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A Call To Action

Prime Minister Harper, listen up! CIC President Jennifer Jeffs gives some inspiration for a foreign policy review.

By: /
3 February, 2012
By: Jennifer Jeffs

Past President of the Canadian International Council (CIC).

While Canadians ponder whether Canada needs another foreign-policy review, the CIC urges Prime Minister Stephen Harper to turn to the CIC’s Open Canada: A Global Positioning Strategy for a Networked Age.  

The report’s title is based on its strategy: a cross-country review of Canada’s foreign-policy interests conducted by Edward Greenspon, former editor-in-chief of The Globe and Mail, and his globally oriented, digital-age panel members.

When the Open Canada report was released in June 2010, Canada was assuming the highly visible international profile that it, for better or worse, currently sustains: The Olympic Games had been held in Vancouver that winter, and the G8 and G20 meetings were held in June in Hunstville and Toronto, and were associated with considerable controversy, both at home and abroad.

The CIC chose that moment to take stock of Canada’s international interests in order to make strategic recommendations to our government for navigating the uncharted waters of rapidly shifting geopolitical dynamics and technological change, particularly in communications. The CIC also chose to take advantage of its unique position as an independent, member-based council promoting foreign-policy discussion nationwide by engaging CIC members and branches in the research process. As one of our signature bloggers notes on this website, a foreign-policy review “should be subjected to rigorous discussion across government, and with Canadians.” By involving a wide variety of Canadian constituencies, the Global Positioning Strategy (GPS) panel was able to calibrate the demands of the international moment with the expressed interests and values of Canadian citizens, whose lives, hopes, and future are directly affected by foreign-policy directions and decisions.

The GPS group presented a set of guiding principles on which to base a global positioning strategy. These principles included: the priority of enhancing Canada’s global economic position and the tenet that national interests do not wear partisan badges; and the understanding that international policy is closely intertwined with domestic policy, and that a networked world means that international engagement takes place on many levels among constituencies whose interests have rapidly been internationalized. The report made recommendations for enhancing Canadian international influence and prosperity on issues such as relations with our North American and hemispheric neighbours and the emerging Asian giants, environment and energy, the Arctic, development, aid, and defence policy, all while exploring the new avenues for multilateralism created by technological change.

The CIC believes that a Canadian foreign-policy review must embrace the networked nature of the multilateral world. In fact, we think the Open Canada report made such a good case for the digital nature of Canada’s international future that we gave its name to our website, which seeks to aggregate the best ideas on international issues and presents them for discussion among Canadians nationwide. continues with the call to action of the Open Canada report – a call on all Canadians, not just those in government, to “concentrate our minds” on the international issues that directly impact our lives and determine our prosperity. is part of the international affairs discussion. Please join in.

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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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