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The Great Canadian Divide
The Great Canadian Divide
Andrew Mack and Oliver Rohlfs
March 28, 2003
In the offices of the nation's defence and foreign affairs bureaucracies and in Ottawa's corridors of power, a struggle is being waged for the soul of Canada's foreign policy. On one side are the conservative "continentalists," who believe that building a stronger defence relationship with the United States should be Canada's No. 1 security priority. They see many of the quintessentially Canadian human security initiatives pursued by the Chrétien government as inconsequential at best, and flaky and anti-American at worst. Opposing the continentalists are the beleaguered internationalists -- the proponents of multilateralism and human security. Their policy initiatives -- from the land-mines ban to the International Criminal Court -- have defined much of what is distinctive about Canada's foreign policy during the past decade. Financial support for Foreign Affairs' human security initiatives is now under threat, while John Manley's 2003 budget has given big increases to Defence and homeland security. Foreign Affairs, with its global responsibilities, was not even mentioned in the budget statement. Chalk one up to the continentalists. Yet, despite the budget surplus, increased funding for other departments and roiling global crises, Mr. Manley has ordered a $30-million cut to the already overstretched Foreign Affairs budget. Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham, notwithstanding his personal commitment to human security, has come under pressure to axe his department's $10-million-a-year human security program. Many of Canada's most innovative human security initiatives owe their existence to this program. Chalk another one up to the continentalists. Critics of human security point, with some justice, to the concept's vagueness. Japan, for example, equates human security with "well-being" -- a concept so fuzzy it is virtually meaningless. Canada's conception of human security, by contrast, is clear and policy focused. In essence, it is about protecting individuals from repression and violence -- notably terrorism, civil war and genocide. Human security, in other words, is about the protection of people. National security is about defending the territorial integrity of states. But in a world where 95 per cent of wars take place within -- not between -- states, the traditional border-defence role has become far less relevant than it once was. In an ideal world, governments would defend both their frontiers and their citizens; in the real world, far more people have been killed by their own states than by foreign armies. Canada's threatened human security program has financed such groundbreaking projects as the Kimberley Process on "blood diamonds," the influential Small Arms Survey (which tracks efforts to control the weapons that kill most people in most wars), and the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (which drafted guidelines for military intervention to prevent genocide or other gross human-rights violations). The program has also financed the campaign to support the creation of the International Criminal Court, and helped spearhead moves at the United Nations and elsewhere to safeguard civilians -- especially children -- in armed conflicts. Which raises an obvious question: Why should such an affordable and well-run program -- and one that addresses vitally important security issues -- be even considered for closure? For the critics of human security, the answer is simple. Post-Sept. 11, Canada's foreign policy priority should be Canadian security, not dabbling in intractable conflicts in remote parts of the world, or pursuing campaigns -- such as the International Criminal Court or the land-mines ban -- that Washington opposes. The critics say greater defence integration and collaboration with the U.S. are the most effective ways to enhance Canadian security. Their cause gained credence in the climate of fear generated by Sept. 11. In times of crisis, the critics argue, security should begin at home. The problem with these arguments is that they pose a false dichotomy. Human security and homeland security are complementary, not contradictory. Canada's continentalists might bear in mind what George W. Bush has said on this issue. In his National Security Strategy, he makes a rather remarkable statement. Americans, he says, are "now threatened less by conquering states than we are by failing ones." Bill Graham made essentially the same point recently when he suggested that, "in an increasingly interdependent world, the safety and security of Canadians at home are inextricably linked to the safety of those living beyond our borders." Simply put, the continentalists are wrong. Promoting human security in the world's trouble spots isn't a distraction from homeland security. It is a means of enhancing it.
 
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