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Canada - Foreign Relations

Modern Canada owes much to its diplomats. Although Britain handled most of Canada's international responsibilities in the first few decades after Confederation, in 1867, the Canadian government subsequently recognized the need for its own foreign ministry and established the Department of External Affairs in 1909. Following the Department's merger with the Trade Commissioner Service in 1982, its operations and mandate expanded in new directions, changes reflected in its current name, the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. The transformation of the Department over the last century from little more than a glorified post office into a modern foreign and trade minister has mirrored Canada's own evolving role in the global community.

As Canada shed its colonial legacy and adopted a more independent foreign policy, the Department of External Affairs grew apace, periodically transforming itself to reflect the changing international context and the country's evolving foreign-policy priorities. By the 1930s, Canada had its own diplomatic posts in London, Paris, Washington, Tokyo, and Geneva, and had begun to develop a distinct approach to international affairs. After the Second World War, Canada's reach was almost global, reflecting its postwar commitment to an active and responsible internationalism. Since then, the men and women of the Department have continued to work at creating a mature and sophisticated foreign service that was capable, in the words of Canada's most famous diplomat, Lester B. Pearson, of "punching above [its] weight."

The Government of Canada's capacity for timely and effective international crisis response was augmented with the creation of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade's Stabilization and Reconstruction Task Force (START) in September 2005. START is designed to help answer the growing international demand for Canadian support and involvement in complex crises - conflict or natural disaster related - and to coordinate whole-of-government policy and program engagements in fragile states, such as Afghanistan, Haiti and Sudan.

START is responsible for developing and coordinating whole-of-government policy on fragile states, conflict management, and integrated international peace operations initiatives where Canadian interests are engaged. START manages and directs these processes by working in close cooperation with other START units, government departments and agencies, and Canadian and international partners to offer leading-edge policy and best practices on comprehensive approaches to engagement in fragile states and conflict-affected situations.

As an active member of the UN General Assembly, a supporter of the UN's Millennium Development Goals and an active first responder to humanitarian disasters, Canada is engaged in finding solutions to the most pressing peace and security issues confronting the United Nations. Canada is extensively engaged in support of key UN mandates and operations in places such as Afghanistan, Haiti and Sudan. If elected to the Security Council, Canada would continue to use its practical experience in fragile states around the globe and knowledge gained through previous terms to ensure that the Security Council responds to emerging threats in an effective and accountable way.

Canada continues to be active in responding to actions that threaten peace and security by states such as North Korea, against which Canada has taken steps to impose additional sanctions following the sinking of the Republic of Korea's navy ship, Cheonan. Canada has consistently voiced concern over the concealment of Iran's nuclear capabilities by Iranian authorities, as well as their abuse of human rights. Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's comments on the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the United States during the UN General Assembly just two weeks ago were as unacceptable as his past denials of the Holocaust and his unjust condemnation of Israel. Iran's behavior at the UN violates the organization's very spirit. Canada notes that Iran has not taken any steps to fulfill its obligations since the May 2010 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review in New York City and the June G-8 Summit in Canada.

Canada also continues to strongly support freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law in Burma. Canada has consistently called upon the Burmese regime to respect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all people in Burma, and we have imposed the toughest sanctions in the world against the regime.

The Americas are also a key foreign-policy priority for the Government of Canada. Our economic prosperity, the solidity of our democracy and the security of our citizens are linked with those of our neighbours. Canada's vision for the region is based on three connected and mutually reinforcing pillars: building a safe and secure hemisphere, enhancing the prosperity of citizens, and strengthening and reinforcing support for democratic governance.

Canada is proud that 2010 marks its 20th anniversary of full membership in the Organization of American States [OAS]. Canada views the OAS as a critical venue for cooperation with hemispheric partners on priority issues, such as democratic governance, human rights, security and development, and will continue to work to ensure that the Organization remains capable of responding effectively to the needs of member states.

Canada's Middle East policy remains unchanged. Canada supports the creation of an independent Palestinian state as part of a negotiated two-state solution with Israel, and we support Israel's right to live in peace with its neighbours within secure boundaries. Canada considers settlements contrary to international law and settlement expansion unhelpful to peace efforts. Unilateral action by Israelis or Palestinians prejudges the outcome of peace negotiations. Neither Canada nor the international community will recognize such actions.

In January 2017 Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau fired his foreign affairs minister Stephane Dion, an experienced politician who had also served as Liberal Party leader and leader of the opposition under a previous Conservative government. As foreign affairs minister, Dion was heavily criticized for a $15 billion sale of light armored vehicles to Saudi Arabia and his hesitation to support a motion in the House of Commons condemning the terror group Islamic State’s actions as genocide.

Trudeau named a prominent critic of Russia, Chrystia Freeland, as its new foreign minister. Back in 2014, Freeland was included on Moscow's counter-sanctions persona non grata list and remains banned from Russia. The 48-year old politician is a severe critic of Russian politics. For instance, in 1996 she said that "The Russians have no one to blame but themselves for the brutal dictatorship they built in their own country and imposed on their neighbors."

Patrick Armstrong, former analyst for the Canadian Defense Department, who also served as a political counsellor in the Canadian Embassy in Moscow, suggested Freeland has a "personal reflection of the nation's dream of independence" due to her Ukrainian background. However, it won't change much in the current situation as the Ukrainian issue slowly disappears from the headlines of mainstream media.

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Page last modified: 06-05-2021 17:06:29 ZULU