ARCHIVED - Conclusion: International Policy Revisited

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Our observations of the federal government’s programs, activities and services in international relations led us to conclude that linguistic duality is being increasingly recognized as a valuable component of Canada’s identity on the world stage. We found considerable evidence of the importance of linguistic duality to Canada’s international image and an appreciation that linguistic duality opens doors in the global competition for attention and markets.

This particular image of Canada can be largely attributed, we believe, to our country’s activist cultural diversity agenda and its prominent role in La Francophonie, not unlike the role Canada plays in the Commonwealth. Our country enjoys a certain international profile in these areas, which serves to remind the world that we are a nation that places high value on protecting and promoting differences and that we have been successful in doing so. In certain areas at least, Canada’s linguistic duality is more than image; it forms an integral part of our identity abroad.

Linguistic duality can also be found in a number of important government programs, such as the Public Diplomacy and Canadian Studies programs. However, their uneven application at the mission level, including instances of outright resistance, speaks volumes about the low priority attached to promoting and taking advantage of Canada’s bilingual identity in international relations.

Linguistic duality’s fragile status in foreign affairs flows directly from the lack of clear policy direction and commitment. Whereas Canada’s current international policy recognizes Canadian values and culture as a central pillar, or objective, linguistic duality’s intimate relationship to these values and our cultural diversity and its relevance to other objectives are left to be read between the lines. Therefore, global projection of the two-language dimension of our national character may wax and wane with each change in operational priorities and resources.

The lack of policy direction accounts for the weak links and missed opportunities identified in this study. Notably, there are gaps between positive departmental programs and their application at the mission level. Canada’s French fact has been largely untapped as a way to advance our interests in the United States. And we need better bridges between Canada’s linguistic communities to reinforce strategies such as La Francophonie.

Overarching these issues is the federal government’s responsibility to represent all of Canada and its linguistic communities in its relations with the rest of the world. The interests of Canada’s linguistic duality call for greater harmonization of national and provincial activities abroad as well as the involvement of more provinces in international programs beneficial to both English-speaking and French-speaking Canadians. Constructive and coherent federal–provincial relations are essential to the full integration of linguistic duality in Canada’s foreign relations.

Many of the preceding recommendations reflect the fact that much is already being done to develop and build upon linguistic duality’s positive contribution to Canada’s identity and interests in the world. The recommendations are intended to strengthen these efforts. Other recommendations point to new opportunities. It is, however, the federal government’s international policy review under way at the time of the study that offers the greatest potential for fundamental change.

The public consultation exercise, Dialogue, appears to have led the federal government away from the three-pillar approach to international policy. Discussions with officials suggest that questions of integration are being given serious attention. This is encouraging, given the current policy’s shortcomings.

The government stated in its October 2004 Speech from the Throne that “it is no longer possible to separate domestic and international policies” and that these policies “must work in concert.” The forthcoming International Policy Statement provides the federal government with the opportunity to ensure that linguistic duality, a key domestic policy rooted in constitutional rights and social reality, truly works “in concert” with Canada’s international relations by clearly establishing linguistic duality among future government priorities in Canada’s international relations.

The Commissioner therefore recommends that:

25. the Department of Foreign Affairs, as the lead department in the international policy review under way at the time of the study, ensure that, in the development of a new international policy, projection of Canada’s linguistic duality is recognized as a government priority and effectively integrated in all other priorities.

The Government responded: “The [International Policy Review, or IPR] is now being developed, in accordance with the Prime Minister’s instructions, as an integrated and comprehensive international policy framework, underpinned by a whole-of-government, whole-of-Canada approach. The international policy goals it will outline will reflect the best of Canadian aspirations for ourselves as a nation and for the world. Respect for diversity, democracy, human rights and the promotion of equitable growth, sustainable development and social progress are among the themes that we anticipate will drive the IPR. Our international advantages or assets include our history and linguistic duality, which position us to play strongly in organizations like La Francophonie and the Commonwealth and to collaborate with members of those organizations on issues of mutual interest. A key strategic goal in the IPR is forging new partnerships with Canadians in international policy development and implementation. A greater emphasis on Canadian culture and on supporting Canadians living, working, performing, studying, investing and visiting abroad is intended to create larger windows to project Canada, including our linguistic duality, on the international stage.”

The Commissioner reiterates the need to clearly establish in the new policy’s priorities the contribution of linguistic duality to Canada’s international identity and interests.

Establishing clear policy priorities favouring Canada’s linguistic duality should go a long way to addressing many of the weaknesses identified in this report. It should in particular contribute to a greater alignment of Canada’s representation abroad by setting appropriate standards for mission activities. DFAIT must exercise its validation role to ensure that those standards are met, while continuing to encourage initiative and creativity. Our limited survey points to a particular need for validation and guidance at Canada’s missions in the United States, all the more so in light of the federal government’s increased attention to our relations with that country and the opening of seven additional missions within its borders in the next few months.

It is in Canada’s best interests that our new international policy firmly installs linguistic duality in our relations with other countries. Linguistic duality opens doors to Canada precisely because it ensures direct access to two international cultures, because it establishes Canada’s reputation in the world as a model of social harmony through effective management of differences, and because, in the dynamic and complex world of international relations, where nations compete for attention in promoting their interests, our linguistic duality makes Canada stand out.

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