Canada in the world today


A US Satellite?
Cultural Colony
Economic Integration
Canada in the world today




Canada's position in foreign affairs has changed somewhat from the "golden age of Canadian diplomacy", when Canada was an active member of the UN and could broker a compromise between the US and Britain during the 1956 Suez crisis (fro which Canadian Secretary for External Affairs Lester Pearson received the Nobel Prize for Peace. Since the 1990s, there has been a sharp decrease of Canada’s commitment to the UN and a drastic reduction of its peacekeeping activities. One consequence of this was certainly Canada’s failure to be elected a temporary member to the UN Security Council in 2010.

The question of Canada's relations with the United States remains central, especially as the economic integration of North America continues to progress under NAFTA. Economic realities keep Canada firmly aligned  with US policy and a firm member of NATO.


The old theme of Canadian subordination to the United States reappeared during the 2006 campaign. Liberal Leader Paul Martin tried to play on the fear that the Conservatives would not be willing to defend Canada's economic interests and diplomatic choices. In a speech, he claimed that only Liberals would have the courage to chastise the Yanks for failing to sign on to the Kyoto accord. Only Liberals would keep Canada out of future Iraqs and anti-missile programmes. David Wilkins, the U.S. ambassador, replied a few days later, "It's a slippery slope, and all of us should hope that it doesn't have a long-term impact on our relationship." One had to go all the way back to the campaigns of the early 1960s to find such signs of low regard between the two countries.

This mood springs in part from a major change in public attitudes. Through the '80s and '90s, most Canadians, usually 70 per cent, had favorable views of the U.S. but since Bush arrived in 2001, negative views have soared to striking heights. Bush himself got overwhelming 79 per cent negative ratings in Canada, the most unpopular president there since polling began.


While Canada did not participate in the war in Irak, which was a US, but not a NATO conflict, it has strongly  contributed to the NATO intervention in Afghanistan under UN mandate. There is a Liberal-Conservative consensus on this decision, because it is in keeping with Canada's internationalist approach to military affairs and its commitment to the principle of collective security under UN mandate.


On Canada's presence in Afghanistan : "Canada's Media Wannabe Americans: A Dishonourable Past and a Dangerous Future" by James Winter, December 8, 2006.


Canada under Stephen Harper also pursues a continental defence policy, with the objective of reinforcing the common defence of the North American continent. During the 2006 elections, Harper emphasized his wish to bring Canada into ballistic missile defence cooperation with the United States. In May 2006, the Canadian Parliament overwhelmingly renewed its NORAD treaty with the United States. NORAD was previously renewed every five years, but the new agreement eliminates this requirement by making it a permanent alliance. The new agreement expands NORAD's mission by adding maritime warning to NORAD's aerospace defence mission. Renewing NORAD with such strong parliamentary support freed the Harper to boost security cooperation with American agencies such as the FBI, the CIA and the Department of Homeland Security in monitoring and fighting networks of Islamist extremists in Canada. It also opens the way for initial cooperation between Canada and the United States ballistic missile defence.


This was possible thanks to a large increase of defence budgets, which had started under Liberal Paul Martin's government. By 2010, the defence budget will receive an extra 18 million dollars.



Canada has also become aligned on the US on the issue of international treaties on global warning. The Liberal governement of jean Chrétien signed the Kyoto Agreement in 1997, thus taking a distinct stand form the US. But since coming to power in 2006, the Harper government has strongly strongly opposed international treaties on global warning, claiming that the Kyoto accord’s targets cannot be met either internationally or within Canada and citing Canada's woeful record on climate change  (since 1997, instead of decreasing its emissions by 6% as the accord prescribed, Canada actually increased them by 24%). At the Durban conference in 2011, Canada announced its withdrawal from the Kyoto agreement.



The issue of Kyoto and of the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions is linked to the topic of the oilsands of Alberta, which make Canada the second-largest oil reserve in the world. Alberta's oilsands deposits are the country's largest source of oil, with reserves estimated at between 1.7 trillion and 2.5 trillion barrels. With this enormous reserve, Canada accounts for 13 per cent of the world's total oil reserves. The development of Alberta oil, especially at the Athabasca oilsands around Fort McMurray, helped the provincial government set income tax at a flat rate of 10 per cent, eliminate a $22.7-billion debt in less than a decade and post a projected $7 billion surplus in 2007. Found in the Athabasca, Peace River and Cold Lake regions of Northern Alberta, the oil is trapped in a mixture of sand, water and clay. The oilsands near the surface are extracted through open pit mining, mainly with shovels and trucks. But about 80 per cent of oilsands cannot be pulled out that way. Oil must be extracted using in situ technology by using steam. The process is not cheap, but with oil prices above $55 US a barrel, more and more producers are expanding into the oilsands. But environmentalists worry that clean-burning gas will be diverted to refine the dirty oil of Alberta's oilsands. They say this will increase Canada's greenhouse gas emissions at a time when Ottawa is supposed to be cutting them.


Canada has been actively lobbying in the world so that oil from Alberta would not be branded as more polluting than conventional oil, as proposed by the European Union. The strong links between the Canadian government and the Alberta oil industry and the strength of Ottawa's lobbying in Europe and the US to defend Alberta’s oil has been pointed out a regrettable example of collusion between industrial interests and politics.