A modest proposal for reimagining Canadian foreign policy

The Canadian flag flies over the Peacekeeping Monument in Ottawa. Photo from Flickr.

By Bianca Mugyenyi, Canadian Dimension, Sept. 1, 2021

Kim Campbell once said “an election is no time to discuss serious issues.” While most politicians would reject the former prime minister’s bluntness, they largely follow her logic, offering sound bites and snappy proposals rather than substantial policy reforms.

Recognizing the often rigid parameters of electioneering, the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute has developed a concise, practical and cost-free foreign policy platform we believe most progressive voters could endorse:

  1. Cancel the Canadian Commercial Corporation’s multi-billion-dollar light armoured vehicle contract with Saudi Arabia. Canada shouldn’t be arming one of the most repressive nations on earth, which is responsible for incredible suffering in Yemen.
  2. Strengthen regulations on arms exports to bring Canadian legislation into full compliance with the Arms Trade Treaty.
  3. Withdraw from the Lima Group of nations seeking to oust Venezuela’s government. Instigated by Canada and Peru four years ago, the Lima Group has lost many of its founding members recently.
  4. Release Meng Wanzhou as part of negotiations to return Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig. Canada should have ignored Donald Trump’s extradition request.
  5. Halt Canadian naval participation in provocative US-led missions in the South China Sea.
  6. Aggressively support a WTO patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines.
  7. Permit Canada’s Biolyse Pharma to fulfill its contract with Bolivia to produce COVID-19 vaccines if the patent waiver is granted.
  8. Sign the United Nations Nuclear Ban Treaty. The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) entered into force in January and 97 countries have already signed on to this effort to criminalize nuclear weapons.
  9. Give the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise full power to investigate and withdraw public support from Canadian mining companies found to be responsible for significant abuses abroad.
  10. Place a moratorium on negotiating Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements (FIPPA), which grant corporations special powers to sue governments for lost profits in international tribunals.
  11. Withdraw from the Core Group that heavily shapes Haitian affairs. Canada should not be part of an alliance of international ambassadors dictating to Haitians.
  12. Withdraw Canadian troops from Russia’s border in Ukraine and Latvia.
  13. Restart diplomatic relations with Iran severed by the Stephen Harper government.
  14. Withdraw Canada’s armed forces from Iraq. It’s not in Canada’s interest to be involved in a proxy conflict with Iran.
  15. Retract Canadian opposition to the International Criminal Court’s investigation of Israeli war crimes.
  16. Apply the Foreign Enlistment Act to groups recruiting for the Israeli military in Canada.
  17. Ask the Canada Revenue Agency to investigate registered charities violating its rules by supporting the Israeli military, racist organizations and West Bank settlements.
  18. Call for an end to the exemption for militaries’ greenhouse gas emissions in the upcoming COP26 climate negotiations. Stop exempting the Department of National Defence from government GHG reduction targets.
  19. Scrap the plan to spend up to $5 billion on armed drones.
  20. Place a moratorium on purchasing new fighter jets. The $19 billion—$77 billion over their lifecycle—set aside for the planned purchase should be redesignated towards a just transition away from fossil fuels.

None of these 20 points are particularly radical. None require significant new resources. Many will save taxpayers significant sums. What’s more, the plan doesn’t require Canada to withdraw from its international alliances or free trade accords, and it aligns with the United Nations charter. These proposals are also consistent with the government’s claim to support a “rules based international order” and “feminist foreign policy.”

Implementing these proposals would put us on the path towards a more just foreign policy, increase Canada’s standing in the global community, and rehabilitate our international reputation after losing a high-profile bid for one of the rotating seats on the United Nations Security Council last year.

Ahead of the next federal election, candidates from all parties should be asked if they support these modest proposals.


Bianca Mugyenyi is an author, activist and director of the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute. She is based in Montréal.


Posted Sept. 16, 2021