A More Imaginative Canadian Foreign Policy

Canada comes nowhere near its leadership potential to help move our tiny planet into an era of peace and prosperity throughout the 1990’s and into the 21st century. As an important middle power we need a clear mission, a long-term plan.

For the year 2000 most Canadians would choose a world with peace and justice. Our policies should aim in that direction.

The postwar period up to Lester Pearson’s winning the Nobel Peace Prize has been described as the golden age of Canadian foreign policy and diplomacy. Now we need a new challenge which would make our internal problems such as the Meech Lake accord seem less significant. That challenge could be a more imaginative and creative external affairs policy.

Decade of International Law

The Decade of International Law proclaimed by the United Nations provides such an opportunity and could lead to global application of the rule of law including the compulsory jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice.

Two important factors should influence our choice of goals and policies as people everywhere become increasingly interdependent.

First, we must abandon the old concepts of security and national sovereignty. The common security of all humanity and the rule of law must replace war and the threat of war in order to release resources for human development and to save the planet from environmental disaster.

Second, we must link freedom with justice on a worldwide basis. We must no longer tolerate the growing gap between rich and poor, either at home or abroad, and the resulting cruel death by starvation of 40,000 children daily.

Canadians must recognize themselves among the more fortunate on a planet in crisis suffering grave problems unmanageable by states acting separately. We require a new level of cooperation possible through a more effective institutional framework. We must view the world as one society, embracing all of humanity in its diversity. The ideals of civilized community life must be applied on a global basis.

Democratize the UN

Canada should advocate much more actively the elimination of all weapons of mass destruction and the development of dispute settlement by a stronger United Nations system.

Exploding the myth of nuclear deterrence should become a central theme of Canada’s foreign policy. Douglas Roche, until recently Canada’s disarmament ambassador, claims this western strategy prevents genuine nuclear disarmament and will threaten the peace.

Countries such as Iraq and others will continue to seek more powerful weapons until plans for common security and the effective abolition of nuclear weapons are in place.

The World Federalists of Canada and six other cosponsors of the Nuclear Weapons Legal Action (including the United Church of Canada) are asking our government to seek a Supreme Court of Canada opinion on the legality of the first use of nuclear weapons in Canadian and International law.

Admiral Eugene Carroll, Center for Defense Information, Washington, told the US Senate foreign relations committee that pursuit of deterrence is the engine of the arms race, and an end to all nuclear testing would prevent the creation of new families of nuclear weapons.

Comprehensive Test Ban

The 1963 partial test ban treaty prevents all nuclear testing except underground. A comprehensive test ban treaty would cut off qualitative advancements. Thirty-nine countries (excluding Canada) have initiated an amendment conference to be held in two sessions in June and January. The US and UK have indicated probable veto of any such treaty. Canada would have strong public support in trying to convince them otherwise.

The nuclear non-proliferation treaty of 1968 sets a double standard of two classes of states, the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots.’ It expires in 1995. The ‘haves’ have not lived up to the letter or the spirit of the treaty by any significant reduction in nuclear arms and this leads poorer countries to seek cheaper weapons of mass destruction. Just as Canada publicly opposed South Africa’s racial policies, we should oppose weapons of mass destruction more vigorously.

Need Public Defence Review

Canada urgently needs a defence review with broad public participation. Defence policy should be subsidiary to external affairs policy to reduce a repetition of the 1987 defence white paper which outlined unrealistic plans for increased expenditures and commitments well into the next century.

Canada still lacks a plan for conversion to peace. Lack of planning and external defence liaison resulted in the abrupt closing of military bases in P.E.I. and Manitoba creating local hardship. Our postwar demobilization demonstrated that massive shifts from a war to peace economy are possible.

The government created the impression of no change in Canada’s 1990 defence budget because the five per cent increase represented inflation; yet it amounted to over $600,000,000 while a few millions were taken away from native and women’s groups, and large reductions were made in funds to the provinces for health and education. The cold war has thawed. Where’s the peace dividend?

President Bush continues to argue for a $300 billion defense budget, yet Admiral La Rocque, Director of the Center for Defense Information, made proposals to Congress for a $200 billion budget that would still maintain a powerful, versatile military force. In a small way, we mimic the US.

The respected US Physicians for Social Responsibility said: ‘The US is first in military spending and nuclear testing, but falls to 4th in literacy rate, 13th in maternal mortality rate, 17th in infant mortality rate, and 31st in percentage of infants with low birthweight.’

Canada continues to waste over one billion dollars annually by keeping its NATO troops in Europe. We should admit that military alliances are becoming obsolete, and work through the UN on new thinking and new plans based on the ‘common security’ of all states. We should not encourage transforming NATO into another non-military rich man’s club further discriminating against the poorer states.

Of more than 160 countries, Canada ranks 12th in military spending and only 48th in size. Our plan should reduce spending and possibly increase size. Expensive offensive weaponry should be phased out in favor of a purely defensive defence force. Eventually all states should maintain armed forces only on their own territory. International peacekeeping under UN command should become an even more important role for Canada,. We could consider offering training schools for UN peacekeepers. The suggestion of Dr. M.W. Ashford for an Emergency Response Corps as a fourth unarmed defence branch to combat natural and man-made disasters should be considered.

Canada’s useful work in verification and ‘Open Skies’ should be expanded to press for open seas and open space which, if ever adopted, would make unnecessary the billions of dollars spent on intelligence and spying, always a threat to open government.

Lacking courage, Canada took another wrong step last year in approving US tests of the Advanced (Stealth) Cruise Missile over Canadian territory.

Arms Sales

Now ranking 13th as an arms exporter, Canada should make new efforts to cease the arms flow. Over $20 billion worth of armaments are bought annually by Third World regimes, many engaged in conflict or human rights violations. Canada should be working for a UN arms register, an arms control agency, an international satellite monitoring agency, and demilitarization of the Arctic.

By the 21st century, the term superpower will no longer refer to military strength; and the world will survive disaster by war only if the United Nations becomes the indisputable major peacekeeper. The US now impedes the UN by being over $500 millions in arrears in their financial commitment — the cost of one Stealth bomber.

The underfinanced United Nations should have revenues from sources other than government contributions. Canada could propose a small surcharge on international postage and other means to provide more stable financing.

Environmental Crisis Looms

Today scientists view the earth as a living organism like a giant human body. If a part becomes ill, it affects the whole. Through the slow destruction of the environment, the earth is in the early stages of cancer. Many distinguished scientists give us only ten years to reverse the trend. We now link the rain forests of Brazil to our future. Yet in our method of accounting, the trees, almost as important to life as water, are worth nothing until they are cut down. We need better yardsticks. The deteriorating global environment will point increasingly to the need for effective world law.

The developed states who have created most of the pollution are becoming alarmed at the lack of anti-pollution controls in the less affluent. Many of these developing states pay more in interest to the banks of the developed world than their export earnings. The net transfer from poor to rich last year reached $40 billion. The bottom forty of the developing states ended the 1980’s poorer in per capita terms than at the beginning of the decade.

Where’s the justice in this situation? Over a billion people or one in five live in extreme poverty, and just as many have no access to clean water. As UNICEF recently noted, the funds spent on tobacco advertising would be sufficient to provide preventive health care to the 100 million children at risk in the 1990s. A reduction of military spending of 10 per cent could provide housing for the 100 million homeless people. Our priorities are wrong.

Increase Aid

To create employment for their people the poorer contries will give priority to development. The report of the Rotary Peace Forum held in Toronto last fall revealed that the developed world must help the developing states to the tune of billions of dollars, particularly with sustainable development and environmental protection. It’s in our own interest to do so.

An American journalist wrote: ‘The greenhouse effect and CFC’s are a hell of a lot more important to the future of the world than the US budget deficit.’ This also applies to Canada.

As a new member of the Organization of American States (OAS), Canada must take this opportunity to increase trade and aid with Latin America and to act as a moderating influence on the US tendency towards unilateral action and military solutions.

The public must not leave external affairs policy to the experts who often get so immersed in detail and brush-fires that ‘they cannot see the forest for the trees.’

Our ultimate goal in external policy should be the transformation of the United Nations into a true world parliament representing the global interests of all humanity. This transformation will be a difficult process because national politicians jealously guard their turf and resist transfer of power from one political level to another. We require far greater public pressure but it may not be long in coming. The world is changing very rapidly.

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ISSN 1925-170X (Print) | ISSN 1925-1718 (Online)