Jawaharlal Nehru once called the advancement of freedom and justice “…the silken bond of history…” The process of engagement in this advancement has always seemed to us to be the most exhilarating expression of what we are about as an educated and enlightened people who, by our refusal, in Dante’s words, to “…place ourselves with those cold and timid souls who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis…”, propel our society to lionize the nobility of courage and conscience and repel the decay of hatred, jealousy and greed. The struggle is not for the sake of philosophical notions of an idealized humanity but for the very pragmatic and immediate relief of human beings.
Despite substantial efforts to promote democracy around the world, authoritarian governments continue to thrive in many countries. The latest Human Security Index published by the United Nations underlines the fact that G8 countries do not devote enough resources democratic development or countries in transition.
We in Canada have gone through a great deal of frustration in the past several years due to our government’s refusal to engage in a concerted and forthright manner in support of our democratic allies and the structuring of democratic institutions. We are starting this Centre to pursue five objectives. Lobbying our government to move Canada’s foreign policy away from the “soft power” of its bankrupt multilateral morally-relativist approach and toward greater commitment to the survival and success of democratic governments and movements the world over. Sending Canadian specialists to foreign lands that are in the process of instituting democratic reforms. Consulting to corporations and organizations having an involvement abroad and facilitating their relations with government, labour, academia and NGO’s. Organizing conferences and publishing papers that impact on the foreign policy establishment and parliamentary committees. And forming strategic alliances with foreign partners who share the common cause of democracy without borders.
The last quarter century has illustrated that democracies will rarely, if ever, go to war with each other. Hence, effective democratic development greatly reduces the likelihood of armed conflict. America has a number of non‑governmental organizations (NGOs) supporting democratic development. These groups are funded primarily by political parties, foundations, or corporations. Germany has also been active in this field, through foundations that are supported by various German political parties. Sweden has created the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA), an NGO which is financed by several Nordic countries.
In Canada, there are several specialized institutions dealing with the electoral process, training of parliamentarians in human rights, and national governance, but none whose purpose is a vigorous proactive approach to turn our national purpose to new account. We seek to chart that course.
Unfortunately, The Canadian government, through the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT), has shown a very limited foreign policy capacity, especially with respect to medium and long term planning. Another agency of the Canadian government, the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), has substantial resources but has proven very hesitant to involve itself in emerging democracies in a sustained manner, particularly in non‑program countries such as those in the Middle East.
We have chosen the issue of Islamic intolerance for the Centre’s first event because the Middle East remains the most volatile region in the world. Stability will be attained through a serious and continuous effort to create societies where the rule of law, human rights, democratic practices and good governance are embraced by the majority of citizens. We need to examine in a clear and honest fashion what is at the heart of the problems of the Middle Rim where from the borders of India to the Atlantic Ocean there is only one democracy.
Canada has had great success in embracing the technological revolution, plugging itself fully into a globalized economy; yet, its influence on the world stage has been slowly declining. A primary reason is that DFAIT has lost its capacity to innovate and maintain a leadership role within the Government of Canada. Many are of the opinion that Canada does not really practice “soft power”; rather, it is a “soft” power. This has translated into the impression that Canada is “too shy,” and many question whether it will ever again have an effective foreign policy.
A policy void also exists with respect to Canada’s relationship with the USA. Aside from the Canadian Council for Chief Executives and the Fraser Institute, there is a dearth of sources of constructive and productive policy ideas on how to manage relations with our closest ally.
Such shortcomings can be corrected; there is a substantial, untapped pool of knowledgeable, and frustrated, Canadians among our diplomats, politicians, academics business people and journalists. The Centre will provide a platform for these experts to debate, to produce policy and to advocate changes in Ottawa.
A renewed vision of Canada’s role in the world is needed. There is an opportunity to show leadership in bringing Canada back to the front lines of international affairs. The international and domestic business communities demand greater political stability and agree that democratic political development contributes greatly to sustainable economic development. We Canadians can become more visible as valuable actors on the world stage.
Now is the time to put forward new ideas and news policies. Now is the time to encourage, stimulate, and promote debate. Now is the time to reconstitute the vital interests on Canada’s international agenda. Now is the time to seek partnerships promoting democracy without borders.
As this new administration continues Canada’s growing international economic involvement in the G-8 and the G-20 we need to press for a reaffirmation of Canada’s historic ideals in a growing international political involvement as well. We need to remember the great principles for which we fought and in which we still believe.
We believe in an abiding friendship with our nearest neighbour based upon on honest relationship, without subservience, in the confidence of a mutual understanding that civility is not a sign of weakness and sincerity is always subject to proof. We believe in a Canada of an engaged citizenry which stands with those who are committed to the expansion of the freedoms we enjoy to all parts of the world. We believe that the legitimacy demanded as a precursor to sovereignty is a democratic and transparent polity and we are ready to stand with our sister democracies in unyielding opposition to the hypocrisies of moral equivocation.
Canada has often been called a peace loving nation. This is only a half truth. Canada is above all a freedom loving nation. We have sacrificed more sons and daughters for the survival and success of liberty in the past century than even the United States as a proportion of population. We never shirked from this responsibility. We never calculated how many more soldiers there were in the Kaiser’s army. We never worried about the number of tanks in Hitler’s Panzer Divisions. We were never awed by Stalin’s might in Korea. And we never hesitated at home when terrorists threatened to make Montreal a charnel house. We supported the values of western civilisation because we wanted to live as free men and women and we understood, viscerally, that man’s millennia long struggle to break out of the forests of barbarism was a precious quest. We lionized and celebrated those who stood with us in vigilant opposition to any assault on our values of democracy and freedom. We would “rage against the dying of the light” whenever the black night of terror threatened.
We need to bring pride back to our country. There can be no better vehicle than the strengthening of our international prestige. And no better policy than the pledge of faithful friendship to those allies whose political and philosophical legacies we share. We must continue these policies and purposes. We must guard against the smugness and complacency that are symptoms of a preoccupation with parochial interests alone. The lessons of our history are unselfish ones, imbued with an understanding that, with grace and dignity, we must involve ourselves in the struggle of free men the world over for their fight is ours as well. In this age of instant communication, and instant destruction, we have come to the realization that we are truly a family of man. We are all mortal. We all cherish our future. And pain caused to the least amongst us diminishes us all.