Patrick James, Nelson Michaud, Marc J. O'Reilly, eds. Handbook of Canadian Foreign Policy. Lanham: Lexington Books, 2006. 610 pp. $125.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-7391-0694-5; $47.95 (paper), ISBN 978-0-7391-1493-3.
Reviewed by Robin S. Gendron (Department of History, Nipissing University)
Published on H-Canada (July, 2007)
The State of Canadian Foreign Policy in the Twenty-First Century
"Is Canada becoming less relevant internationally" (p. 10)? For Patrick James, Nelson Michaud, and Marc O'Reilly this is the question addressed, at least implicitly, by the nineteen articles in this interesting collection. Arguing about Canada's continued importance in world affairs has become something of a national pastime for Canadians in recent years, so it is refreshing to have others weighing in on the debate. With contributions from specialists from the United States and Mexico as well as from Canada, this is a useful examination of key aspects of Canadian foreign policy in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.
With some exceptions, the chapters were written by and for political scientists, a focus that was apparent from the outset when the introduction charted the chapters to follow along an "easy to understand" (p. 10) but neither particularly useful nor necessary grid based on their issue coverage (from single issue to comprehensive) and geographic coverage (from single state/intrastate to global). Despite this focus, however, the chapters are generally accessible to a broader audience. The book itself is organised into five parts with two introductory chapters, the first of which outlines the book's structure, while the second by Nelson Michaud describes the centrality of the Prime Minister and his political and bureaucratic organizations within the government to the making of Canadian foreign policy.
Under the title of "Refocussed Efforts," part 1 includes an article by Andrew Richter on the four decades of policies by Canadian governments that, from the 1960s, eroded Canada's armed forces and its capacity to contribute to a robust and influential international role for Canada. Michael Lustzig's chapter traces the evolution of Canadian trade policy with an emphasis on how and why, after a century of protectionism, Canadian political and business leaders embraced free or liberalized trade regimes in the late twentieth century. For their part, Richard Vengroff and Jason Rich discuss the increasingly important role that Canada's provinces are playing in international affairs as globalization brings to the fore internationally issues that fall under provincial jurisdiction.
Part 2, titled "Multicultural Challenges," is the largest section of the book and contains an article by Greg Donaghy and Neal Carter on how Canadian involvement in La Francophonie was motivated by the need to project Canada's French linguistic and cultural dimension abroad, as well as Kimberley Martin's interesting analysis of the role that Canada's foreign policy bureaucracy has played in promoting and preserving the importance of peacekeeping to Canada's foreign policy. Koren Marriott and David Carment discuss the involvement of the Canadian government and non-governmental organizations in international conflict prevention, while Jean-Sébastien Rioux examines how competing priorities and spreading scarce resources too thinly over too many recipient countries are obstacles to the effectiveness of Canada's development assistance policy. Bethany Barratt provides an illuminating analysis of the minimal effect that human rights concerns have as a determinant of Canadian foreign policy and, in the last chapter in this section, Duncan Wood examines the influential role that Canada played through the G-8 and other forums in international financial policy from the 1990s on.
In part 3, the authors address "Canada and World Regions." Douglas Nord examines the growing importance of the North/Arctic to Canadian policy and Canada's active pursuit of its interests in the region through the multilateral Arctic Council. In contrast, Athanasios Hristoulas chronicles the relative ambivalence and neglect that characterizes Canada's relations with Latin America. Marc J. O'Reilly's chapter situates the Middle East as the scene of one of Canada's greatest foreign policy successes--its contribution to the resolution of the Suez Crisis in 1956--but also argues that failed attempts to replicate that success through the United Nations during the Iraq crisis of 2003 demonstrate the limits of Canada's reflexive multilateralism in a radically altered international environment. In turn, Axel Hüselmeyer demonstrates the challenges Canada faces as integration through the European Union compels Canadian foreign policy to address Europe as a whole rather than focus individually on Canada's traditional European partners. Finally, Charles Doran discusses how personal relations between Canadian and American leaders affect relations between their two countries as well as how domestic politics intrude into the relationship, leading to cycles of relative estrangement and rapprochement between Canada and the United States.
Part 4, "External Viewpoints into Canada," contains two chapters. In the first, Thomas Barnes argues that devastated armed forces have left Canada unable to defend itself and ever more reliant on the United States. Despite a tendency among Canadian politicians and the Canadian public to distance themselves from military cooperation with the United States, however, it is in military interoperability with the United States that Barnes locates the maintenance of Canadian sovereignty. In the second, James McHugh examines how Canada's federal structure affects its foreign policy and in this context he argues that the Quebec Reference Case decided by the Supreme Court in 1998 strengthened the federal government's power in international affairs.
Part 5, "Internal Perspectives," is the book's concluding section and includes chapters by Carolyn James on the integration of women into the Canadian armed forces and the Navy specifically, and by Jeffrey Ayres on the more active role that non-governmental organizations are playing in the formulation and delivery of Canadian foreign policy in recent years. There is also a concluding chapter written by the editors. Essentially, these chapters discuss how Canadian foreign policy is becoming more reflective of Canadian society both in its formulation and in its composition.
As with all anthologies the quality of the individual articles varies. Some are more descriptive, with the chapter by Greg Donaghy and Neal Carter on La Francophonie a case in point. Some even seem aimed at different audiences. Nelson Michaud's chapter on the Prime Minister, the PMO, and the PCO, for example, is intended for non-Canadians unfamiliar with the structure of Canada's government and especially its executive, while Thomas Barnes seems to target a more Canadian audience, especially with his observation (lament?) that Canadians simply have not yet understood how deeply Americans have been affected by the events of September 11 (p. 423). Some of the chapters are also more controversial. Marc O'Reilly's assertion, for one, that Canada would have been better served by joining the United States in its "coalition of the willing" against Iraq in 2003 will no doubt rile many readers, while James McHugh's conclusion that the decision in the Quebec Reference Case of 1998 precludes Quebec from pursuing its own foreign policy is sure to raise some eyebrows, especially since that political horse has already left the stable and is unlikely to be forced back in. Still, the overall quality of the chapters is high. The strength of the book's organization is less clear. It might have made more sense to group the articles on La Francophonie, paradiplomacy and the provinces, and federalism and Canadian foreign policy together. The same could be said about the several articles on Canada's armed forces, while there are also natural linkages between the articles on international trade policy and international financial policy. And, given the importance and the profile of the subject over the past number of years, the omission of a chapter on Canada and international environmental policy from this collection is particularly glaring.
Despite the caveats above, this is a very useful book and, while the question of whether Canada is still relevant internationally is not resolved definitively, some significant points do emerge from the book. Measured in terms of traditional definitions of power and influence, especially military power, Canada's capacity for an active international role has declined drastically from its heyday in the 1950s-1960s. Yet, as several of these authors have indicated, Canada can and does exert itself in pursuit of its international interests, even if it is a relatively small country burdened by the expectations of a much bigger one.
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Robin S. Gendron. Review of James, Patrick; Michaud, Nelson; O'Reilly, Marc J., eds., Handbook of Canadian Foreign Policy.
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