World News

Citizens from BC and the Yukon want Canada to be less timid on the global stage

14 March 2008 at 00:37 | 1724 views

A group of randomly recruited citizens from British Columbia and the Yukon recently spent an intense
weekend together exploring a vision for Canada’s role in the world.

The weekend dialogue is part of Canada’s
World - a unique citizen-led initiative under the auspices of Simon Fraser University’s Centre for Dialogue.
Canada’s World is a three-year national initiative that asks ordinary Canadians from all walks of life to share their
thoughts, concerns and dreams about Canada’s role in the world.

Citizens developed a vision for the country in 2020 and wrestled with how to position Canada in relation to three
‘new realities’ facing Canada in the international arena: the role diversity plays in making Canada a society of
cultural translators; the emergence of new global powers and their impact on our relationship with the United States;
and climate change.

“I’m amazed that such a diverse group of people can grapple with complex issues and come up with such
sophisticated and forward-looking recommendations,” said Shauna Sylvester, the founding Director of Canada’s
World. “As one participant noted, citizens are ahead of the government on foreign policy.”

Diversity Matters - Participants urged Canada to play a larger role in the world in promoting peace, democracy and
economic well-being by tapping into the cultural knowledge of Canadians and advancing our diversity as an asset in
our international relations. As one of the most globally connected countries in the world, Canada is in a strong
position to advance global understanding, strengthen human rights and promote a model for supporting immigrant
and refugee communities.

Participants promoted a dual track approach with a focus on both building model programmes and policies in
Canada and responding to the needs of others internationally.

Specific actions focused on improving foreign
credential processes, evaluating and revising immigration and settlement polices, drawing on diverse Canadians
experience and expertise to advancing human rights and developing more strategic and collaborative overseas
development assistance that supports individual Canadians and local communities taking action.

Rising Powers - Participants want Canada to be less timid in our international dealings by asserting this country as a
rising innovator, resource powerhouse and a well-respected international mediator. Canada can be a model for other
countries by investing domestically and profiling our green technology, our innovations in environmental protection
and stewardship of natural resources, our universal approach to health and education and our value and promotion of

Participants value our close relationship with the United States, but fear that with over 80% of our trade going south
we have too many eggs in one basket. Participants urged Canada to diversify our trade, particularly with countries
that share our values, and examine our foreign investment with a view to enhancing domestic ownership and control.

Climate change - Participants called for Canada and Canadians to take comprehensive, progressive, significant and
immediate action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by activity sector, through a phased and sustainable approach.
Participants recommended greater support for public transit and alternative transportation, the development of a
highly efficient and competitive national railway system, the creation of a national body to stimulate research and
development of alternative energy sources and engine designs and the application of more stringent restrictions on
industrial and vehicular emissions and efficiency.
The two-and-a-half-day dialogue revealed attitudes highlighted in a recently released Canada’s World poll. In their
vision statements participants called on Canada to be a model power by taking a stronger leadership role in
addressing environment and human rights issues, promoting health, education and the arts, advancing peace and
respect and proactively addressing shifts in trade and economics.

To interview participants about the Vancouver dialogue or for more information about Canada’s World please
contact Shauna Sylvester, Founding Director, Canada’s World Tel: 778 782 7895 Cell: 778-231-0715 Email: and visit the Canada’s World website at

Photo: Some of the participants at the forum.