Foreign Policy

Policy Discussion Brief

Glen's Policy Discussion Briefs are a springboard for generating ideas about important policy issues. They provide an overview of an issue, like food nutrition and food security, and describes options for responding, including how Glen could implement policy as leader of the Green Party of Canada. To engage in the conversation, email us at policy@glenmurray.ca or register for a town hall Zoom call at https://www.glenmurray.ca/.

Issue: Foreign Policy

In light of the federal government's failed bid for a seat on the United Nations Security Council, it is time that Canada retools its foreign policy in order to restore our country's global leadership. As Canadians, we live in a country that is prosperous and free; we have a unique duty to make a positive impact beyond our borders through a responsible foreign policy. Together, we can do this by reaffirming Canada's global commitment to sustainability, freedom, and a rules-based international order—commitments that have been largely abdicated by previous Conservative and Liberal governments in Ottawa.

The COVID-19 pandemic has hastened the need for action reflective of Canadian values on the global stage. As countries across the world work towards economic recovery, it is imperative that Canada leads by example with an economic stimulus plan at home that reflects our growing climate emergency. Moreover, it is crucial that we help lead the international community in assisting countries unable to adequately resolve health crises caused by this global pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic is but one of the vast disruptive events and impacts of climate change. Microbial life forms and other elements of microbial ecosystems like viruses change, adapt and evolve in very short periods of time and can quickly emerge as pathogens that trigger pandemics.  Zoonotic viruses, from HIV to COVID-19, are part of the disruptive future we face with potentially devastating implications for human health and global stability.

Syria experienced a one in nine-hundred-year drought from 2006 to 2011 that was enabled by climate change. This drought displaced millions, collapsed food production in the Fertile Crescent and created the conditions that led to a deadly civil war. The Pentagon's analysis of the threat to peace from climate disruption highlights the extraordinary challenges of this new normal of catastrophes.

Australia and California's forest fires disrupt lives, business, and lead to extraordinary loss of life. Finally, the ongoing destruction of our oceans and forests are flipping massive carbon sinks we rely on for climate stability into huge carbon sources that will facilitate our demise. 

These factors require a fundamental rethink of Canadian foreign policy. The most challenging will be that many of the most populous regions of the planet will become food and water deserts or sustain temperatures of over 50 degrees which will make them to be practically uninhabitable for human beings.

These multiple crises will manifest themselves with one devastating and unprecedented foreign and domestic policy challenge: How do we resettle hundreds of millions of people to parts of the planet that have a longer projected window with sufficient food, water and a safe climate?

This is the overwhelming public policy of our time, but it is not the only one. Our foreign policy must be broad and deeply rooted in the realities of the fast approaching century's new realities. So, how do we structure such an approach?

A more responsible Canadian foreign policy can be divided into four general categories: foreign affairs and environment (especially climate change and biodiversity); security and cooperation; human rights; and sustainable development. With commitment to all four areas, Canada can look out for the welfare of all global citizens while serving the security, economic, geopolitical and moral interests of Canadians.

Glen Murray says

"We are running out of time to implement global change. This planet will become unlivable within a century if we don't get dramatic reductions over the next decade."

"China, the United States, Saudi Arabia and Brazil are the principal obstructionists of climate action. Climate impacted countries should seek damages and efforts should be undertaken to find legal and trade initiatives to hold them accountable."

"The right to food and water is the most fundamentally important right which we must uphold as Canadians. It has to be in the middle of our foreign policy"

"We are one of the few countries in the world right now that has the political stability, the resources, the research and the relationships to solve the global climate emergency"

What would Glen do?

  1. Foreign Affairs and Climate Change

    Our foreign policy priority will reflect the core tenets of green political parties across the world in ensuring global action is in line with the gravity of the global climate crisis. This starts with credible domestic action on climate. Climate Action Tracker ranks Canada's response as ‘insufficient'; if all countries were to emit as much as Canadians do, global warming could reach 3°C, which would be 1.5°C higher than the temperature limitation goal set at the 2019 UN Climate Action Summit. While other foreign policy issues are incredibly important, they pale in comparison to what could come if the world fails to act to stop the damage we are collectively causing to our planet.

    After solidifying our country's commitment to combatting climate catastrophe with 50 Green seats in Ottawa, Canada can play a direct role as a global leader on this issue. This will include pressing Ottawa to contribute its fair financial share to United Nations climate change and biodiversity processes and funds. 

    In recognition of the urgency of the climate crisis, I encourage immediate action against top global emitters. The current policies of China, Brazil and Saudi Arabia are particularly worrisome in their neglect of environmental destruction in the name of economic growth; the United States joins this group should the President win re-election in November. Should these countries continue to be unwilling to end this destructive behaviour themselves, Canada ought to work with similarly committed nations to pressure these countries into doing so through coercive measures.

  2. Security and Cooperation

    I concur with Green Party policies on this issue, as well as the need for continued investment in the defense measures and security alliances have traditionally kept Canadians safe. However, it is important to acknowledge that the next material threat to our nation will most likely come not from ill-intentioned foreign agents, but rather from climate disaster. This reality is not reflected in federal government defense spending.

    I recommend adjusting spending on defense matters to reflect genuine threats facing our country. With a continuing commitment to and reliance on our international security partners (i.e. NATO), Canada can assure conventional security against hostile nations and non-state actors while positioning ourselves to best combat the growing climate threat.

    Two growing security threats are worth noting. First, Canada cannot ignore Russia's Arctic military build-up. Canada has a legitimate claim to a large portion of the Arctic (land, territorial seas, and an exclusive economic zone), making foreign aggression in the region especially pertinent. Moreover, Russia wants to tap into previously frozen-over natural resources that may now be accessible, ironically, due to climate change, as Russia has invested $300 billion in the region's oil and gas. It is imperative that Canada, along with our international allies, protect the Arctic—and in turn the rest of the world—from the consequences of potentially massive extraction of non-renewables. 

    Second, climate change has exacerbated food insecurity in Canada and across the world. As a large contributor to global emissions, a more responsible Canadian foreign policy will ensure that our government does all it can to alleviate this issue not only at home, but also abroad.

  3. Human Rights

    Generally speaking, a more responsible Canadian foreign policy will adequately address human rights concerns around the world. This includes measures to minimize the risk of human rights abuses (i.e. banning autonomous weapons), as well as decisive action surrounding the most pressing current global issues. A select number of these timely topics are discussed in further detail below:

    1. Right to Food and Water

      Climate impacts will be most severe in highly populated regions already suffering from drought and dealing with food security issues. 

      Large, heavily populated areas of the planet will experience water and consequently food shortages at a scale creating a need for migration and resettlement of large populations 

      or unthinkable loss of life from famine and drought.

    2. China

      In addition to being the largest global contributor to CO2 emissions, China's record on human rights is among the worst in the world. Currently, China is both ‘re-educating' Muslim Uighurs in concentration camps in the western province of Xinjiang and stripping any and all freedoms from those living in Hong Kong. However, most important to Canadians, the Chinese government is responsible for the unwarranted and illegal detention of several Canadians, most notably Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, in retribution for Canada's legal arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou. China is a growing threat to the rules-based international order and the survival or our planet.

      I recommend strengthening alliances with countries similarly committed to human rights and environmental protection that are appalled by Chinese behaviour on these issues. Allies in East Asia, most notably Japan and South Korea, are especially important. We must operate under the assumption that China seeks both economic and military power. We must double-down on our commitment to multilateral institutions while signaling to China that their participation in said institutions—which has brought them tremendous economic prosperity—is conditional upon respecting the values of Canada and her allies: commitment to the well-being of our planet and all those who share it. This includes well-being of the two Michaels, which will be our top priority vis-à-vis China until their safe return home.

    3. Israel-Palestine

      We completely support the existing policy of the Green Party of Canada which calls for a two-state solution to resolve this conflict. In so doing, we oppose action by either side that threatens or is counterproductive to the possibility of a peaceful resolution between the Israelis and Palestinians. We stress the need for cooperation in the region when considering the real possibility of environmental catastrophe, like we have seen with the one in nine-hundred-year drought in Syria. We are optimistic that recent agreements between Israel and both the UAE and Bahrain will improve both regional peace and the facts on the ground upon which negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis are dependent.

    4. Refugees and human resettlement.

      We should all take pride in the fact that Canada is a global leader in welcoming refugees. However, I believe we can and ought to do better. As war rages on in Yemen and Syria, freedoms are supressed in China, and financial instability cripples Venezuela and Lebanon, we must do all we can to help those in need across the world by enabling them to live the 21st century Canadian dream.

      Canada needs a national settlement strategy, because as Doug Sanders points out in "Maximum Canada", the drain of population from many parts of Canada has restrained investment and created barriers to both prosperity and social equity.  In Winnipeg, where I was Mayor, the city struggles with infrastructure built for a much larger population and experiences labour shortages in critical areas of the economy. The city has a water supply that could support hundreds of thousands of more people. Uniquely, Winnipeg enjoys a Federal-Provincial-Municipal refugee agreement that I developed with the federal immigration minister when I was mayor which contributed significantly to halting the city's economic and population decline. So, we already have the infrastructure to create a shared solution where a domestic challenge can help resolve global crisis.

      Canada will need a new immigration policy for this age of climate refugees and a rethinking of our military to support international humanitarian and resettlement initiatives. 

      This will have to be carefully shared with indigenous leaders. We must be in agreement in developing this response to the biggest humanitarian crisis in history together as equals.

      The United States has weaponized immigration policy as a tool in a domestic racist culture war where Mexicans and Muslims are targeted and defined as the other, excluded from the us and we descriptions of American citizens.  This is the antithesis of Canadian values. We are a country built on the energy, courage and dreams of many of the world's most marginalized populations who were the "others" in their home countries.

      We must act boldly and differently by contrasting our humanitarian response to the American military response to climate and other crises. An example of a missed opportunity to do the right thing was when climate events, state and military oppression forced two to three thousand Central Americans to flee their countries; in response, the US president sent the army to the US border with orders to shoot approaching refugees. Canada could have sent immigration officers, food and emergency aid and processed them for immigration to Canada.

      Most Canadians owe their citizenship to our country's humanitarian response to genocide, war and displacement of their ancestors. Canada role a global sanctuary and refuge has never been more important. It must be a foundation of our foreign policy.

      There are two categories of refugees important to me personally. First, while we are fortunate to live in a country that is now more welcoming of members of the LGBTQ+ community, I know first-hand that Canada has not always been this way. As leader, I will strive to ensure that individuals persecuted for their sexual orientation abroad can always find safety within our borders. Second, despite our significant national contribution to global warming, Canada still does not recognize climate migrants. This is despite the fact that over 20 million people are displaced each year because of environmental crises, many exacerbated by climate change. We believe that Canada has a moral obligation to reverse course on this issue, in addition to lobbying the global community to incorporate climate migration into international law.

      I founded Rainbow Railroad with a group of friends, and through informal international networks, the creation of safe passages and safe houses, this organization has saved hundreds of queer and trans folk from death and torture. It goes where and does things that governments cannot, and is a model for international Canadian human rights activism in a dangerous world.

      Building civil society based organizational solutions to human rights crisis that facilitate human safety and relocation will be a fundamental part of our approach to refugees, human rights and global social justice.

    5. Sustainable Development

      In 2019, Canada spent 0.27 percent of its GNI on official development assistance. This falls well short of the 0.7 percent target for OECD countries set by the United Nations. We believe that now is the time—especially considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on less-developed countries—for Canada to finally reach this goal. An increase in financial contribution will require that we re-establish the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), dismantled in 2013 by the Harper administration. 

      Moreover, I believe we must reduce or eliminate conditions on foreign aid. We must assist countries based on need, especially medical, and not based on our business or strategic interests. That said, countries whose values reflect those of Canada—namely gender equality, human rights and environmental protection—must be those who are prioritized. The worst climate and human rights abusers should be excluded from aid consideration.

Green Party Policy

The Green Party seeks a foreign policy that is consistent with its core values of maximizing the health and well-being of our environment and all global citizens. We completely support the Green Party of Canada's platform on foreign affairs that follows:

  • Foreign Affairs and Climate Change
    • Develop a global plan to reduce emissions from international aviation and shipping
    • Ramp up our national contribution to the Green Climate Fund and Global Environmental Facility to $4 billion per year by 2030.
  • Security and Cooperation
    • Ensure a consistent capital investment plan with stable funding so that service personnel have the equipment and training they need to fulfill an expanded mandate. This includes naval and coast guard vessels that can operate in the Arctic Ocean, fixed-wing search and rescue aircraft, and helicopters.
    • Ban autonomous weapons and work for a global pact to make them illegal.
  • Human Rights
    • Cancel the contracts to provide Saudi Arabia with armoured vehicles and ban importation of Saudi oil.
  • Sustainable Development
    • Re-establish the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) that was dismantled by the Harper government, with a mandate to provide overseas development assistance where it is most needed. Eliminate the requirement that aid be tied to Canadian business interests overseas, or strategic geopolitics.
    • Increase Canada’s overseas development assistance budget to reach former Prime Minister Pearson’s goal of 0.7 per cent of GDP, which Canada has never achieved but which many in the donor group of our allies have already surpassed.

Learn more

Green Party Foreign Policy: https://www.greenparty.ca/en/our-vision/international-relations-and-defence

Sources

  1. https://climateactiontracker.org/countries/canada/
  2. https://www.canada.ca/en/department-national-defence/corporate/reports-publications/transition-materials/defence-101/2020/03/defence-101/defence-budget.html
  3. https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/russian-arctic-training-1.5563691
  4. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/russian-arctic-oil-and-gas-explained-1.5462754
  5. https://www.brookings.edu/research/the-climate-crisis-migration-and-refugees/
  6. https://data.oecd.org/oda/net-oda.htm