Foreign Minister Stéphane Dion address the audience at the Ottawa Forum on Jan. 28. Canada 2020 / Matthew Usherwood
There was a full house of foreign policy students, researchers and practitioners at this year’s Ottawa Forum, hosted by Canada2020 on Jan. 28 and 29 at the Chateau Laurier in Ottawa.
Book-ended by Foreign Minister Stéphane Dion and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, the conference hosted panels on Canada’s stake in international institutions, North American and Asian relations, global migration and global power dynamics.
The two days were chock-full of takeaways for how to build a stronger Canadian foreign policy. Here are some highlights not to miss.
1. The pace set by the new government last year will continue in 2016.
2. Canada’s principal foreign policy strategy is now diplomatic openness & engagement. That includes with Iran, Russia and Sri Lanka.
3. Until the Canadian embassy in Tehran re-opens, there’s no chance of an Argo 2 (in fact, we hope there never is).
4. The North American Leaders Summit is indeed going ahead.
5. As is the plan to get rid of the visa requirement on Mexico, though we’re not sure what the hold up is.
6. The Trudeau government will keep policies from the last government IF they feel they are working (though Fareed Zakaria may disagree).
7. Canada has a wealth of youth, educators, small businesses and scientists it needs to incorporate into its global strategy.
8. Calling all new approaches/strategies/creative thinking!
9. Canada’s government itself achieved a gender balance. Its pool of foreign experts might need a similar shake up.
10. The hunger for foreign policy debate in Canada is huge.
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Journalism in Canada has suffered a devastating decline over the last two decades. Dozens of newspapers and outlets have shuttered. Remaining newsrooms are smaller. Nowhere is this erosion more acute than in the coverage of foreign policy and international news. It’s expensive, and Canadians, oceans away from most international upheavals, pay the outside world comparatively little attention.
At Open Canada, we believe this must change. If anything, the pandemic has taught us we can’t afford to ignore the changing world. What’s more, we believe, most Canadians don’t want to. Many of us, after all, come from somewhere else and have connections that reach around the world.
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