Cablegate: Canada's Foreign, Defense, and Intergovernmental Affairs

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1. Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs held its 10th Annual
"Diplomatic Forum for Heads of Foreign Mission" in
St.-Andrews-by-the-Sea, New Brunswick, in mid-September.
Seventy-seven Ambassadors, including Ambassador Wilkins, and two
Consuls General participated in the two-day meeting. Three
federal Cabinet Ministers addressed the diplomats during the
event. Minister of Foreign Affairs Maxime Bernier said Canada's
two primary foreign policy goals were promoting free and open
markets and ensuring that the UN sanctioned, NATO-led mission in
Afghanistan succeeded in helping the that country become
"secure, prosperous, and free." Defense Minister Peter MacKay
said the government of Canada is pursuing a "Canada First"
defense strategy built upon three pillars: defending Canadian
interests globally (especially in Afghanistan), actively
supporting North American defense, and protecting Canadians on
national territory. Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs Rona
Ambrose said that, during the next session of Parliament, Prime
Minister Harper will speak frequently on the idea of "Open
Federalism." Although she did not define precisely what was
meant by the term, Minister Ambrose spoke of the need for the
federal government and the provinces to respect each other's
constitutionally mandated jurisdictions while at the same time
encouraging cross-competency participation when the other party
has a direct interest. It appears likely DFAIT will convene next
year's forum in Quebec City. END SUMMARY.

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Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade
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2. Foreign Minister Maxime Bernier was the first federal Cabinet
Minister to address the Diplomatic Forum. He told the diplomats
that Canada's two primary foreign policy goals were promoting
free and open markets and ensuring that the UN sanctioned,
NATO-led mission in Afghanistan succeeded in helping the that
country become "secure, prosperous, and free." Expanding on the
first goal, Minister Bernier underscored the Government of
Canada's position that free markets are indispensable for a
modern economy. Citing the benefits that have accrued from CAFTA
and NAFTA, Bernier said that strengthening the North American
free trade relationship was his top foreign policy goal, but
Canada also sees free trade as a vital ingredient in its efforts
to promote security, prosperity, and democracy throughout the
Americas. Economic freedom and prosperity are crucially linked
together. Free democracies, operating under the rule of law and
respecting human rights, tend to have stronger economies and are
better able to deal with the challenges posed by natural
disasters and human pandemics.

3. Turning to Afghanistan, Bernier insisted that the world must
not allow Afghanistan to again become an "incubator of terror."
Canada's military mission in Afghanistan is critical for
establishing peace, security, and prosperity in that trouble
land. Canada and its allies are working hard to fulfill the
"Afghanistan Compact of 2006." Doing so is an enormous
challenge, he said, but progress is encouraging. Through
Canadian International Development Agency programs and through
its military presence, Canada's mission in Afghanistan is
supporting the cause of human rights and freedom and is helping
to guaranty a more secure world. In conclusion Bernier said
that Canada will continue to pursue principled foreign policy
positions on important issues around the world with the ultimate
goal of helping the people of the world to live secure,
prosperous, and free lives.

4. When the Norwegian Ambassador asked about Canada's views on
the north, Minister Bernier responded that Canada sees the
Northwest Passage as internal waters and, "We will do what we
have to, to keep and protect our sovereignty in the Arctic."

Department of National Defense

5. Defense Minister Peter MacKay told the participants that the
government of Canada is pursuing a "Canada First" defense
strategy built upon three pillars: defending Canadian interests
globally, actively supporting North American defense, and
protecting Canadians on national territory. The mission in
Afghanistan is clearly in Canada's interests, especially since
terrorism knows no bounds. Canadian military personnel in
Afghanistan are, "carrying forward the Vimy Ridge tradition."
Canada is also keen on domestic and continental defense as shown
by the creation of CANADACOM, to parallel the U.S. NORTHCOM and

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by the addition of a maritime surveillance and defense element
to NORAD. Canada's Department of National Defense expects to
increase base spending by C$5.3 billion over the next five
years. The recent acquisition of C-17 aircraft has increased
Canada's ability to reach out to the rest of the world and
assist countries in need. Returning to the topic of Afghanistan,
the Minister noted that the government sought and received a
mandate from Parliament for a military commitment in Afghanistan
through February 2009. He sees it as part of his job to help
Canadians better understand the important role Canada is playing
in Afghanistan. The Afghani Ambassador expressed his country's
thanks to Canada and all countries that are helping Afghanistan
gain stability. The Minister responded by saying, "We cannot
afford to fail in Afghanistan, it's just too important a

Intergovernmental Affairs

6. Rona Ambrose, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs told the
diplomats that, during the next session of Parliament, the Prime
Minister will speak frequently on the idea of "Open Federalism."
Without defining the term, per se, Minister Ambrose said that,
under Canada's model of federalism it was paramount that the
constitutional partners (i.e., the provinces and the federal
government) respect each others jurisdiction. However, when the
federal government finds itself with significant "unplanned
surpluses," it may make sense for the federal government to
direct some spending in areas outside of federal jurisdiction.
At the same time, the government will seek to facilitate
provincial participation in areas of federal jurisdiction when
provinces have a direct interest (e.g., the immigration nominee
program). "The evolution of the federation," said the Minister,
"requires the federal government to develop innovative ways to
adjust." Quebec, through its engagement in UNESCO and la
Francophonie, was the first province to express interest in
participating in areas of federal competency. And, following on
Alberta's efforts, several other provinces are looking to
co-locate their trade promotion offices in Canadian Embassies
and High Commissions abroad.

7. With this as prologue, the Minister then turned the tables on
the assembled Ambassadors and asked them to tell her about their
dealings with provincial governments. Immigration was a major
concern, with issues ranging from work permits for tradesmen in
Alberta and seasonal workers in British Columbia, to mutual
recognition of professional degrees, to student visas, and a
plea for more information on those individuals who have been
denied landed immigrant status in Canada. The Brazilian
Ambassador, seconded by the Dutch Ambassador, reminded the
Minister that, in addition to the federal-provincial/state
dynamic, many countries are now finding that municipalities are
becoming new players on the international scene and these actors
also need to be taken into consideration in the conduct of
foreign policy.


8. The annual Diplomatic Forum provides a venue for the
Government of Canada to get its message on government policies
and direction out to a large segment of the diplomatic corps
simultaneously. By holding the event in a different province
each year and by scheduling a day for presentations by the host
province, the conference also gives members of the Ottawa-based
diplomatic community a chance to learn more about the different
regions of the country than they might otherwise. Although DFAIT
has not yet formally announced next year's conference venue,
from discussions with protocol staff it appears likely that it
will be held in Quebec City, which will be in the midst of
celebrating the 400th anniversary of its founding.

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