did not take a position on the case.
Canada still hasn’t taken a position on ICJ Israeli genocide case
As South Africa prepares to present its genocide case against Israel tomorrow at the International Court of Justice, Canadian members of Parliament are divided. Individual Liberal MPs are speaking against and in support of Israel’s case, but the government itself has yet to weigh in.

7 January
Families of PS752 victims push for government action against Iran on anniversary of deadly crash
Public safety minister not ruling out designating the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist group
As families of Flight PS752 victims mark the fourth anniversary of the aircraft’s destruction, the federal government isn’t ruling out designating the entire Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization — a measure the families have demanded for years.
PS752 was shot down by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) shortly after taking off from Tehran on Jan. 8, 2020, killing all 176 people onboard, including 55 Canadian citizens and 30 permanent residents.
The IRGC is a paramilitary force created after Iran’s 1979 revolution. According to the U.S.-based Council on Foreign relations, the IRGC is charged with defending the Islamic Republic from both internal and external threats.
Ottawa designated Iran’s Quds force, a branch of the IRGC responsible for extraterritorial operations, as a terrorist entity in 2017.
But the Liberal government has for years resisted calls from the opposition Conservatives and from families of PS752 victims to designate the IRGC in its entirety as a terrorist organization. It has argued in the past that such a listing would be a blunt-force approach that could affect low-level people who were forced to serve in the paramilitary force.

2 January
Canada’s Need for a 21st Century Foreign Service
On this episode of The Global Exchange, Colin Robertson is joined by Dan Livermore and Pam Isfeld to discuss a recent report of the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, “More Than a Vocation: Canada’s Need for a 21st Century Foreign Service”.
You can find the report here.
Dan Livermore is a former Canadian diplomat and an Honourary Senior Fellow at the University of Ottawa.
Pam Isfeld is Chair of the Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers


14 December
Trudeau, Biden weigh Israel support amid changing sentiments
(GZERO media) Canada was one of 153 countries that voted in favor of a Gaza ceasefire at the UN General Assembly on Tuesday. Only 10 countries voted against it, including…the United States.
The last time the UN voted on a similar measure in late October, Canada voted with the US and Israel, but this time Canada, Australia, and New Zealand flipped their votes.

11 December
Meeting number 89 of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development.

6-9 December
More than a Vocation: Canada’s Need for a 21st Century Foreign Service
(Senate of Canada) Are Global Affairs Canada (GAC) and the Canadian foreign service fit for purpose? This is the question that prompted the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade (the committee) to conduct the first substantive examination of the Canadian foreign service in more than 40 years. The global environment has changed dramatically since 1981 when the Royal Commission on Conditions of Foreign Service published its report, not least because of globalization, new geopolitical alignments, and technological advancements. (See Executive Summary)

On Wednesday, the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, chaired by Senator Peter Boehm, released the report “More than a Vocation: Canada’s Need for a 21st Century Foreign Service”, the result of the first substantive examination of the Canadian foreign service in more than 40 years.
Senator Boehm writes in Policy magazine Meeting the Global Challenge: Strengthening Canadian Diplomacy  : “Foreign policy might not be on the ballot in our elections, but Canadians would certainly notice if we did not have a foreign service. That is why it matters.”

Senate report calls on Global Affairs to cut senior management, denounces ‘troubling’ loss of expertise
The report begins with a stark visual on the front page: a pile of floppy disks emblazoned with the words “Global Affairs Canada.”
Christopher Nardi
(National Post) Global Affairs Canada needs to hire more diplomats, cut senior management in half and make sure executives have “in-depth knowledge of and experience in international affairs” to stay relevant in the 21st century, according to a new report.
In a comprehensive report published on Wednesday [6 December], the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee made 29 recommendations to ensure Canada’s diplomatic corps has the appropriate resources, priorities and people for modern times, something even Global Affairs Canada (GAC) has admitted it doesn’t always have.
“The key question guiding our study was: is Global Affairs Canada and the Canadian foreign service fit for purpose? The committee’s answer is yes. But a qualified yes,” committee chair Peter Boehm told reporters Wednesday.
Boehm and the committee deputy chair Senator Peter Harder, both former senior GAC officials, said one of the starkest issues hampering GAC’s effectiveness are staffing issues, ranging from a lack of foreign service officers to excessive senior leadership and working conditions for diplomats.
The report echoes many of the findings and recommendations released by Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly in her reform paper Future of Diplomacy in June, but also goes further on many of the issues senators heard during their nearly two-year study.
(Politico Ottawa Playbook) — A Senate committee is recommending Ottawa consider overhauling Global Affairs Canada by cutting upper management and red tape, boosting recruitment and making it a separate agency.
“As the committee looked at the structure of the department, it does appear to be rather top heavy,” said Independent Sen. Peter Boehm, chair of the red chamber’s foreign affairs committee and a former department official.
He suggested peeling back the layers of senior management would empower bureaucrats further down the chain. “What we’re suggesting is a rationalization of that senior cadre.”
— Retool the machine: The report, based on the committee’s study that began in 2022 and involved trips to Washington, London, Oslo and Berlin, suggests the Liberal government “consider how separate-agency status could allow Global Affairs Canada to restructure the department and redesign its human resource regime.”
— Context: Experts and foreign service representatives have warned that Global Affairs is losing its “surge capacity” to respond to major conflicts due to challenges with recruitment and retention.

23-24 November
Mark Camilleri: As EU leaders visit Newfoundland, the message is clear: It’s time to step up, Canada
Canada needs to produce more of what the EU and other allies need—especially energy and critical minerals
(The Hub) For the EU, its relationship with Canada represents a pivotal opportunity in the midst of growing global uncertainty: a stable, like-minded partner with enormous reserves of energy and critical minerals that is a friendly alternative to other authoritarian sources of these goods. One problem? Canada’s seeming inability to capitalize on this pressing demand.
The EU is one of Canada’s major trading partners—its third-largest, in fact, after the United States and China. The Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), sits at the heart of this trade relationship and is, by conventional measures, working well. Trade has increased by over 50 percent since the agreement’s signing in 2016, with a greater participation of companies, especially SMEs.
Yet for all this success, the potential for Canadian businesses in the EU market (the world’s second-largest economy) remains—as it has for decades—largely untapped. Current developments in the EU offer significant opportunities for Canadian companies to expand their reach.
Trudeau launches EU-Canada Summit in Newfoundland with research announcement
Trudeau launches EU-Canada Summit in Newfoundland
(Canadian Press) Prime Minister Justin Trudeau kicked off a two-day summit with the top two heads of the European Union on Thursday night.
Though formal discussions with European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen are expected to begin Friday, Trudeau wasted no time making announcements during his summit-opening speech on Thursday night.
He said Canada is joining the European Union’s $100-billion scientific research program, called Horizon Europe, which he called “the greatest research and innovation mechanism in the world right now.” Canada has also worked out a deal to build water bombers and ship them to the EU, after both regions faced devastating forest fires this past summer, Trudeau told the crowd.
Trump looms over EU-Canada summit
In St. John’s, leaders will be able to reaffirm their bilateral relationship.
(Politico Eu) When the EU and Canada meet for talks this week, their encounter will be calm, pleasant and even, in the words of one EU diplomat, “just plain boring.” But both sides will be contending with a looming problem — Donald J. Trump.
The prospect of another Trump presidency in the U.S. is spooking both Brussels and Ottawa as leaders plan to meet in St. John’s, a remote Canadian harbor city symbolic of their bilateral relationship: historically rooted, pleasant and friendly.
…leaders will be able to reaffirm their bilateral relationship and underscore their “shared commitment to democratic values, multilateralism and the international rules-based order,” which elsewhere are falling apart. The two sides are set to double down on their bilateral commitments in new policy fields with an “impressive list of deliverables,” according to the EU official, including a green alliance, more cooperation on raw materials, and a digital partnership.

18 November
As major Pacific summit wraps, Canada is sidelined on a new U.S.-led trade initiative
Canada’s ambassador to U.S. downplays threat of Indo-Pacific Economic Framework on Ottawa’s influence
Goldy Hyder laughed a bit when a reporter asked him Thursday evening what he thought Canada had accomplished at this week’s Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in San Francisco.
“It’s a short list, unfortunately,” the president of the Business Council of Canada said, before lamenting something Canada hasn’t accomplished yet: membership in U.S. President Joe Biden’s Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF). It’s a group of 14 trading partners that concluded agreements this week on supply chain protections, lowering carbon emissions and fighting corruption — while promising more collaboration to come.
There’s no question Canadian officials from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on down were busy taking meetings all week.
“We’re doing the work,” Trade Minister Mary Ng insisted when reporters questioned why Canada still isn’t in IPEF, despite her insistence that all the current members would support having Canada at the table.

Spavor blames fellow prisoner Kovrig for Chinese detention, alleges he was used for intelligence gathering
(Globe & Mail) One of the two Canadians jailed by China for nearly three years in a case that was at the heart of a diplomatic crisis is seeking a multimillion-dollar settlement from Ottawa, two sources say, alleging he was detained because he unwittingly provided intelligence on North Korea to Canada and allied spy services.
Michael Spavor alleges that the deception was conducted by fellow Canadian prisoner Michael Kovrig, and it was intelligence work by the latter that led to both men’s incarceration by Chinese authorities, according to the sources.
These allegations cast a new light on the lengthy imprisonment of Mr. Kovrig and Mr. Spavor as well as on the work that Mr. Kovrig was doing in China.
Adam Zivo: It turns out it was one Michael and another Michael
Espionage revelations don’t excuse China’s hostage diplomacy
The arrest of the Two Michaels tanked Sino-Canadian relations and damaged China’s credibility among Canada’s allies. Many wondered: if Beijing was willing to achieve its diplomatic goals by essentially kidnapping ordinary foreigners, what else might it be capable of?
We now know that the truth was more complicated than the Trudeau government let on.

After close encounter at APEC summit, Trudeau appears to steer wide berth around Xi
China and Canada routinely rub elbows when leaders gather for photos at the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation gathering.
But outside the family photo, officials took pains to point out that the two leaders shared little Thursday beyond a perfunctory hello.

Justin Trudeau struggles to walk a very fine line on the Israel-Hamas war
PM caught between asserting Israel’s right to self-defence and reflecting Canadians’ grief and fear
Aaron Wherry
(CBC) The war between Israel and Hamas creates two challenges for Justin Trudeau, as it would for any Canadian prime minister.
First, he must try to take and hold a principled position on a dire conflict. Second, he must try to hold together a country whose citizens are understandably agonized by the death and destruction.
The strain of both those tasks only becomes more apparent with each passing day. Within 24 hours of Trudeau’s remarks on the conflict Tuesday, Trudeau was heckled by pro-Palestinian protesters inside a Vancouver restaurant for what he didn’t say — and scolded online by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for what he did say.
15 November
Trudeau criticized for calling on Israel to ‘exercise maximum restraint’ in Gaza
‘The world is witnessing this — the killing of women and children, of babies,’ PM says of Gaza conflict

14-16 November
‘I can’t believe I won’t see her again’: Vivian Silver mourned at funeral
(Global news) A few hundred people gathered in Gezer Kibbutz to honour the life of Israeli Canadian peace activist Vivian Silver.
“I can’t believe Vivian won’t personally witness her advocacy for a better world bear real fruit. I will miss hearing her voice and above all, hearing her wonderful laugh. I can’t believe I won’t see her again,” Neil Silver said during his older sister’s eulogy.
On Monday, it was confirmed that the 74-year-old peace activist was among the 1,200 people Israeli officials say were killed during Hamas’s attack on Israel on Oct. 7.
In the weeks since then, her family believed she’d been taken hostage after they were told the Israeli government geolocated her cellphone in Gaza.
Vivian Silver, a Canadian-born Israeli activist who devoted her life to seeking peace with the Palestinians, was confirmed killed in Hamas’ Oct. 7 incursion into southern Israel. For 38 days, Silver, who had moved to Israel in the 1970s and made her home in Kibbutz Be’eri, had been believed to be among the nearly 240 hostages held in the Gaza Strip. But identification of some of the most badly burned remains has gone slowly, and her family was notified of her death on Monday.
9 October
Revered peace activist is missing after sending harrowing text message during Hamas assault
(NBC) The silver-haired grandmother is regarded on both sides of the border as an irrepressible force, according to those who know and work with her.

One Comment on "Canada: International relations, defense and foreign policy November 2023-"

  1. Diana Thebaud Nicholson December 8, 2023 at 10:33 pm · Reply

    Re: Senate report calls on Global Affairs to cut senior management, denounces ‘troubling’ loss of expertise
    One retired External Affairs diplomat and friend of WN comments: “I give very high marks to Peter Boehm, but not to Peter Harder. In positions at the top of the public service he was, as I understand it, responsible for parachuting officers from the PCO and non-international Depts into the senior ranks of Foreign Affairs – mostly people who did not know the culture nor the terrain. These people soon took over the management of the Dept and bear a large responsibility for the present mess. Of course, there were other villains including Harper, Baird, and Justin . Not least in contributing to Canada’s present low standing in foreign chanceries has been the revolving door for Canadian foreign ministers. Speaking recently to a newly arrived ambassador, he was shaken to find that the vast majority of his new colleagues to whom he had made calls held critical views of Global Affairs. To make matters worse there is a queue about 4 months long of Ambassadors and High Commissioners waiting to present credentials and in consequence unable to discharge many of their responsibilities (a Govt House problem not a Harder nor a Global one).”

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