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Foreign Minister Freeland’s speech will unveil a Canadian foreign policy rooted in multilateralism

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, June 1, 2017.

OTTAWA — Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland will put her stamp on Canada’s overarching foreign policy for the first time in a speech Tuesday that urges multilateralism, trade, action on climate change and support for the world’s most vulnerable.

In the House of Commons Tuesday morning, just about five months into her tenure, Freeland will take half an hour to set up a framework with an outlook on Canada’s relationships with the United States, the Asia-Pacific, and the global south. The edict of predecessor Stéphane Dion — “responsible conviction” — will not be part of the discussion.

Freeland’s statement comes the day before the results of a defence policy review, and an expected funding announcement for the military, are to be unveiled by Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan.

Arctic Council foreign ministers, (L-R) Anders Samuelson of Denmark, Sweden’s Margot Wallstrom, Russia’s Sergei Lavrov, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Norway’s Borge Brende, Finland’s Timo Soini, and Canada’s Chrystia Freeland.

Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty images

The speech will begin with a history of Canadian foreign policy, particularly in the decades since the Second World War. Freeland will discuss how Canada participated in the founding of global institutions and multilateral systems, and argue that Canada must again step up with real contributions and boundary-pushing if it wants to remain influential.

In listing her own priorities, Freeland will address the past, present and future of Canada’s relationship with the United States. She will highlight trade with Europe and opportunities in the Asia-Pacific.

Freeland will name international bodies Canada will continue to play an active role in: the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD); the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO); the G7; the G20; the World Trade Organization; the United Nations; the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation; and the Organization of American States. She will reiterate that Canada is seeking a seat on the UN Security Council.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau talks alongside Chrystia Freeland at a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, Jan 10, 2017, after she was sworn in as Minister of Foreign Affairs during a cabinet shuffle at Rideau Hall.


She will argue Canada is at a unique apex that separates it from other countries in the West, with both Commonwealth and Francophonie ties that connect it to much of the globe, including large swaths of the African continent.

While Freeland will not specifically mention Iran or her government’s promise to re-establish diplomatic ties with that country — despite officials having recently visited Tehran — she will discuss the fight against Daesh (ISIL) in Syria and Iraq, as well as Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

Freeland will say instability in other regions can spill over and affect Canada, and that it is in the national interest to help quell insecurity and conflict elsewhere in the world, including in the Middle East.

She will condemn the seizure of sovereign territory and urge that the sanctity of borders be upheld more than ever, as worries rise over the perceived erosion of borders — whether because of migrants and refugees, terrorism, or the Internet. Freeland will also mention technological evolution and how it inevitably affects the global economy.

While Canada’s history of joining peacekeeping efforts will be addressed by the speech, specifics about upcoming missions will not, since these will be addressed by Sajjan’s presentation Wednesday.

Likewise, specifics on international assistance will pend the conclusion of a review being undertaken by International Development Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau. No date is set for its release, but it is expected to include specifics about the level and direction of funding.

The speech supports a motion to: “recognize that the government is committed to a foreign policy that supports multilateralism and rules-based international systems, human rights, gender equality, the fight against climate change, and economic benefits being shared by all.”

The motion also asks the House to recognize “that further leadership on the part of Canada is both desirable and required” and to support “the government’s decision to use the foregoing principles to guide Canadian foreign policy.”

Opposition parties will have an opportunity to debate the motion and offer their own takes on foreign policy. A vote will be held, but not necessarily on Tuesday.