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Government, Foreign Policy

Canadian International Development Agency, Persian Gulf War, Organization of American States, International Development Research Centre, peacekeeping operations

Foreign policy is coordinated by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. Canada uses its influence to encourage democracy, the protection of human rights, free trade, and peaceful resolution of conflicts. These objectives generally coincide, but occasionally choices must be made among them. For example, Canada participated in economic sanctions against South Africa during the era of apartheid, placing the issue of democracy above that of trade. In the 1990s, however, Prime Minister Chretien announced his government’s view that the most effective way to promote democratic movements and human rights is through increased trade, a policy that has drawn criticism from some groups but is well accepted by the business community.

The new policy has also frustrated some of Canada’s allies. The United States, especially, disapproves of Canada’s continuing trade with Cuba in the face of a U.S. embargo. Tensions rose between the two countries in 1996 when the United States tried to enforce its Helms-Burton Act, which barred entry into the United States of certain foreign persons doing business in Cuba. Canada retaliated by passing the Foreign Extraterritorial Measures Act, forbidding Canadian companies from observing U.S. embargoes. As of mid-1997 the United States had backed off on enforcing Helms-Burton against Canadian firms, and Canada had yet to charge anyone under its own act.

Foreign aid, including money, goods, expertise, and emergency relief, is also an important part of Canada’s foreign policy. The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) was formed in 1968 to manage Canada’s foreign aid program. In 1994 and 1995 Canada sent C$2.5 billion to the developing world, including direct donations to selected countries, as well as money given to United Nations (UN) organizations or to nongovernmental organizations in over 100 countries. The International Development Research Centre, set up in 1970, funds research into possible adaptations of science and technology for use in the developing world.

Canada has always had a strong role in the United Nations, the umbrella organization for international cooperation and problem resolution. Canadian leaders have expressed the belief that cooperation and consensus among nations are the best hope for the future. Prime Minister Lester Pearson’s mediation in the Suez Canal incident of 1956 and his proposal for an international peacekeeping force won him the Nobel Peace Prize and boosted the role of peacekeeping forces around the world. Canada supports the UN in many ways: as its fourth largest financial contributor; as a participant in many UN aid organizations; and as the source of 10 percent of the world’s peacekeeping troops. Canada was involved in the earliest international peacekeeping missions—Kashmir (1948), Palestine (1953), Congo (1960), and Cyprus (1964)—and continues this tradition. Canada has placed a high priority on these missions, and in 1994 its troops were involved in peacekeeping operations, mostly as observers or monitors, in 21 different countries. Canada has also supported UN-led military interventions—for example, in the Korean War (1950-1953) and in the Persian Gulf War in Kuwait (1991)—but advocates earlier involvement to prevent active fighting.

Canada belongs to a variety of major international organizations. One is the Commonwealth of Nations, which developed gradually after World War I (1914-1918) as former British colonies gained their independence. Others, already mentioned, are NATO (1949) and NORAD (1957). Canada has enthusiastically supported the international associations for world peace and cooperation, first the League of Nations (1920-1946) and then its successor the United Nations (UN), of which Canada was a charter member in 1945. Other international groups that Canada has joined are the International Monetary Fund (1944), World Bank International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (1944); World Trade Organization (formerly General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, 1948); Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (1961); L’agence de Cooperation Culturelle et Technique (1970); G-7 Summit (1976); Organization of American States (1989); and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation organization (1994).

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