5.1 Canada’s role as global leader in peace-building, poverty alleviation, and environmental protection

“To meet the challenge of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. Each of us must learn to work not just for his, or her, own self, family or nation, but for the benefit of all mankind. Universal responsibility is the real key to human survival. It is the best foundation for world peace, the equitable use of natural resources, and through concern for future generations, the proper care of the environment.”

His Holiness, the Dalai Lama

Canada has strayed dangerously far from our peacemaking roots. Canada’s international policy has evolved into what is called a ‘3-D’ model. The D’s are diplomacy, development, and defence. This integrative approach has achieved only a fraction of its full potential because the bureaucratic structure in Ottawa has not been reformed to prevent the inevitable competition for power and influence between departments. Consequently, the effectiveness of Canada’s international activity has been unnecessarily limited.

Inspired political leadership to reverse this trend is missing. In fact, the opposite of such leadership is the norm. We face a dramatic diplomatic deficit internationally, as the core capacity of the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD) is increasingly undermined and eroded by the current Harper Administration.

The Green Party will re-establish Canada among the global leaders in peace-building, peacekeeping, and international diplomacy. We were proud of Canada’s decision to say “no” to joining the U.S. invasion of Iraq. We believe our foreign policy objectives must include multilateral disarmament, particularly nuclear disarmament, and support for United Nations peacekeeping operations.

We strayed from those principles in backing military action in Libya and again in Iraq. Only the Green Party opposed both those missions in the House of Commons.

The Libyan action, sending bombers into the region, was justified under the emerging principle in international law of Responsibility to Protect (R2P). We backed Libyan rebels, even knowing al Qaeda forces were among their number. We bombed Libya, supported the toppling of Gaddafi and his public lynching in the street. The warehouses of his armaments flooded out to extremist groups – some to Mali, some to Syria.

Perhaps the worst mistake we made in Libya was to undermine the legitimacy of the R2P doctrine. Going into Libya claiming our goal was to protect civilians and then changing our mission to regime change ensured that we would not be able to rely on the R2P doctrine when innocent civilians were being killed in Syria by the al-Assad regime. We stood on the sidelines in Syria as pro-democracy rebels were slaughtered. If we had moved to a cease-fire and peace talks in Libya, we would have been better able to use R2P arguments within the UN. Due to the deceit implicit in shifting to insisting on the removal of Gaddafi, the coalition forces created a barrier in the Security Council, allowing al-Assad’s allies Russia and China to veto protecting civilians in Syria. Unintentionally, we gave the brutal Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad and his allies irrefutable evidence that R2P was a cloak for regime change.

While we stayed on the sidelines in Syria, we rooted for the rebels against Bashar al-Assad. ISIS, having formed in Iraq, joined the loosely connected rebel groups in Syria to topple Assad. For a while ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’ theory put ISIS in the white hats as the West hoped for Assad’s end.

More tenacious than we thought, Assad has held on. Prime Minister Harper told Parliament that if Assad made the request, Canada would engage in airstrikes in Syria. There is no understating how misguided our foreign policy has become. This is a complicated proposition. Bombing ISIS on Assad’s request could help Assad stay in power. As well, the allied effort to disable ISIS has, according to Human Rights Watch, already led to U.S. Tomahawk missile bombings that killed Syrian civilians, as well as hitting non-ISIS rebels.

By departing from insistence on the rule of law in international affairs, we have made a bad situation worse. Our intentions were good, but their execution was lacking in evidence, perspective, and the understanding that decisions cannot be taken in a history-free zone.

The Green Party sees international law and its institutions as the roots of international justice and stability. We must never by-pass the requirement for a United Nations resolution before engaging militarily. Detainment without access to a fair trial and the use of torture in questioning suspects held in military or any other detention centres contravenes international human rights treaties and institutions. Respect for international law and international conventions is not only the baseline for moral activity but is, in fact, the foundation of a just and secure world. We must no longer turn a blind eye to incarceration practices that weaken international law and civil society and therefore represent a deeper, long-term security threat.

The Green Party will restore the capacity for superb diplomacy, a traditional Canadian strength. We will increase our overseas development assistance and revamp the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) to focus more on developing green economies and on poverty alleviation. We will expand our defence role in UN-led peacekeeping missions and in emergency and disaster relief and equip it accordingly.

Green Party MPs will:

  • Re-align our defence spending to increase our capacity and speed in delivering disaster assistance (e.g. through the DART − Disaster Assistance Rapid Response Team) and our contributions to UN peacekeeping forces and missions, and decrease our contributions to NATO war efforts;

  • Rebuild the broken linkages among the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD), National Defence, and the Canadian Forces (DND/CF), and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), to effectively and efficiently plan, organize, and execute our missions abroad;

  • Play a lead role in establishing a standing UN Rapid Response Force with a mandate for peacekeeping and environmental restoration in both international crisis situations and domestic catastrophes like floods, earthquakes, storms, and fires;

  • Instruct Canadian Embassies and Consulates around the world to develop effective early disaster reconnaissance and assessment capabilities in order to speed up Canadian response times;

  • Oppose the use of the United Nations Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine as a military solution to force aid relief on countries that are rejecting it;

  • Focus Canada’s development aid efforts and economic investment in the specific key areas that:

    1. Foster alternative fuels and energy sources that dramatically reduce the need to import oil and natural gas and further allow the growth of recipient nation independent and/or majority ownership of these sectors and/or businesses as they develop;

    2. Focus on agriculture sectors that provide for food sovereignty through both subsistence farming and domestic commercial farming methods that are in keeping with green environmentally sound and gender equality principles;

    3. Increase bilateral trade, where possible, to facilitate the export of value added products from small island economies;

    4. Support and strengthen cooperation with regional organizations to further the goal of regional independence and sovereignty.

  • Advance the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and ensure its principles are at the core of Canadian foreign policy;

  • Create a Department of Peace and Security;

  • Review Canada’s membership in military alliances including NATO and NORAD to ensure they are meeting Canada’s priorities of diplomacy, development, and defence;

  • Press urgently for global nuclear disarmament and the conversion of military industries in Canada and worldwide into peaceful and restorative industries;

  • Pursue international criminal investigations of existing military detention centers where human rights violations have been reported in Iraq, Cuba, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, and strongly advocate for the closure of all military detention centres that exist outside of international law;

  • Oppose the use of Canada’s public institutions for the development of military technology;

  • Oppose the development or use of space-based weapons on Canadian soil or in Canadian waters;

  • Oppose the militarization of space;

  • Insist on the adherence to the Geneva Convention by Canada and its allies;

  • Advocate that responses to terrorism must be carried out within a framework consistent with international law. Terrorism must be fought with the traditional tools of criminal investigation and prosecution;

  • Promote the Earth Charter and seek its endorsement by approving it in the Canadian Parliament;

  • Propose that Canada fulfill its obligations under the Convention on Biological Diversity by providing new and substantial funding for nature conservation in developing countries and by implementing policies aimed at protecting biodiversity throughout the world (The government of Canada should take the lead in organizing and arranging financing.);

  • Advocate gathering comprehensive collections of crop plants, varietals, and domestic animal breeds of the world able to preserve the genetic diversity required to safeguard the future of the human supply of food, fibre, and other biological products (This genetic heritage will be especially needed for low-input systems of farming suited to a resource-frugal future.);

  • Promote the recognition that the preservation of wild nature and the whole community of life, globally, nationally, and locally, is of crucial importance, not only for its own sake but also for developing sustainable agriculture and forestry systems in the future;

  • Advocate that the Government of Canada encourage all levels of government in Canada to take effective action to protect, preserve, and enhance wild nature and the community of life.

“We must base ourselves in international law. It is the rock you can stand on when things become confusing.”

Paul Heinbecker, Former Ambassador for Canada to the United Nations, February 17, 2007, Address to the Green Party foreign policy forum