CANADA'S GREATEST STRENGTH
IS CANADIANS THEMSELVES
Canada possesses unique strategic advantages on the world stage. Among other things, Canada is a Pacific and Atlantic power that has critical natural resources, a special relationship with the U.S., and no revisionist states to destabilize the status quo in its neighborhood. While this has enabled the country to prosper beyond its founding fathers’ brightest dreams, Canada’s greatest strength has always been Canadians themselves.
Canada is a nation of diaspora communities. Today, more than one in five Canadians were born outside of the country. That figure is set to grow to 34% of Canada’s population by 2041. Canada’s bilingualism connects the country to swathes of the Caribbean, Europe, Africa, and Asia. Its diaspora communities provide it with cultural insights on and historical connections to virtually every other country in the world. This unique strategic advantage is indispensable for attracting human and financial capital, strengthening trade relations and conducting diplomacy with our counterparts, and converting information into intelligence to preserve our national security. Evidently, Canada must use this unique strategic advantage in the pursuit of its national interests.
Canada is undoubtedly a champion of inclusion on the world stage. While the country remains a work in progress with a multiplicity of challenges to overcome, the Liberal Party of Canada deserves the utmost credit for building a more inclusive Canada. Although far from perfect, historic advances have been made in matters related to gender parity and reconciliation with Canada’s indigenous communities. To continue fostering inclusion, the federal government should prioritize increasing diaspora community representation at the upper echelons of Canada’s foreign policy establishment. This is one of the keys to unlocking Canada’s potential and transforming the country from middle power to global soft power.
Whereas Canada is comparatively multicultural and forward thinking, it operates in a world where most countries are more homogenous and less inclusive. Thus, cultural affinity plays an important role when conducting business and diplomacy with many of our counterparts. While overcoming cultural barriers is crucial for building bridges with our partners, more can be accomplished when parties do not rely on cultural intermediaries or linguistic interpreters. Like understanding your adversary in war, knowing your partner is crucial in family as it is in politics and diplomacy.
For example, Canada could use its unique strategic advantage to serve as an honest broker between partner states in NATO. There are three principal reasons why Canada is predisposed to dispute resolution within the alliance. First, Canada’s special relationship with the U.S.; second, Canada’s historic ties to the United Kingdom and France; third, Canada’s multicultural composition which includes members of the diaspora from virtually every NATO member state. Naturally, these cultural insights and historical connections sensitize Canada to every other member state’s perceptions and interests.
To take it a step further, being outside of the European Union enables Canada to mediate between competing interests and divergent opinions in London, Washington, Oslo, Ankara, and their EU counterparts. As a middle power, Canada is well-placed to liaise between the traditionally dovish western European parties and their more hawkish American and eastern European counterparts. Moving forward, Canada will also be indispensable for mediating between the U.S. and a European Union that seeks strategic autonomy in the realms of security and defense.
Canada’s greatest strength is Canadians themselves. Its diaspora communities provide it with cultural insights on and historical connections to virtually every other country in the world. Increasing the representation of diaspora communities at the highest levels of Canada’s foreign policy establishment is crucial for Canada to transition from middle power to global soft power. Canada, the diplomat, is the Canada the world needs, and the Canada that policymakers should seek to build.
Originally published by National Newswatch on November 12, 2022.