Much of the discussion in the preceding chapters has focussed on the domestic or internal factors that have shaped government and politics in Canada. At the same time, however, no country is an island but is part of the international community consisting of 193 states. There is a countless array of bilateral relations between Canada and other individual states, especially the United Kingdom and the United States. As well, there are several multilateral situations where Canada interfaces with numerous other states.
In order to understand Canada’s involvement in the global economy, it is important to begin with the staples theory which stipulates that the Canadian economy is based on natural resources and exports. Canada has always been a global trading partner and the federal government has used numerous legislations and tariff agreements to instill growth in the domestic and international realms. Canada’s international status was slow to evolve: from first being colonies to achieving dominion status within the British Empire following Confederation in 1867, finally achieving full sovereignty as a modern state only well into the twentieth century. Canada’s foreign policy may be viewed primarily in respect to such matters as military defence, diplomacy, international trade, foreign direct investment, and foreign aid.
We see historically that British military policy, trade policy, and diplomacy initially set Canada’s direction internationally. In addition, many of Canada’s political institutions and practices reflected a lingering connection with their British origins until the patriation of Canada’s constitution in 1982. With the decline of the United Kingdom by the mid-1940s, we also see Canada developing closer military, trade, and diplomatic links with the United States and the broader international community.
Some of these links with the United States are of the bilateral variety such as the North American Air Defence Command (NORAD) and the Free Trade Agreement (FTA). In addition, there are larger forums that embraced numerous other states along with Canada and the United States, including the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) for military defence, the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) which is now referred to as the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA) and similar free trade associations in other parts of the world. The United Nations emerged in 1945 as the major forum—now with about 193 member states—for the conduct of diplomacy to address a countless array of international policy issues. Other international forums, which tend to be smaller and more specialized, now exist for the exercise of diplomacy to achieve international policy goals. For example, the World Trade Organization (WTO) works to reduce tariffs and other trade barriers.
This is where we see Canada’s emergence and reputation as a middle power. Lacking the population size and economic wealth to be a major military force, Canada has instead favoured the use of diplomacy, peace-keeping, and foreign development aid. The use of foreign development aid, however, raises questions in an on-going debate as to whether we are contributing too little or too much.
This final chapter profiles Professor Miriam Anderson who specialized in international relations and international security with a focus on women’s participation and role in war and peace. The last debate topic is based on one of the subtopics discussed in this chapter, international development and foreign aid. The question is: should Canada give more money to foreign aid?
By the end of this chapter, students should be able to:
- understand how Canada’s political status has evolved within the international community;
- know how Canada’s defence priorities shaped the country’s place in the world community; and
- examine Canada’s involvement in international organizations to improve the global community.