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The Canadian Distinctiveness into the XXIst Century - La distinction canadienne au tournant du XXIe siecle

Chad Gaffield
Karen L. Gould

Culture, Identity, and the Market / Culture, identité et marché

Identity and Otherness in Canadian Foreign Policy

Maria Teresa Gutiérrez-Haces

Texte intégral

1 In analyses of Canada for over five decades, certain issues are recognized as mandatory for any work or research carried out in Canada or abroad. Canadian foreign policy is one of the political topics considered to have become a mandatory issue, competing in importance with the analysis of Canadian federalism. An analogous situation has occurred throughout the cultural and social studies fields, where projects on multiculturalism and Canadian identity have also been the subject of important essays, not only in Canada, but also abroad.

2For years, these issues have been particularly attractive to many political scientists from outside Canada who explore the singularity of Canadian foreign policy in relation to their own fields of study. Therefore, analyses related to the self-definition of Canada as a middle power, and the implications of the Third Option as part of Canadian foreign policy under the Trudeau government, has been one of the most recurrent topics in academic activity at the international level. The same applies to multilateralism and internationalism, distinctive features of Canadian international policy.

3More recently, the establishment of a foreign policy based on United Nations (UN) proposals that promote the principles of Human Security has also inspired numerous analyses. Such topics are among the most visible examples of interest in Canadian Studies in relation to their political and international aspects, but not to the exclusion of interest, as in the fields of literature and political philosophy, where writers such as Margaret Atwood, George Grant, Charles Taylor, Margaret Lawrence, Northrop Frye, and James Tully have become genuine international Canadian icons.

4In spite of the intellectual success of Canadian foreign policy as an object of survey, there are areas for analysis that have not been deeply explored, perhaps because the approach of a foreign writer is not necessarily aimed at answering the same questions of interest to a Canadian scholar. One of the short-term effects resulting from the study of Canadian foreign policy internationally has been the appearance of projects that differ from those carried out in Canada. In many cases, such projects stand out both for their innovative methodology and their use of non-traditional analytical tools from fields such as psychology, literature, and social and cultural studies among others (Badie and Smouts 1999: 23-27, 38-64). This digression from traditional approaches prevailing in international studies has diversified and enriched the study of Canada in the field of international relations.

5Discourse on ‘otherness’ obviously related to identity analysis, both of which have served as tools for the specific analysis of Canadian foreign policy, fits in this perspective. In this essay, discourse on otherness is an analytical resource, expressed on three levels in Canadian foreign policy. On the first level, ‘alterity’ emerges as a substantial part of a strategy that the Canadian government has often used, since the Second World War, to legitimize several government policies designed to reinforce internally the discourse on Canadian identity.

6Similarly, at a second level of analysis, discourse on alterity in Canadian foreign policy has been incorporated for twenty-five years, in one of the international strategies used by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. This department's promotion of Canadian Studies programmes and culture systematically contributes to the Canadian identity studied and promoted abroad, thus reinforcing from the outside, the image and identity existing in Canada.

7A third level of analysis provides an additional variant to the use of alterity within the discourse on Canadian foreign policy. This third path shows that the discourse on alterity also influences the analyses carried out by some foreign writers. This third use consists of examining and using Canadian foreign policy as an explicative resource to study specific aspects of foreign policy of another country. This tendency, though based on the tradition of comparative studies, goes beyond this field in a certain way, as its originality resides much more in the use of the discourse on alterity than in the comparison of political processes.

8Plainly speaking, it could be said that analyses by foreign writers display a marked tendency to examine Canadian foreign policy as a means of analyzing a reality that has nothing to do with Canada, thus overstepping the geographic, political, and intellectual boundaries of the initial analysis of Canada.

9Thus the analysis of democracy in Canada, the study of multiculturalism, the promotion of human rights, Canada's experience as the United States's neighbour, and its participation in free trade, have all become resources for explaining situations often opposed, such as antidemocratic policy practices, commercial protectionism, violation of human rights, the lack of a sustainable environmental strategy, and the absence of a comprehensive policy on the ethnic minorities in other countries.

10This essay has two purposes. On the one hand, it aims to analyse the link between the formulation of Canadian foreign policy and the Canadian government's repeated efforts to build a pan-Canadian identity based mainly on the international promotion of certain universal values. On the other hand, it aims to analyse, based on elements that make up a substantial part of the official discourse on Canadian foreign policy, a discourse on otherness and identity in Canada.

11In this sense, three important distinctions that are implicitly but not necessarily exhaustively, analysed in this study, should be made clear from the outset:

12• The formulation of a discourse on the Canadian identity, within its own discourse on foreign policy of this country, has been a federal political strategy toward international policy since the forties.

13• The province of Québec has also formulated its own identitaria discourse on international policy, especially from the sixties on, as a result of changes brought about by the Quiet Revolution. This discourse shares, to a great extent, federal postulates around the international promotion of Canadian values but has, at the same time, issued other postulates to gain acknowledgement of Québec as a political speaker in the international arena. The reflections of Louis Bélanger on the subject widely illustrate the way in which the international policy of Québec formulates the Québécois identity:

En raison à la fois de son statut et de ses objectifs, l'État du Québec doit faire face de façon évidente au défi de se faire reconnaître comme interlocuteur politique à l'étranger. Cette quête d'identité n'est pas aussi singulière qu'il le semble puisque, au-delà de la reconnaissance formelle, chaque État cherche dans ses relations avec l'extérieur la reconnaissance d'une expérience historique particulière (Bélanger 1995:71).

14• This means both that foreign policy traditionally formulated by the federal government and that deriving from Québec, express a clear political will to use international policy as a mechanism of identitaria affirmation.

15• The use of otherness in this strategy is closer to the federal government's attempt to formulate a pan-Canadian identity.

16This essay approaches an analysis of Canadian foreign policy mainly from the perspective of identity and otherness, but it does not mean to downplay the validity and importance of the international policy of Québec in examining identity.

17The legitimation of postulates inherent in a certain foreign policy depends directly on how closely the interests and values of the society relate to the proposals put forward by the state through its foreign policy. In view of all this, the state needs to build an' Imaginary; which any individual could identify with. This Imaginary must be made up of symbols, whether individuals, ideas, principles, or rituals, to transmit a feeling of common identity (Edelman 1983; Elder and Cobb 1983).

18National feeling is unquestionably an elusive concept. It evokes both the sense of belonging to a certain territory and of loyalty to certain values and national institutions, which doubtless represent the most useful cohesion resource for any state. It is also a prerequisite for foreign policy to be considered legitimate. Our analysis of Canadian foreign policy and, through it, the formulation of a pan-Canadian identity, has been theoretically enriched by William Bloom's work on identification theory. This theory “is concerned precisely with the deep psychological relationship between an individual and his/her social environment,” and the internationalization of these “social attitudes”, thus providing “an analytical tool which clarifies the attitudes and the motivation of both the individual and the mass citizenry in relation to their state and their state's international relations” (Bloom 1990:4). In his analysis, Bloom mentions that the connection between internationalization and identification may occur if “(1) symbols of the state present an appropriate attitude in situations of perceived threat, or (2) symbols of the state behave beneficently towards the individual” (1990:61).

  • 1 Bloom analyses the cases of United States foreign policy and the Cold War; the Falklands-Malvinas (...)

19Though a specific case survey on Canadian foreign policy is not presented in Bloom's works, his analysis of the need for a state to produce symbols that strengthen the feeling of a national identity and a foreign policy that strengthens such identity through its international actions, offers important lessons for our research.1 And he adds: “From a power political perspective of internal political control it is advantageous, therefore (a) to evoke a common identification and then (b) to possess a monopoly of power in terms of manipulating the symbols of that identity” (1990:51).

20Further on, Bloom insists in his analysis that “the national identity dynamic, therefore, describes the social-psychological dynamic by which a mass national public may be mobilized in relation to its international environment... the mass national public will mobilize when it perceives either that [its] national identity is threatened, or that there is the opportunity of enhancing national identity” (1990:79).

21One of the most interesting characteristics of the Canadian case is precisely the virtual absence of symbols traditionally sought by other states to create or reinforce the national identity. The decision of Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson in 1964 that Canadian society needed its own flag to distinguish it from the United Kingdom is an example of an attempt to build a more tangible identity in Canada. As Pearson stated: “On the evening of Sunday, 17 May 1963, I addressed the National Convention of the Royal Canadian Legion in Winnipeg. Under the steely eyes of a hostile audience, I announced to the assembled war veterans and to the country at large that we were going to have a distinctive Canadian flag. For me, the flag was part of a deliberate design to strengthen national unity” (Pearson 1975, 3:270).

22In his works, Bloom insists on the need for the state to be able to create symbols and rituals with which it clearly identifies. Nevertheless, we think that symbols and rituals also tend to reinvent themselves, the way a specific society does. In this sense, the process of globalization has obviously influenced the speed to which traditional symbols and rituals have weakened or disappeared.

  • 2 According to Miriam Villanueva Ayón, the concept of Human Security was first mentioned in some of (...)

23Considering all of the above, we think that Canadian foreign policy, formulated on a universal axiological base and not on rituals and symbols, has escaped, to a certain extent, the decay related to certain principles, heroes, deeds, and sagas that nourished the foreign policy of certain countries. An example of this argument would be the international strategy that, in recent years, has been implemented in Canada. This strategy of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade was based on a series of principles known as Human Security and was the main objective of international negotiations undertaken by then Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy.2 It served as a justification for Canada's presence on the international scene.

24Within Canadian foreign policy, the international promotion of what is commonly known as human values has traditionally occupied an important place. Practically every Prime Minister, and everyone else responsible for Canadian foreign policy, from W.L. Mackenzie King (19211926, 1926-1930 and 1935-1948), Louis Saint-Laurent (1948-1957), Lester B. Pearson (1963-1968) or Pierre Elliott Trudeau (1968-1980), to former Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Lloyd Axworthy (1993-2000), and current Prime Minister Jean Chrétien (1993–) have always mentioned these values as a key element to explain and justify Canada's position in the world (Pearson 1975; Melakopides 1998; Granatstein and Hillmer 1999).

25Since the 1940s, it has often been said, in both national and international forums, that Canadian foreign policy implies responsibility for as well as an answer to the needs of humanity. Louis Saint-Laurent as foreign minister, for one, stated it clearly in 1947: “No foreign policy is consistent nor coherent over a period of years unless it is based upon some conception of human values” (as quoted in Melakopides 1998:3). The inclusion of certain human values in Canadian foreign policy directly reflects the main ideas of the prevailing political culture of the country, which has traditionally favoured moderation, intercession, and cooperation as well as sharing and looking after those less fortunate. In other words, “concern for the welfare of others is one of the central values” (Canada, External Affairs 1970, fascicule “International Development”:9.)

26Suffice it to say that this political culture, as well as Canadian international policy, has been deeply influenced by religious principles from both Catholicism and Protestantism, mainly through a great number of politicians who have been responsible for formulating and implementing Canadian foreign policy. According to writers such as Costas Melakopides and Denis Stairs, the circle created by the ideas and actions of Pearson on Canadian internationalism, in the Department of External Affairs at the end of the 1940s, and more strongly between 1963 and 1968, was closely related to ethical and religious principles. Like other public officers involved in Canadian diplomacy such as Arnold Heeney and Scott Reid, Pearson was the child of a protestant minister; Walter Ridell was a Methodist minister; Hugh Keenleyside also came from a Methodist background (Stairs 1994; Melakopides 1998:85).

27According to this line of analysis, it is important to mention that the main idea behind Pearsonian internationalism was definitely the interdependence of all creatures. Melakopides mentions that the moral values that sustained this discourse were connected to the Canadian and British Protestant tradition. This reflection has also been thoroughly analysed by other writers such as John English who stated that Pearson, throughout his public life: “never spoke of God or called upon him to explain or justify his ways... Nevertheless, Pearson's thought, language, and ethics bear heavily the weight of the tradition [of British Protestantism]” (as quoted in Melakopides 1998:85).

28As of 1945, the values traditionally sustained by Canadian foreign policy were transformed into what is commonly known as ‘Canadian Internationalism.’ This translated into certain specific international actions by the Canadian government, such as the creation of peacekeepers, promotion of human rights, support for democratization, disarmament and weapons control, and aid to development in economically weak countries. We must not forget that such objectives were promoted by Canadian diplomacy in the midst of the East-West conflict arising from the Cold War.

29This internationalism was based on what Pearson considered to be one of Canada's principal defenses: being a mid-power historically inclined towards multilateral style actions (Cooper 1997; Nossal 1985:52-84,138-164). As Pearson stated in 1948: “modesty or timidity should not be confused with isolationism... this timidity is a sensible recognition of the fact that middle powers... can now merely expand their responsibilities and their worries.” That meant “a recognition of the internationalist view that countries must come closer together inside a United Nations rather than take over areas and responsibilities outside it” (Pearson 1970:68-69).

30In hindsight, Pearson was doubtless one of the prime ministers who most contributed to the creation of the ‘Canadian international identity’ and to the idea, widely spread over the years, that Canada, speaking politically and internationally, possesses an ‘exceptional’ and ‘different’ character. His main worry – amply documented in his memoirs and by his biographers – was not only the need to imprint a clear, pragmatic idealism on his internationalism, but also to create the internal conditions for consolidation of a national identity that would unite Canadians.

31Such worry was obvious in the third volume of his autobiography, where he often repeats it in passages such as:

My passionate interest when I was in government, apart from the ultimate question of peace and war, was in the national unity of our country. In some respects this was the most important issue of my career. National unity is a problem of many facets embracing, among other factors, the constitution, federal provincial relations and the bread and butter issues of tax sharing and equalization grants. But, in the long run, I am convinced that the problems of culture and language are pre-eminent; and I would like to think that our government made a permanent contribution to their solution” (Pearson 1975, 3:236).

32At the time, foreign policy was greatly influenced by the findings of the Royal Commission on Bilinguism and Biculturalism (1963), created at his initiative as prime minister, out of determination to have the French language officially recognized in political matters, including diplomacy: “I was convinced from the beginning, as I remain convinced now, that a prime element is the recognition of the French language. Nothing could be more important in my mind than an effort to make our French-speaking people feel that their language is an equal language in Canada.” And again: “I was convinced that if Canada were to be strong, independent, and distinct state on this continent, we had to do everything in our power to extend French culture and the French language throughout Canada” (Pearson 1975, 3:236-37).

33From the 1970s, during the Trudeau era, the language issues and human values promoted by Canadian foreign policy changed. They came to be identified and mentioned officially as ‘Canadian values’ within the context of the foreign policy of the country. Canada's emphatic and steady defence and promotion of these values internationally has given rise to a kind of ‘international identity.’ Paradoxically, this identity has been better accepted and supported domestically than official proposals offered to consolidate a national identity internally. In this regard, Melakopides affirms that, “Canadian foreign policy may, therefore, provide an indirect but compelling answer to the perennial question of Canada's ‘identity.’ For if Canada is perceived by non-Canadians as one of the most honourable, enlightened, and civilized international actors which comes mainly from the record and the motives of Canadian foreign policy” (Melakopides 1998:4).

34We may therefore deduce that Canadian foreign policy applies its actions and initiatives internationally as a spearhead to promote certain values and principles that are internally reworked and recycled to promote a Canadian identity. In other words, otherness turns into a privileged resource for Canadian foreign policy. As stated by Melakopides, “this is especially paradoxical because, for a country that appears perennially sensitive about its identity, Canadian foreign policy seems, in fact, to contain the most promising answer. If a country's identity hinges on the perceptions of others, Canada's identity could best be captured by the way it is seen, and the reasons it is so seen, by the world” (1998:14). This strategy has worked, to a certain extent, as a permanent ‘contrivance’ to consolidate ‘from the outside’ the set of values, ideals, and principles that constitute the heart of the Canadian identity. This identity, perceived from outside, pretends to recreate an internal identity that will underpin from ‘inside’ the unfinished project of pan-Canadian unity.

35This attempt to create an exogenous identitaria, based on Canada's international actions, would not have been possible if an ‘imaginary’ had not previously been built internally around what would ideally comprise a Canadian identity and Canadian values. Without this imaginary, the creation of exceptionalism in ‘Canada’s foreign policy (distinction-distinctiveness-unique) would be very hard to maintain.

36At this point of our analysis certain questions should be addressed:

  • How and who creates an ‘imaginary’ in foreign policy?
  • Is it possible to speak about institutions and minds that feed a specific ‘imaginary’?
  • What have been and are the perceptions and experiences of Canadians of yesterday and today regarding the construction of a Canadian identity?
  • What are the perceptions of foreigners who study Canada and who also build their own ‘imaginary’ about Canadian ‘distinction/distinctiveness’?

37Historically, the construction of the imaginary identitaria in Canada has faced two great challenges: cultural diversity and the antagonism caused by a politically complex linguistic diversity. How have these two aspects affected foreign policy? Regarding these questions, certain dates offer important clues to the way in which the Canadian imaginary identitaria is built:

  • Until 1936, every document in the business and financial world was issued in English, even papers to conduct small trade operations.
  • In 1938, a reform to the Civil Service Act required government officials to “speak the language spoken by most of the people they served.”
  • In 1947, the Canadian Citizenship Act legally acknowledged the people who lived in Canada as Canadians.
  • Only after the First World War (1914-1918) was it decided to professionalize the Canadian Army and to take into consideration that most of the troops spoke French while the high-ranking leaders ordered in English.
  • In 1947, Prime Minister W. L. Mackenzie King appointed an ad hoc commission to investigate the absence of bilingual public services, after discovering that not even police reports acknowledged this situation.
  • In 1958, the National Capital was established.
  • In 1965, Canada obtained its own flag and stopped using the Union Jack, symbol of the United Kingdom.
  • In 1969, the federal government was officially established as bilingual (Francis 1997).

38These dates offer a very accurate idea of the facts, experiences, and perceptions on which the inhabitants of Canada were building their imaginary identitaria.

39It is quite obvious that these aspects must all have influenced Canadian foreign policy, that in turn faced its own identity problems. One of these problems was the unanswerable influence of England on the institutional and bureaucratic order within the operations of Canadian foreign policy (Morton 1962:32-57).

40This analysis does not intend to repeat the well-based explanations on the origins of Canadian foreign policy before and after the Statute of Westminster, 1931, or the way it marked it, or its functional link to British international policy. However, we can doubtless say that the years after 1930 were especially difficult for a country such as Canada which began constructing its own diplomacy quite late, while on the same continent, Latin American countries and, of course, the United States had been diplomatically autonomous for over a century (Story 1993; Hilliker 1990). Indeed, prior to the Second World War, every Canadian international relationship, as well as its commercial diplomacy and its safety and espionage systems had to pass through British High Commissioners abroad before arriving in Ottawa.

41Obviously, the institutional order established following the Second World War offered Canadians the opportunity to open their own embassies and conduct a foreign policy that was more their own than before 1945.

42In the aforementioned paragraphs, I dealt with the postulates that Canadian foreign policy depends on the extent to which the interests and values of society are reflected in the proposals put forward by the Canadian state. With this idea as a guideline, I will now consider certain reflections arising from an analysis of official documents published by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT).

43Firstly, I will analyze how foreign policy objectives have evolved in the debate over Canadian identity, based on documents published by the department responsible for foreign affairs between 1970 and 1990. In these documents, I will examine the kind of Canadian identity that is reflected in Canadian foreign policy, which, as I have already mentioned, promotes values that do not have as a conceptual referent either a language or a predominant culture. These values essentially reflect universal interests and worries. This is wherein lies its internal consensus and international success.

44From these documents, it can be inferred that the Canadian identity promoted specifically by foreign policy tries to reconcile its relationship with the United States on two levels. On one level, Canadian foreign policy emphasizes its identity and differentiation through internationalism and Canadian values. On another level Canadian foreign policy, more recently, has promoted Canadian identity based on a concept of American-ness or North American-ness, which relates back to a space called North America.

45‘Americanity’ is then the antithesis of an Americanized identity and the answer to the accusations concerning the continentalization of Canadian foreign policy. As Fox explains,

  • 3 Another point of view on the concept of American-ness and North-American-ness may be found in Lach (...)

Canada's search for identity led Canadians to stress their North-American-ness when they sought to differentiate themselves and their policy from the British and Britain's policy, while North-American-ness got in the way when differentiation from the United States and American policy was sought... Australians demonstrate their sense of identity... by calling the English Pommies; Canadians have no comparable word for demonstrating that they are not Americans; but they too make use of symbols of counteridentification, particularly in foreign policy. ‘Independent’ for them means not just foreign policies that are freely chosen; it may also mean made-in Canada policies and even policies deliberately different from those the United States has chosen” (Fox 1985:64, 76).3

46Canadian values, mostly after 1990, have been promoted within a strategic thrust of Canadian foreign policy which has been called ‘Public Diplomacy.’ The intended outcome of this strategy was “to create interest and confidence in Canada abroad and an international public environment favourable to Canada's political and economic interests and Canadian values” (Canada, DFAIT, 1999:32). In other words, among the stated objectives of Public Diplomacy is the promotion of Canadian identity abroad and the enhancement of Canadians’ attachment to Canada by means of a greater awareness of the international role of this country.

  • 4 The name White Paper is usually given to a document officially published by some country that refl (...)

47The White Paper entitled Foreign Policy for Canadians was issued in 1970 and discussed six diplomatic areas in which Canadian foreign policy intended to concentrate its strategies: economic growth; sovereignty and independence; peace and safety; social justice; improvement of quality of life; and conservation of harmony in the environment. This document has been quoted and analysed to such an extent that thirty-one years after its publication, it remains an ‘icon’ of Canadian foreign policy (Canada, External Affairs 1970).4 I will limit comment on it to aspects that reinforce an analysis of the promotion of values and Canadian identity in the international sphere.

48One aspect that attracts attention is the idea of Canada as a ‘mentor-state.’ Melakopides mentions the perception of Trudeau when this document was published: “Trudeau perceived Canada as a ‘mentor state’ capable of being a model to the world. He repeatedly referred to the need for a ‘global ethic’” (Melakopides 1998:9). Clearly, the mechanism of promoting Canadian values through Canadian international policy forms part of a much wider process in which Canadian foreign policy seeks to teach, share, and guide other countries in relation to Canadian values, and even to promote the acceptance of global ethics. This strategy, as already mentioned, combines the ethical-religious tradition of Judeo-Christian ideals, conveyed in such famous phrases by Trudeau as “We are all brothers,’ or ‘We are one on this earth’ (as quoted in Melakopides 1998:9).

49From this point of view, Canadian values must prevail, and what better way than to use established diplomatic channels: “A society able to ignore poverty abroad will find it much easier to ignore it at home; a society concerned with poverty and development abroad will be concerned about poverty and development at home” (Canada, External Affairs 1970, fascicule “International Development”:9). On analysis, the document also argues that Canadians, as well as their government, would not be able to create a really fair society, inside Canada “if [they] were not prepared to play [their] part in the creation of a more just world society” (1970:9).

50One point that deserves to be mentioned: all of the documents under discussion contain evidence of a deepening economic character of Canadian foreign policy, under two courses of action-commercial diplomacy and aid to development. These two courses complement the strategies used to promote universal values that Canada has adopted as its own. In this sense, it must not be forgotten that the economic historian Donald Creighton defined Canada as a “commercial state;” thus the economic component was always present in the strategies linked to Canadian foreign policy.

51The second document on Canadian foreign policy, produced by the Special Joint Committee on International Relations of the Senate and the House of Commons, called Independence and Internationalism, was issued as a Green Paper and meant to be a base document to elicit the opinion of Canadians on the new directions of Canadian foreign policy (Canada, Special Joint Committee 1986). These directions had been made public a year earlier by Brian Mulroney's government under the title Competitiveness and Security: Directions for Canada's International Relations (Canada, Foreign Affairs 1985). Several observations derive from the Green Paper. The first recognizes that the government established a new precedent: public consultations on foreign policy that gave a more democratic character to the development of Canadian foreign policy. Secondly, it was the first time that Canadian foreign policy was analysed by a parliamentary ad hoc committee and debated both in the House of Commons and in the Senate, A third observation from reading the Green Paper is that the first of the six objectives proposed in it was national unity; the other five objectives were practically the same as those already proposed in Foreign Policy for Canadians, published in 1970 by the Liberal government of Trudeau.

52A significant observation arising from the Green Paper was the need to create an international image of Canada, based on the values that identify it and make it highly reputable (Canada, Special Joint Committee 1986:27). This proposal is all the more relevant given that it contained the opinion of many Canadians: about 700 individuals, 300 witnesses and 287 organisms appeared before the committee in a first stage of hearings in the summer of 1985. Later, in May 1986, 245 organizations took part in a second round; these citizens agreed that national unity and strengthening the Canadian identity should be the top aim of Canadian foreign policy: “National unity has a grip on the souls of Canadians... It stands at the head of Canada's objectives as the sine qua non for all the other collective goals that Canadians may decide to pursue.” This subject is noteworthy for the document clearly mentions that Canadians have “recently been directing foreign policy to the achievement of national unity” (1986:32).

53An aspect that stands out in Independence and Internationalism is the discourse on ‘otherness’ constructed around the concept that “the world acts as a mirror for Canadians.” Another important point along the same line is the mention of Canada's bicultural and bilingual character followed by a statement that “Canada has to be able to present an image abroad that Canadians recognize as their own” (1986:32).

54In contrast to the conciliatory tone of most of the other documents mentioned herein, Independence and Internationalism is quite direct about the position Canada is to play in its attempt to promote national unity through the promotion of global ethics: “Canada must be wary of foreign governments that may be tempted for one reason or another to take steps that could damage Canada's national cohesion” (1986:34). Incidentally, it should be noted that Lloyd Axworthy, Liberal member of Parliament for Winnipeg and Jean Chrétien, as Liberal MP for Saint Maurice, both current architects of Canada's foreign policy, were part of the Special Joint Committee on Canada's International Relations.

55Though national unity occupied first place among the new goals, generally speaking it was linked to “the consequences of its vicinity to the United States,” a subject ostensibly avoided in the White Paper of 1970. An article by Canada's then Foreign Affairs Minister Mitchel Sharp, entitled “Canada-U.S. Relations: Options for the Future” later corrected this omission (Sharp 1972).

56The section more directly related to the objectives of this analysis is undoubtedly the one entitled “Influence Based on the Image and Reputation” in which it is argued that the way Canadians have been viewed abroad often works to their advantage (Canada, Special Joint Committee 1986:27-34).

57The Green Paper also offers interesting clues on certain features of Canadian foreign policy, such as “its participation in peacekeeping forces, its advocacy of human rights, its unflagging support of the UN system” and states that “they have favourably influenced how the country is regarded abroad” and have added to its reputation (1986:27).

58Lastly, with the 1995 publication of a document entitled Canada in the World, Canadian foreign policy clearly assumes the role of promoting the Canadian identity (Canada, DFAIT 1995). In different ways, the three pillars of Canadian foreign policy mentioned in this document support this identity, characterized by a regional identity, but always Canadian. Published under the current Liberal government of Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, this document represents the first time that a new group of Canadian values is openly defined, in addition to the existing ones. Among the economic values of Canada, the promotion of free trade emerges as an integral part of the new strategy of the Liberal government.

59Yet economic as well as commercial concerns have occupied a relevant place in the Canadian international strategy since the 1970s when Trudeau introduced them into the institutional structure of the government. However, in the documents issued under his leadership, such as Foreign Policy for Canadians, economic values were never offensively defined as central to the axiomatic group that had traditionally promoted Canadian foreign policy. Perhaps the aim was to counterbalance the economic component with the importance and pertinence of such traditional Canadian values as democracy and human rights, not to mention the promotion of culture or Canadian Studies abroad.

60Since 1990, promotion of the Canadian identity through its foreign policy has occupied an important place in the financial statements of DFAIT, in the name of Public Diplomacy, described and justified as follows: “The international perception of Canada is often dated and out of step with economic and other realities in Canada. In addressing this issue, the Department is pursuing public diplomacy activities to promote Canada's international academic and cultural relations” (Canada, DFAIT 1999:7).

61Until the year 2000, DFAIT published detailed information about contributions to different international institutions and programs in its estimates and reports on plans and priorities. Thus, thanks to a detailed table on transfer payments by business line, we can analyse with certain adequacy the priorities of the federal government concerning foreign policy.

62According to the public data published by DFAIT at the beginning of 2000 in 2000-2001 Estimates, the Department's forecasted expenditure on budgetary policy for the years 1999-2000 was about $1,719.5 million, from which $94.7 million was earmarked for Public Diplomacy. This amount is less than that for “International Security and Cooperation”: $479.1 million, “Corporate Services”: $308.3 million, “International Business Development”: $286.5 million and $215.7 million for “Trade and Economic Policy” (Canada, DFAIT 2000:8).

63The Department's 1999-2000 Estimates, published a year before, contained more detailed and disaggregated information which allows us to compare some important issues. In Forecast Spending 1998-99, grants allocated to “Aid to Academic Relations” amounted to $13,290,000 and those allocated to “Aid and Cultural Relations,” $4,997,000, while under the column “Contributions,” international institutions such as the Organization of American States (OAS) secured from DFAIT a budget of $12,775,000 in the same period. This is also observed in the case of the UN: $45,359,000 and the Peace Corps: $53,823,000 (Canada, DFAIT 1999:52-54).

64These amounts indicate that the financial strategy of DFAIT reflects a prevailing interest in securing a space for negotiations at an international level that naturally allows the projection of a specific image of Canadian values and therefore affirms an identity constructed around the vision of the federal government. This strategy also presumes greater confidence in promoting Canadian identity through multilateral bodies such as the UN, the OAS, or the North Atlantic Treaty Organization than in financing more widely the cultural and academic relations that correspond to the budget line called Public Diplomacy. Clearly, though Canadian identity is promoted through the Public Diplomacy strategy, the definition of Canadian identity and values centres on the business line called “International Security and Cooperation,” which considers the following: “Canada is a cosmopolitan country, with economic, security and cultural interests that span the globe. Canada is equally a compassionate country, with a values based foreign policy, backed by diplomatic skills and defense forces, by development assistance and civil society” (Canada, DFAIT 2000:19).

65There are six strategic lines associated with Public Diplomacy:

  1. Project Canada's image and values abroad.
  2. Communicate to Canadians the importance of Canada's role in the world, the international dimensions of the government's priorities as well as the Department's role and the services it provides to Canadians.
  3. Promote international, academic, and educational linkages.
  4. Promote national unity.
  5. Promote identity and attachment to Canada among Canadians through increased awareness of Canada's role abroad.
  6. Ensure that foreign governments are aware of the flexibility and evolution of Canadian federalism, as well as the importance of the ongoing international role played by a strong and united Canada (Canada DFAIT 1999:33).

66Finally, among the results that DFAIT is expected to accomplish through Public Diplomacy, I quote:

  1. Greater public understanding in Canada and abroad of Canadian policies and positions.
  2. International public awareness of Canada's characteristics and accomplishments through cultural, scholarly or comparable events.
  3. Increased exports of cultural and educational products and services, including choice of Canada as a destination for foreign tourists and students (1999:35).

67These strategic lines widely reflect the discourse on otherness that Canadian foreign policy has been developing through Public Diplomacy.

68The Public Diplomacy and Human Security strategies are without doubt, the most ambitious and focused projects of Canadian foreign policy at the beginning of the millennium. Its strength lies in the synergy it has been able to establish between its international interests and the new focus of its foreign policy: civil society. Public Diplomacy confers a new status on Canada as a ‘facilitator’ in the processes of democratic transition and as a mediator in the pacification processes.

69As we read through the Public Diplomacy document, one of the most common phrases is: “Canada can make the difference in the region.” Contrary to other periods prior to 1990, Public Diplomacy has meant an important investment in the financial and human capital, requiring public officers abroad to change the usual procedures for raising awareness about Canada internationally. The promotion of democracy, defence of human rights, protection of the environment, support of the Canadian culture industry, and strengthening a critical mass of foreigners interested in the study of Canada, support the main objectives of Public Diplomacy.

70This sort of diplomacy takes risks because its role as ‘facilitator’ introduces it to a political field where the national sovereignty of ‘the others’ is in the way. The political boundary between mediation and intervention is fragile. Such diplomacy fuels a double discourse based on otherness. On one hand, the aim of the above-mentioned objectives is to widen and strengthen the identity of Canada outside the country and in which most of its inhabitants take pride. This is why political mistakes made outside of Canada, such as Canadian intervention in Somalia through the peacekeepers, are more deeply regretted within. At the same time, the presence of Canada through Public Diplomacy is unquestionably useful to explain abroad, through an analysis on Canada, the problems of ‘the others.’ This means that analyses of free trade, Aboriginal rights, multiculturalism, or Canadian federalism are often a starting point for explaining other political, economic, and social realities. In this sense, the discourse on otherness fulfills its task.



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1 Bloom analyses the cases of United States foreign policy and the Cold War; the Falklands-Malvinas conflict; unilateral disarmament and American bases in the United Kingdom; the conflict between Greece and Turkey regarding Cyprus, and the Third World foreign policy (Bloom 1990:90-104).

2 According to Miriam Villanueva Ayón, the concept of Human Security was first mentioned in some of the documents published by the General Secretariat of the United Nations Organization as of 1992 and more specifically in the publications of the United Nations Programme for Development in 1993 and 1994 (Villanueva Ayón 2000).

3 Another point of view on the concept of American-ness and North-American-ness may be found in Lachapelle and Balthazar 1999.

4 The name White Paper is usually given to a document officially published by some country that reflects the official position on a certain issue of national concern, in this case, Canadian foreign policy during the 1970s.


Research Professor at the Instituto de Investigaciones Económicas of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), and Professor in the Faculty of Political Sciences, she is a member of the National Research System of the National Council of Sciences and Technology (CONACYT). In 1992, she was the founder of the Mexican Association for Canadian Studies (AMEC) and served as its president from 1993 until 1996. She served as a member of the executive committee of the International Council for Canadian Studies. Since 1986 she has been very active in the debate about Free Trade and in 1990 was invited to testify at a House of Commons committee. Her most recent publication is Canada : A Postmodern State (2000)

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