Canada’s Interests in a Shifting Order
Toward a Comprehensive and Coherent Canadian Foreign Policy
Today’s international order is marked by a shifting balance of power and deepening great power competition, even as the threat of climate change persists. Canada’s diminishing special relationship with the United States and a rules-based international order in crisis together suggest that Ottawa may no longer be able to rely on the traditional pillars of its postwar foreign policy. And while Canada’s geographic isolation has traditionally buttressed its national security, this may no longer be the case in a multipolar and integrated world.
Through a series of private roundtables, occurring monthly throughout the second half of 2022 and the first half of 2023, this project seeks to clarify the nature and scope of Canada’s national interests in a multipolar world. These roundtables, held among Canadian experts from differing points of view, will feature discussions centred on Canadian interests in various regional theatres (e.g., Europe and Asia) as well as in different policy areas (e.g., multilateralism, climate change and human rights).
This project does not seek to identify threats to which Canada must respond, but rather takes a “first principles” approach. Without a discussion—both conceptual and grounded—on the reach of Canada’s interests on the world stage, it is impossible to set proper policy goals or to identify which resources and capabilities must be developed in the pursuit of those goals. In addition to written analyses published over the course of the initiative’s duration, the project will conclude in the autumn of 2023 with the publication of a report outlining the results of the year-long deliberations.
From This Project
Canadians await their government’s Indo-Pacific Strategy this month. Minister Mélanie Joly’s November 9 speech gave us a preview, essentially that trade will continue, but business is on its own and should know the risks.
On September 15, 2022, IPD convened the second roundtable of its “Canada’s Interests in a Shifting Order” project. The topic of this session focused on Canada’s long-term foreign policy imperatives in Europe. Participants included former and current Canadian ambassadors, in addition to roughly a dozen scholars and experts on Canadian foreign policy and Euro-Atlantic security.
The Institute for Peace & Diplomacy’s newly launched project, dedicated to exploring Canadian interests in a multipolar world, marks the fifth generation of public calls to reconsider Canada’s global posture to better reflect the “national interest.” Yet while debates over the future of Canadian foreign policy are always welcome, the real debate, it seems to me, should focus on how those interests are operationalized in the contemporary context.
How does Canada’s geographic position—and in particular our geostrategic location—determine the scope of Canadian national interests today? In Canada, there is a deep divide over the relationship between geopolitics and Canada’s national interests. Yet while Canadians have tended to see their country’s geographic isolation as a source of security, the emerging pressures of changes in American politics and great power competition will make that more difficult in the 2020s.