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BPW's Closing Address to the 20th CDA Congress on Foreign Affairs & Defence Policies

"Canada's Hope":A Nation Standing Tall With A Leadership That<br>Stands Up


29 February 2004


Conference of Defence Associations Institute


on Canadian Foreign & Defence Policy

Chateau Laurier, Ottawa, February 26-27


Closing Address by Mr. Beryl Wajsman

Founder and President of the Institute for Public Affairs of Montreal


Before I begin let me say what an honour it is for the Institute, and what a personal privilege it is for me, to be supportive of, and involved with the CDA. Not only because of the quality of the work it produces, but for the content of the character of the members it attracts. You are truly the best and the brightest.


You will all be pleased to know that I am not going to talk about analysis, planning or policy. But what I am going to give you is advocacy, purpose and passion.


Earlier today a young Air Cadet asked many of you why he should continue in service to this country. He was so despondent at what he had heard, so disheartened at the dry recitation of statistics, that he plaintively asked “Where is the silver lining for my generation.” Well ladies and gentlemen, my remarks are for him and his colleagues. This is the silver lining.


We at the Institute have often been asked why we have combined a vigorous advocacy of  progressive and compassionate domestic policies, with an aggressive commitment to a strengthened military and a heightened  involvement in democratic development and the expansion of freedom in the international order.


President John F. Kennedy once said that the purpose of foreign and defence policies was not to provide outlets for our own sentiments of indignation but to channel hope into the real events of the real world.


When men first crawled out of their lairs in the jungles and formed villages and societies the seminal motivation was common defence. The realization dawned that we should be fighting the predators together and leave more time to pursue, in the words of the philosopher, “… lives of passion, poetry and purpose…” These were the first cessions of some of the individual liberties accorded us all  through natural law in exchange for a flow of well-being from the “state”.


It was the beginning of what we call  progressive enlightened society. The demonstrated ability of human beings to have the courage to see that co-operation was to be valued over competition and compassion over contempt. It was a saner way to live. Where people showed the generosity of spirit necessary to benefit the commonweal and not just their particular parochial corners of existence. And that generous and courageous spirit was made possible only by the hope engendered from our pledge and passion to our common security. The confidence that we could preserve and protect our lives from the dark and deadly whirlwinds around us.


Those involved in our defence were lionized for their nobility for they embodied the twin characteristics of service and sacrifice so essential to the continuity of the foundational principles of civilization…that we are all mortal, that we all cherish our future, and that threats to the least amongst us endangers us all.


As time went on people realized that by sharing resources they could provide for themselves in other areas as well. Production of food, the education of their children, the caring of the sick. It was a normal and natural progression. But the template had already been forged. It became clear that if we were to have a compassionate response to the issues on the agenda of social justice, it required the same societal commitment to the traditions of service and sacrifice that had been so valiantly manifested before. The soldier was the model. His pride and purpose the testament. The personification of our transcendent yearning for redemptive change.


Dr. Kim Nossal  said earlier today that Canadian politicians and citizens just don’t care. And he is right in many ways. General John de Chastelain argued that Canadians still have a deeply ingrained sense of duty and moral obligation. He too is correct. For we have two Canadas.


Sadly, much of our national agenda is influenced by those of shrivelled spirit and hostile heart who fear the future, mistrust the present, and invoke the security of a comfortable past  that in fact never existed, as pious excuses for inaction. They are stuck in a smug, pallid orthodoxy.


But there is another Canada too.


Un Canada ou  Louis-Joseph Papineau aida aux luttes politiques et militaires pour une plus grande liberté pour tous, qui ont permis l’émancipation totale des minorités dès 1832, huit ans plus tôt qu’en Grande-Bretagne.  Un Canada ou Louis-Hippolyte Lafontaine a réussi de haute lutte à lancer une première expérience de gouvernement responsable.  Un Canada qui a inspiré à Sir Wilfrid Laurier une vision mondialiste inclusive du 20e siècle.


C’est ici au Canada ou nous avons créés un des plus progressistes societés mondiale qui a formé des héros de la trempe de Jean Marchand et Pierre Elliot-Trudeau, ceux-là même qui ont renversé le pouvoir d’une droite revancharde et d’un clergé rétrograde. 


And it is this Canada that sacrificed more sons and daughters for the defence of liberty in the wars of the past century than even the United States as a percentage of population.


Notre mémoire et notre vécu collectifs nous rappellent toutefois que la liberté est fragile et requiert une constante vigilance.  Une vigilance qui, dans un monde de communication et de destruction instantanées, doit nous inciter à serrer les rangs autour de ceux qui, dans le monde entier, repoussent le crépuscule de la terreur. 


It is truly a global village. And in this village each nation is as responsible for the other as individuals were in the first experiments in commonweal in the long past mists of history.  And if we fail to engage vigorously, not grudgingly, in our obligations in determining man’s common fate, then we will surely compromise the content of our policies and the compassion of our purposes in determining our national fate.


Les nations libres sont des îlots épars dans une turbulente mer de tyrannie et le combat de l’une est le combat de toutes.  Elle est un défi constant à notre force de caractère et au courage de nos convictions.


Our greatest contribution, and greatest challenge, will be to translate the proud legacy of our past into assertive engagement on the international stage. In order to be relevant we must  put aside Canada’s frequent narcissisms of petty pride and with clarity, candour and courage state to our nation, and to the world, that we are an integral part of the family of freedom now under attack by Islamic fundamentalism and that this is the fulcrum around which foreign, defence and security policies will be structured for the foreseeable future.


We must recognize that this "ism" is as dangerous as any other we have faced in the past century and has foundationally put the West on a war footing causing a generationally disruptive shift in our traditional assumptions and requires a reconstituted method and message of foreign and defense policy-making that must be reflected in, and served by, a new imagery and iconography.


Canada is not immune from the new international reality as we are the gateway country into North America for many of the leading  organized purveyors of terror and their fellow travellers. We no longer have the luxury of multilateral approaches with retrograde regimes in the hope that we will be a "bon pere de famille" back channel, because today these regimes can blow up in our faces like a bomb on a Jerusalem bus.


In one of his first budgets Prime Minister Martin claimed that the Government of Canada may have lost the moral authority to govern due to the fiscal failures of the previous administration. What then can we say of twenty years of  foreign and defence policies tied to the bankrupt notions of moral relativism and multilateralism that have given us policymakers rendered senseless by the loss of moral compass.

Today, too many of our Foreign Affairs officials calculate. But what they calculate are not weapons or soldiers. They count chancelleries. And on that count they determine policies based on where they can advance their careers.

Furthermore, too many of our Foreign and Defence policies are tied to notions of respect for physical sovereignty. Too many times we have used that as an excuse for inaction and opposition to policies of our traditional allies. Too often we hide behind that notion to decide when and where to engage. And we do so very disingenuously. From the Middle East to Bosnia and Kosovo, from Afghanistan to Iraq, Canadian policies are viewed as inconsistent and incongruous.


As Gen. Klaus Naumann, fomer Chairman of NATO’s North Atlantic Military Committee, has pointed out, there is a new standard in the international order today.  That standard, developed by the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, is the responsibility to protect. The obligation of free nations to act when tyrannical regimes breach fundamental standards of human decency, even when these breaches occur inside their own borders.


Imbedded in every attempt by the free world to enact new codes and standards of international behaviour since the Nuremberg Principles, has been the concept of legitimacy as precursor to sovereignty. And the litmus test of legitimacy was democracy. Not because it was the ideal system. There is no utopia. But because it was the price of entry to the table of civilized peoples. At least with a democratic system, open and transparent, a regime would be held accountable not only to its own citizens, but with untrammelled access and communication, the spotlight of free nations would be ever vigilant in reigning in any threatening dark night of terror.


A democratic state’s legitimacy would come from its inherent responsibilities to, acceptance of and engagement with the development of freedom in the international order. And respect for a nation’s physical integrity based on a legitimacy grounded  in a commitment to liberty, is doctrinally defensible, and a far better assurance of  world stability, than respect for a nation’s physical integrity based on a sovereignty stemming from bloodlines of familial descent and the accidental arrangement of  geographic barriers, neither of which ever had conceptual confirmation in either natural nor moral law and served as nothing more than specious arguments for the witless defenders of despots and dictators.  


Too many Canadian Foreign Affairs officials have missed the lessons of the past century. Physical sovereignty no longer matters. Hitler’s Germany was physically sovereign. As was Stalin’s Russia and Mao’s China. And for that matter so was Kaiser Wilhelm’s Empire. Over eighty million people died in a century characterized by an orgy of blood. But borders and customs guards, flags and institutions offered no protection to the free peoples of Czechoslovakia, Poland  and Hungary nor to the millions of bodies floating in the Yangzte River or frozen in the wastes of the Gulag Archipelago or butchered in the jungles of Rwanda.

As Hannah Arendt wrote in The Origins of Totalitarianism, one need not search too deeply for the root causes of injustice in this world. One need not make complicated psychological constructs to explain duplicity and mendacity. One need not question too long why good and gentle people are put upon while tyrants and tyranny triumph. The answers are summed up in four words “…the banality of evil…” The banality of counting chancelleries on a map.

The primordial lesson of the twentieth century was not that independent pre-emptive response and participation in international military preparedness would unleash anarchic bloodbaths--to the contrary-- failure to respond, and worse, attempts to appease, would allow time for barbarous dictators to arm themselves to the teeth and embroil the world in a whirlwind of devastation heretofore unimaginable. The road to Auschwitz began in Munich.


Prime Minister Trudeau, recognized that the spread of freedom was the one "legacy" we must leave to the world, the most vital measure of our progress, and the singular hope of man. He once said,


 "...though we as liberals see society as capable of moral progress, being by nature neither essentially good nor perverse, we understand the requirement to cultivate and support  the more positive inclinations of man. While understanding the limits of legislation and law, we do not hesitate advocacy of the uses of power for the expansion of equity and equality."


Our nation’s pride was never compromised or cudgelled by mountains of munitions and it should never be paralysed or prejudiced by weakness of will. The avarice of ambition and the  cowardice of conceit can never be allowed to still our pledge to make gentle the life of this world nor to shake our faith that engagement in the development of freedom in the international order is the paramount project of progressive civilization.


These have been the age-old lessons of history’s incontestable march from repression to renewal, the noble vows of courage of freedom’s champions, and the singular hope of man for an era when truth will not be compromised by timidity, honour will not be cheapened by objectivity and hope will not be mortgaged to expediency.


The policy and passion of our nation’s future will be ennobled by a renewed commitment to human dignity, freedom and courage.


If we fail to act we will be complicit in the realization of Edmund Burke’s warning that…


“All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”







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