Global Good Samaritans: Human Rights as Foreign Policy

By Alison Brysk | Go to book overview

4
The Other America

Canada

Promulgation of values is an interest… if the world is more like us, we
have less to be afraid of
.

—Canada’s former ambassador to the
United Nations, July 2005

In a 2004 speech to the Canadian Parliament recognizing Canada’s contributions to international peace and human security as a role model, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan famously said, “The world needs more Canada” (Address to the Canadian Parliament, June 22, 2004). In the shadow of the global hegemon, a country with roughly the resources of California has played a major international role in humanitarian affairs, because it is recognized as the so-called moral superpower of the Americas. A Canadian diplomat explained how international governance helps Canada to expand its own niche: “Canada needs the multilateral system to punch above its weight” (interview, July 20, 2005). At the apogee of this strategy during the 1990s, Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy spoke repeatedly of Canada’s need to pursue “soft power”—the power of new ideas, persuasion, information politics, and cultural ties (Axworthy 2003). Human rights promotion distinguishes Canada from the United States to the world and its own citizens, maximizes Canada’s political capital, and fills the normative power vacuum in the Western Hemisphere.

“Greater international support for freedom and security, democracy, rule of law, human rights, and environmental stewardship” is one of the six strategic priorities identified by Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (hereafter Foreign Affairs) in its 2007–2008 Report on Plans and Priorities. Of the department’s $2 billion annual budget, just over $500 million is devoted to global issues, most humanitarian (because trade is a separate budget). Upon assuming office in 2006, the new Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper announced that Canada would continue to emphasize the promotion of democracy and promised to increase Canada’s foreign aid, despite a foreign policy reorientation in defense policy and trade, as well as general cuts in state spending.

Historically, Canada acts as a classic middle power, seeking comparative advantage through the roles of catalyst, facilitator, and manager in the

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