POL 3146 Canadian Foreign Policy (Fall 2015 and Winter 2016)

POL 3146: Canadian Foreign Policy

This is an archived page featuring news stories posted in the Fall 2015 and Winter 2016 semesters in the Canadian Foreign Policy class at the University of Ottawa.

Canadian Foreign Policy in the NEWS:

April 6th, 2016 - What are the responsibilities of Canada's arms trade regulators when a Canadian firm with a subsidiary abroad ships weapons from foreign country A to foreign country B in contravention to a UN arms embargo? Should this fall under Canadian jurisdiction? This scenario is playing out right now with the Streit Group's shipment of armoured vehicles from the UAE to Libya. Read Steven Chase's article about it in the Globe and Mail from today - which we will be discussing in class this afternoon.

March 30th, 2016 - Prime Minister Trudeau will spend the next two days in Washington, DC attending the Nuclear Security Summit. But certain people and certain things won't be at the table - Russia's President for one, and the idea of global nuclear disarmament won't be up for discussion. Rather, the focus of this meeting will be to secure fissile and radioactive materials which could be used by terrorist groups to make a 'dirty bomb'. To discuss in class: Do you think the Canadian government can do more to promote nuclear disarmament? Should Canada host a treaty process like the 1997 Ottawa Mine Ban Treaty regarding nuclear weapons?

March 23rd, 2016 - The much awaited federal budget 2016 is out. But what does it mean for Canada's foreign affairs? From spending on clean energy and climate change initiatives, aid for refugee resettlement, as well as shelving big defence procurements - how is the Liberal government trying to brand its new international image through the 2016 Budget? Les Whittington of The Embassy weighs in here.

March 16th, 2016 - Canada is seeking a spot on the UN Security Council. But it will have to beat out either Ireland or Norway - also contending for the 2 available spots. Also in this article - some interesting references to the Liberal government's plan to restore Canada's 'peacekeeping' role - something we discussed in class only a few weeks ago. What steps does Canada need to take to ensure it 'wins' a spot on the security council in 2021?

March 11th, 2016 - Much news coming out of Washington, DC these days as Trudeau completes his official visit there. Here are two video links about recent changes surrounding cooperation on cross-border travel, to be discussed in class:

March 9th, 2016 - The Canadian Chief of Defence Staff Jonathan Vance is seeking new drones for the military, and for some time has been saying those drones should be armed (capable of striking enemy targets). The move is likely to lead to the kinds of debates taking place around drones in the United States, where armed drones have been part of the military arsenal for years (see this CBC interactive timeline). In light of this week's theme of Canadian security and international security, we will spend some time discussing whether or not you think drones aid Canada's security interests.

March 4th, 2016 -  As many media outlets are reporting today, Canada is selling off its gold reserves! Why is it doing so, and how does this relate to foreign policy??? To be discussed in class today!

March 2nd, 2016 - Trudeau is going to Washington next week. As the Globe and Mail reports, intensive and secret negotiations are now underway in preparation for Trudeau's formal bilateral talks with Obama. A number of issues will be addressed, ranging from the softwood lumber dispute and other trade issues, to new border crossing rules and info-sharing, to the big one - implementing a new climate change continental strategy. We'll be talking about this story in class.

February 26th, 2016 - "A citizen is a citizen is a citizen!" The slogan has been trumpeted by the Prime Minister and cabinet ministers since before they were elected in late 2015. As CBC is reporting, the Liberals are planning to repeal changes made to citizenship laws made by the Conservative government. The main point of contention is whether the government has the authority to revoke someone's citizenship. What do you think, is Canadian citizenship a right or a responsibility?

February 24th, 2016 - Before Reading Break we had a group presentation about Canadian efforts to bolster Arctic Sovereignty. Today the National Post is reporting that the Canadian Forces will be expanding its research and training facility in Resolute Bay, Nunavut while also noting that Russia is undergoing a major expansion of military capabilities in the Arctic (including building 13 airstrips and 6 small bases). Where would you rank Canada's efforts in bolstering Arctic Sovereignty in terms of foreign policy priorities? What ways other than military expansion can Canada support its claims over the Arctic?

February 12th, 2016 - Canada seems to be seeking-out a spot on the UN Security Council. This came out during Trudeau's visit with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon yesterday. The "very, very warm" relationship between Canada and the UN (Ban's words) marks the major shift in Canada's approach towards multilateralism since the Liberals took power, which we've been talking about in class. As Chris Hall notes in this op-ed... the rapprochement with the UN will have to be met with increased spending on global development. Also in the news, a new Memorandum of Understanding between the Energy Ministers of NAFTA members Canada, US and Mexico intends to push the 'Green Energy' agenda. The pact aims to result in further integration of North American markets for 'green goods' like alternative energy and electric cars? Do you think it will make an impact?

February 3rd, 2016 - The Liberal government is signing the TPP, but maintains that it will not ratify the deal until there is extensive study and parliamentary debate. So why sign? As the CBC reports here Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland says it's "a technical step that allows Canada to remain at the table." Do you think the government's signing of the TPP is a step towards the 'inevitable' ratification of the deal, or do you see this as part of a two step process where the final decision on TPP is being pushed back?

January 26th, 2016 - Two stories we'll be talking about this week: Canada's lifting of sanctions on Iran, and the government's official response to a US Senate Committee review of the national security implications of Canada's fast track refugee program. See links here and here.

January 20, 2016 - Was Canada 'snubbed' or is this just 'one of many meetings'? The media is making much attention of a meeting held today in Paris with representatives from Germany, France, US, Australia and other countries fighting ISIS - a meeting to which Canada was not invited. What does this story have to offer regarding Canada's position in the world (this week's theme!). 

January 6th, 2016 - Two interesting news stories are being reported today which touch on themes we will discuss this semester: 1) The first relates to an arms deal signed between Canada and Saudi Arabia, in which the former is selling armoured vehicles to the latter under a contract signed by the former reigning Conservatives. When the Liberal government was asked if they'd revisit the deal upon recent news of political executions in Saudi Arabia, the response was "what's done is done". Read about it here. 2) The second story involves the Liberal government's plans to decriminalize marijuana in Canada. As the CBC is reporting here, there are three international treaties which Canada has signed which "require [member states to] criminalize the possession and production of cannabis." How will Canada confront these international commitments? Time will tell... 

December 7th, 2015 - Will COP21 be a turning point in global civilization's efforts to curb the rate of anthropogenic climate change? If so, what role will Canada be playing in this momentous process? Today the news is reporting that Canada has been invited to help facilitate the final negotiations at the climate talks in Paris. Is this a sign of renewal in Canada's global reputation as an environmental leader?

Credits: Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press
November 30th, 2015 - The government seems to be taking it's 'whole of government' approach seriously, at least where the Syrian Refugee Crisis is concerned. Check out this CBC news story, which reports that three Cabinet Ministers - from the Health, Defence and Immigration portfolios - have made a recent visit to a new Canadian immigration refugee processing centre in Jordan. What do you think are the benefits and drawbacks of applying a 'whole of government' approach to foreign policy matters?

November 23rd, 2015 - Last week in class we pondered how Canada's current mission in Iraq and Syria might be impacted if Article 5 of NATO was invoked. Well, this news article offers a little clarification. In short, there are no specific ways in which Canada would have to contribute to the mission. Rather, it seems it would just have to make a compelling case to fellow NATO members that it is in fact contributing in some way. Something to consider as we discuss current events this week in class...

November 9th, 2015 - Jim Balsilie is not a big fan of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement signed by the government earlier this year. He says "our trade negotiators have profoundly failed Canadians and our future innovators. I really lament it." What do you think - is the TPP going to limit how Canadian firms and entrepreneurs innovate?

November 2nd, 2015 - The CBC's Brian Stewart is rattling the sabres... in the wake of Russia's increasingly aggressive stance in global affairs, Stewart calls up the idea of the 'Westward pivot' in Canada's navy - the idea that the present focus of the Canadian navy on the East Coast should be rebalanced to consider threats on the Pacific side... what do you think - is this a legitimate concern or an unnecessary sabre-rattling?

October 20th, 2015 - Trudeau the world over... The news of Canada's new Prime Minister is spreading quick, but what will the world think of him and how will he reshape Canada's reputation? Here are some welcoming statements from other world leaders. Apparently it's not all about his 'nice hair'. And here's a more detailed take on Trudeau's upcoming global commitments put together by the CBC's Nahlah Ayed.

October 15th, 2015 - It was a short episode in Canadian foreign policy history but it was significant and had a lasting impact. The former Canadian ambassador to Iran who helped smuggle six Americans out of the country after its 1979 revolution died today. Here's a compilation about Ken Taylor and his role in that moment of Canadian international politics.

September 30th, 2015 - The Munk Debate on foreign affairs was held last Monday and brought up a whole range of topics to discuss for this class. One issue that has seen growing attention in recent days is the Trans-Pacific Partnership - for which negotiations are currently ongoing in Atlanta. What do you think - will this government sign onto an agreement, and if so, what kinds of concessions will be made? Will the concessions be significant or are they required to better integrate Canada into the global economy? See what (two of) the leader candidates have to say here.

September 23rd, 2015 - We talked about the ordeal faced by Mohamed Fahmy in class - is it finally over? Today the Egyptian president has pardoned Fahmy and paved the way for his return to Canada. Read about it here.

September 14th, 2015 - It may need to be read in the context of the ongoing election campaign, but an open letter published by former Primer Minister Jean Chr├ętien nevertheless deserves attention in this course, given the letter's focus on what Chr├ętien sees as a negative shift in Canada's foreign policy. See the open letter here.

Photo credits: Petros Giannakouris/Associated Press
September 9th, 2015 - It's a news story we are bound to keep hearing about over the coming months - the refugee crisis in Syria. As this CBC commentary by Eric Grenier details, most Canadians feel the government needs to do more about this foreign policy issue. But Canadians agree less on what is to be done. One poll found that "31 per cent [or Canadians] thought resettling refugees was Canada's best way to contribute, while 27 per cent supported humanitarian aid. Just 18 per cent thought military force was the best solution." What do you think?