Sunday July 03, 2016

Rebuilding Canada's foreign service after its "decade of darkness"

U.S. President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau walk from the Oval Office to a joint press conference in the Rose Garden at the White House, March 10, 2016 in Washington, DC.

U.S. President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau walk from the Oval Office to a joint press conference in the Rose Garden at the White House, March 10, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Listen 23:34

Canada's international reputation used to be as a middle power with a proud history of peacekeeping, and as a leader in environmental causes.

But according to former Canadian diplomat Daryl Copeland, the damage done to Canada's global presence and influence under Stephen Harper's Conservative government was profound — and it won't be healed quickly. 

We were always...seen as a helpful fixer, a provider of good offices, and a purveyor of fairly progressive ideas....[We] pretty much cemented for ourselves a place in the world as someone that others liked to have at the table. It was thought that we added value. Even if we couldn't bring a great pile of guns or money to the game, we certainly brought a lot of talent. And that was widely appreciated, and under Mr. Harper, widely missed.  - Former Canadian diplomat Daryl Copeland

Copeland spent 30 years as a diplomat, posted to Thailand, Ethiopia, New Zealand and Malaysia. He's currently a senior fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, and a visiting professor at the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna and the author of Guerrilla Diplomacy: Rethinking International Relations.

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"You can't call in an air strike on a warming climate...There are no military solutions to the most profound problems that are imperilling the planet. It's got to be diplomacy," says former diplomat Daryl Copeland. (Emily Chung/CBC)

Copeland says that while he's encouraged by the steps the Trudeau government has taken, the "jury's still out" on whether Canada will truly return to its traditional role as a peacekeeper. 

He spoke to Michael Enright about foreign policy, what it will take to restore Canada's global reputation and why today's problems require diplomatic, not military, solutions. 

Click the button above to hear Michael's interview with Daryl Copeland.