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Canadian Foreign Policy Essay

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Canadian Foreign Policy

As the 20th century comes to an end, Canada is a transcontinental nation whose interests and representatives span the face of the globe and extend into every sphere of human behaviour. However this was not always the case. When the four colonies of British North America united to create Canada on July 1, 1867, the new country's future was by no means secure. Canada was a small country, with unsettled borders, vast empty spaces, and a large powerful neighbour, the United States. Confronting these challenges was difficult for the young country. Though Canada was independent in domestic matters, Britain retained control over its foreign policy. Over the next fifty or so years, Canada's leaders and its people quietly but steadily took control of their foreign policy and their destiny. The first significant phase in the development of Canadian Policy is related to the struggle until the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939. By then, Canada was in full control of its international relations, encouraging its politicians and diplomats and soldiers to help shape a new, more hopeful, international society. Canadians also worked hard to create the United Nations, to develop new instruments to resolve conflict, and to carve out a distinctive role for their country in the councils of the world.1 Defining Foreign Policy

When asked to define Canadian foreign policy, Lester Pearson, was reported to have replied, “Ask me at the end of the year and when I look back at what Canada has done, I’ll tell you what our foreign policy is.” In other words it is difficult to define what the actual Canadian Foreign Policy is. It is the cumulative decisions, attitudes and statements made by governments in dealing with the international community and the changing conditions prevalent. Developments outside of the boundaries of a nation have an impact on the developments of a nation’s foreign policy therefore it was never ‘formative’ but always ‘reactive’ Process factors such as the role of the prime minister, provincial premiers, cabinets and executive governments also impact the foreign policy.2 However, Federal governments are not the only players in the world of foreign policy; Provincial governments are also key players. The Canadian Foreign Policy rests on three core priorities- prosperity, security, and responsibility. 3 As said by Kim Nossal, ‘foreign policy is forged in the nexus of three political environments- international, domestic and governmental and it is within these three spheres that the sources or determinants of state’s foreign policy are to be found’. The treaties of Westphalia which were signed in 1648, ended year long wars in Germany and between Spain the Netherlands was first of its kind to give sovereignty to the nation states. It was Westphalia which gave the nations the idea of foreign policy. The players involved in this treaty were powerful and acting out of self-interest. The concept of foreign policy was built on an illusion and out of that illusion, a claim was created. In other words the concept of foreign policy lacks a solid foundation.

Humble Beginnings
July 1, 1867, marked the birth of Canada, formed from the union of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and the united province of Canada which later came to be known as Québec and Ontario. The country that came into being on that date, however, was an anomaly -- part country, part colony, still very much a part of the British Empire. Independent in domestic matters, Canada deferred to the motherland in the con...

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