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Citizens Want Canada to Play a Much Bigger Role on the Global Stage

by NationTalk on April 15, 2008480 Views

OTTAWA, April 14 – A group of randomly recruited citizens from the Ottawa-Kingston region spent an intense weekend exploring a vision for Canada’s role in the world. The weekend dialogue is part of Canada’s World – a unique citizen-led initiative under the auspices of The Simon Fraser University’s Centre for Dialogue. Canada’s World is a three-year national initiative that asks ordinary Canadians from all walks of life to share their thoughts, concerns and dreams about Canadian foreign policy. Citizens developed a vision for the country in 2020 and wrestled with how to position Canada in relation to three ‘new realities’ facing Canada in the international arena: the changing nature of conflict, decline in international law, and the increased global demands of indigenous peoples.

“Foreign policy has generally been the realm of experts. I’m amazed that such a diverse group of citizens can grapple with complex issues and develop such sophisticated and forward-looking recommendations,” said Shauna Sylvester, the founding Director of Canada’s World.

Citizens urged Parliament to develop a clear vision for Canada’s military with greater emphasis on domestic security, and protection of territorial integrity – particularly in the Arctic. They suggested that Canada’s global military efforts should be focused on rapid deployment to address acts of genocide internationally – either through a revamped NATO or a renewed United Nations peacekeeping/ peacebuilding force. They also recommended higher investments in diplomacy and overseas development assistance as critical to conflict prevention and resolution.

Citizens also stressed the need for Canada to “walk the talk” in advancing international law particularly in three key areas: indigenous rights in Canada and abroad, protecting the integrity and capacity of global food systems (e.g. enhancing and adhering to international treaties on biodiversity and fish stocks) and Arctic sovereignty. Citizens called on the Canadian government to work in partnership with the Inuit and the Circumpolar Conference to advance agreements for the protection and sustainable development of the Arctic.

In response to the growing movement of indigenous people globally, citizens want the Canadian government to initiate a national dialogue with Aboriginal peoples and citizens in Canada to promote reconciliation, understanding and concrete action. Dialogue participants argued that the status quo is not acceptable and that a new approach that recognizes both rights and responsibilities, celebrates local success stories and moves beyond the confines of the Indian Act is urgently needed.

The two-and-a-half day dialogue complemented the findings of a recently released Canada’s World poll. In their vision statements participants called on Canada to be a “model power” by focusing on changes at home and playing a stronger and more visible leadership role in the world in advancing renewable energy, addressing poverty and clean water issues, improving human rights and promoting peace and conflict resolution.

For further information: To interview participants about the Ottawa dialogue or for more information about Canada’s World please contact Shauna Sylvester, Founding Director, shaunas@canadasworld.ca and visit the Canada’s World website at www.canadasworld.ca

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