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72nd Annual Summer Conference, August 7–10, 2003

Closing Keynote:
Honorable Bill Graham, M.P., Minister of Foreign Affairs

Summary by Danielle Organ

The Honorable Bill Graham began the speech with the question: What Canadians want from continentalism? In answering the question, Hon. Graham noted that Canadians have three distinct, and somewhat conflicting responsibilities: to national sovereignty; to North American progress; and the global development. The challenge is found in balancing these responsibilities sensibly and carefully. It is important that as Canadians, we are clear about our goals as a sovereign nation, as a North American country and as global citizens. We must strive to achieve a balance between continental integration and independence.

Graham referenced NAFTA as an example of the challenge we have faced in trying to maintain sovereignty while achieving North American integration. He commented that free trade has always been controversial in Canada, from Wilfred Laurier’s failed campaign to the 1988 election. Those in Canadian foreign policy continue to wrestle with the issue in trying to create distinctive Canadian policies while working toward integration.

Canadians have a distinct history, and this is reflected in our attitude toward security issues, the values our country addresses, our commitment to egalitarianism. When speaking of continentalism, Canadian priorities must be weighed by weighing the costs and benefits of integration. In Graham’s opinion, this is the only way to deal with trans-boundary issues. At the same time, resisting continentalism is contrary to Canada’s economic and security interests. We should never lose sight of the fact that Americans also share interests with Canadians. We must also be aware of the instances where our interests diverge. The claim that we have no choice undermines democratic legitimacy and what Canadians want from foreign policy.

Graham continued to state that the flow of goods and people across borders should be a top priority. This commitment was exemplified by the 31 Border Accord. At the same time, according to Graham, there is much work to be done. We must strive to improve on regulatory differences and transactions costs, as noted by David Dodge in his speech. In addition, we must establish more continental partnerships, and take note of the content and structure of such partnerships, and how they affect external parties.

This process is what Graham calls “Smart sovereignty”: Looking out for national interests, at times where integration will help us, and will not. The extent of our economic dependence is substantial, but political divergence has not derailed, nor does it prevent a derailing of econ relationships. According to Graham, there is a larger principle at stake: Canadian citizens want a diverse array of national goods. They desire distinctive social and cultural goods in addition to economic and security.

This behavior was exemplified in Canada’s stance toward the Kyoto Protocol, the war on Iraq, the ICC, the International Coalition on the Ban of Landmines, our Medicare system, gun control, maternity leave and other social policies that are part of the traditional Canadian way.

Graham argued that our differences have become accentuated, despite our close integration with the US. He citied the book Fire and Ice recently released by Michael Adams, which advanced the thesis that Canadians continue to grow further apart from Americans with respect to our social policy commitments. According to Graham, Canadian policies will need to look closer at this reality in the face of integration. As Canadians, we should want to see greater engagement abroad, the modification and reform of international institutions, sharing and tolerant of diversity, embracing a broad notion of global security to prevent conflicts and preserve the environment.

Our foreign policy must reflect the diversity of our country. Integration must be developed issue by issue. We are currently engaged in foreign policy review process, by consulting individual Canadians and other groups such as the Canada Conference Board and business associations.

Graham remarked that there will be a new government in future that will want to put its mark on foreign policy. There are already efforts to broaden and deepen our relations with the United States, exemplified by the “Representation Initiative”, which seeks to expand Canadian representation in the United States, especially in the south. This will create a more favorable environment for Canadian interests in the United States.

According to Graham, we must communicate our differences with our partners. We must strive to be a better ally but we must still hold our convictions. He urged that there is room for a divergent view. Foreign policy will be defined by our relationship with the US but also by our distinct policy commitments, priorities. Graham references Canada’s substantial aid to Afghanistan, our actions in the Gulf War, and our increasing supplies to Iraq to substantiate this claim. In the ongoing ballistic missile negotiations, we need to establish strong lines of where we are willing to agree, and where we are not.

We are now speaking of Mexico, a country that was not such a strong partner 15 years ago. There are many challenges and opportunities. We must consult different approaches, and navigate the common interests between the 3 countries.

When speaking of NAFTA, Graham notes that the area of dispute resolution needs to be improved. If we approach the issue of a customs union, an institutional framework must be developed, and institutional modification must be acceptable to all sides.

Question: What can Canada do to reform the UN?

  • What we learned out of Iraq, is that the Security Council failed us. The threatened veto meant that other solutions had to be pursued.
  • Proved that we need reforming. Electing Libya reflected it is a mistake. We need change in the UN, spoke to Kofi Annan. We could be working on the agencies of the UN.
  • Human security network. Work on these issues to make mult-lat institutions reflective.

Question: How can Mexico be integrated?

  • Seasonal worker regulations
  • Cultural exchanges
  • Teaching more Spanish, should be pushing that
  • Aboriginal peoples in Canada and South America work together