Bad Media is Better Than None.

Our withdrawal from Kyoto put Canada in the international limelight. Now let’s take advantage, argues Jennifer Jeffs.

By: /
6 January, 2012
By: Jennifer Jeffs

Past President of the Canadian International Council (CIC).

Recent events have given Canada an international profile, for better or worse. Having been heavily criticized for pulling out of the Kyoto agreement, we can – and should – use the attention we have garnered to demonstrate our international strengths rather than cower and wait for the world to forget about us. There are at least three Canadian strengths that have yet to be tapped to their fullest for international advantage: our reputation for economic stability, our diaspora population, and an intrinsic democratic cultural heritage.

In terms of financial stability, we are in an enviable position. As chair of the Financial Stability Board, Mark Carney is a new kind of multilateral ambassador. A stable and equitable international financial system is the best start to addressing an issue that the global community is realizing could be the defining problem of our age: inequality both within and between nations. Canada is in a unique position to lead by example. Inequality in this country is on the rise, but, due to our solid financial performance over the last five years, we have the flexibility to use a myriad of tools to address this challenge. If we act quickly and decisively, we have the chance to set Canada up as the global leader in this area.

John Hancock explains why quitting Kyoto was un-Canadian.

The editors review Canada’s – and OpenCanada’s – 2011 performance.

Second, Canada has one of the largest and most diverse diaspora populations in the world. While our total investment in emerging economies is strangely – and embarrassingly – low, we can turn that performance around by leveraging the almost three million Canadians living abroad, who total close to 10 per cent of Canadians. We should sustain our recent engagement with China by relying on our vast diaspora network, using human ties as a foundation for economic linkages. Our Indian diaspora should be pushing us to be much more proactive in terms of Canada-India engagement and partnerships in a wide variety of areas. Our much smaller Latin American diaspora should be growing, encouraged by the expanding trade and education linkages between the region and Canada that have been witnessed in recent months.

Canada also has strong human ties to Syria and Russia, which is a good reason to pay close attention to the changes taking place in those countries. With its history of helping to build legal, financial, educational, and security infrastructure at home and in developing countries, Canada is in a unique position to be a global leader as these countries undergo transformation. Moreover, unlike many other countries with similar democratic histories, we are perceived by many developing countries as less burdened by special interests. Let’s not wait until the last moment to demonstrate our willingness and ability to be supportive and encouraging of democracy movements everywhere.

This also applies to the fledgling democracy in our NAFTA partnership. Being supportive and helpful to Mexico will not only allow Canada to capitalize on its geographical proximity to large markets, but will also earn us the respect of the United States, for which Latin America represents a point of major concern. Given the number of strategic trade and commerce relationships in the hemisphere, it is pragmatic to engage more fully with our neighbours.

It has long be an argument that bad media is better than no media. Let’s make this true. Canada’s withdrawal from Kyoto has given the country more international profile than it saw after Roméo Dallaire commanded the UN mission in Rwanda, after Lloyd Axworthy ratified the Ottawa Treaty, and after it introduced the concept of the Responsibility to Protect to the world. Not since the days of Lester B. Pearson – or perhaps the ’72 series – has Canada achieved such international notice.

The time is ripe for Canada to show the world that its levers of international impact go beyond withdrawal. Canada is ideally positioned to be a global leader of the future. With our unmatched reputation for economic stability, we can advise other countries in tackling the problems of the post-Occupy world. With our unrivalled diaspora outreach, we boast a network of informal ambassadors poised to act in the age of new diplomacy. And with our history of developing the central institutions of civic society, we can provide crucial support to the countries that, in the wake of democratic transformation, will become pillars of international society.   

Photo courtesy Reuters.

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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.

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