Is Canada falling off the map? It ranks 55th in the world as peacekeeper
By a Staff Reporter
Is Canada falling off the map? Shauna Sylvester, a Fellow at Simon Fraser University’s Centre for Dialogue, and Director of Canada’s World on a visit to Sri Lanka some years ago came home with that point of view.
She was told Canada is a Shrub in international relations—an insignificant plant that adorns the corridors of power never speaking. But when it does speak, it’s a Little Bush.
That prompted Sylvester to kick-start Canada’s World, a three-year project aimed at engaging Canadians in a discussion about the nation’s role in the world.
Canada’s World was in Halifax on 20 October. As part of the Bridges that Unite global development exhibit at Pier 21, Sylvester and colleagues held a dialogue with more than 40 Haligonians to present Back on the Map: A New Vision for Canada in the World.
Although to most Canadians, Canada’s global position is one of a peacekeeper, the facts are shocking: Canada ranks 55th in the world as a peacekeeper contributing no more than 126 personnel to world peacekeeping.
Canada’s World has talked to 40,000 Canadians and has done 100,000 online consultations. The overwhelming attributes about Canada’s role in the world was that Canadians are peacekeepers, advocates of human rights, are socially conscious, respect diversity, promote free medical care and gender equality.
Sylvester said, Canadians believe they must lead by example in five areas: fostering innovation, green economy, embracing diversity, championing good governance and human development.
However, in Halifax, some participants saw Canada differently. “Looking within, we see poverty among First Nations and we know we are not true to ourselves,” was one observation. “On the Human Development Index, the condition of aboriginal people puts them at the 62nd position in the world.”
Another participant said: “We are cruel, we are not who we say we are. We have lost compassion for human beings. We think doctors and engineers from away are not good enough, so they drive taxis.” A third observation was: “rather than lead by example, we must follow the best.”
Canada’s values, Haligonians said were individualism, freedom, compassion, security, pride, education and a sense of community.
It’s interests, some said, lay in healthcare, good governance, growing economy, wellness of our planet and immigration.
Teams of participants came together to review what role does Canada currently have in the world and what, instead, it needs to do.
One team said Canada is making a difference through CIDA, its collaboration with the Aga Khan Development Network, and so on. But it needs to focus on promoting literacy in the developing world, given that the lack of literacy is at the root of most of today’s problems.
Other teams pointed to Canada’s contribution to the world through the Red Cross, Girls’ education overseas, the NS Gambia Association, the Coady Institute, tolerance for diversity, same sex couples funding, local food movement in solidarity with overseas communities. But they said Canada needs to work on debt reduction in the global south, create micro-finance programs for aboriginal youth and work on climate change.