Ottawa panel assesses Justin Trudeau foreign policy

Friday’s blog post focuses on “hot off the press” comments by RI President Peggy Mason during an important foreign policy panel organized by NPSIA, the Canadian Foreign Policy Journal and iAffairs. Click here for the agenda and speakers.

The first discussion centred on key words that typified Canada’s foreign policy over the past four years.  Peggy Mason focused on one word that illuminates the general dilemma in assessing whether the past four years of foreign policy represents a glass half-empty or half-full or something else altogether:

My word is feminist — as in feminist foreign policy — where the women, peace and security agenda — including a new Ambassador with a half decent mandate — comes to mind. Here the implementation glass is half full with a government record that includes financial support for women’s participation in peacebuilding (Mali) and in peace processes. (Although in the case of Syria it was one-sided and therefore partisan support….)

Click here for the full text of her comments.

The second question allowed for an in-depth assessment of a particular policy area and Mason offered highlights of her detailed written assessment of the continued Canadian retreat from nuclear disarmament diplomacy that took place under Foreign Minister Freeland’s “unwatchful eye”.

The title of my remarks is From nuclear disarmament stalwart to nuclear weapons apologist. On this file Canada is most certainly not back.

Click here for the full text of her comments, including recommendations on how Canada, even at this late hour, can reverse course and help save the upcoming 2020 Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty from the disastrous debacle that many fear.

The third and final question asked: Does the pledge to bring “Canada back” signal a paradigm shift?  In addressing this question, Mason first considered the value of declaratory support for a rules-based order in and of itself. She stated:

having countries like Canada, France, Germany and others explicitly championing a multilateral system that is now under attack from one of its most powerful members (albeit one that honoured the system as much in its breach as otherwise, long before the advent of Trump) is even more important. In short, it must be all hands on deck if we are to avoid reverting to a system where the only yardstick is raw power.

After reviewing the many files where some progress has been made, even if slight, she then turned to the crux of the problem:

But the problem is those policy areas in negative territory. When we refuse to join the 11 other western countries who have now suspended arms exports to Saudi Arabia (court ordered in the case of the UK and voluntarily by all the rest) in light of the carnage in Yemen, we are not championing international law; we are actively undermining it.

How does one determine when the sum total of the negatives undermines the whole enterprise and has this happened with this government? To which Mason responds:

The answer has to be that the jury is still out! But one thing is for sure, the absolute worst situation would be a return to a time when our government openly contested the central role that multilateralism must play in navigating the discordant international order we see today.

For the full text of her comments on the paradigm shift, click here.

(Note that written texts for other panelists were not available.)

Photo credit: Government of Canada.

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