The Current

Can Canada be the newest global leader?

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland says that Canada must take a leadership role on the international stage.
Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland delivers a speech on Canada's foreign policy in the House of Commons on June 6, 2017. (Chris Wattie/Reuters)

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This week, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland made a speech in the House of Commons promising to bring "good manners and strong muscles" to the international negotiating table.

She said the country can no longer rely on the U.S. for global leadership, so Canada must play an active role in the "preservation and strengthening of the global order."

"Doing so is in our interest, because our own open society is most secure in a world of open societies‎. And it is under threat in a world where open societies are under threat," she said in her address.

Freeland said in order to protect Canada's interests, it must be willing to use military power in defence of our values and our allies. And that new power will need money. 
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan announced the government's commitment of $62 billion in defence spending over 20 years. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

On Wednesday, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan delivered the government's defence policy review, echoing many of the themes of Freeland's speech. He announced that Canada will increase its defence spending by 70 per cent in the next decade, with an overall budget of $62.3 billion over 20 years.

Stephanie Carvin, assistant professor at Carleton University was astonished at the foreign affairs minister's remarks because of the longstanding relationship Canada has maintained with the U.S.

"Canada is so dependent and has traditionally been so dependent on the United States for its basic thriving in the international system," Carvin tells The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti.

"So to recognize that was a bit of a shock," she says.

Emily Tamkin, staff writer with Foreign Policy magazine, thinks the timing of Freeland's speech was neither "accidental or coincidental," as the U.S. is currently embroiled in domestic affairs. 
Emily Tamkin says the U.S. is too focused on domestic politics, like former FBI director James Comey testifying before the Senate. (Alex Brandon/Associated Press)

"The reality is that what people are talking about in Washington, D.C., today is not either of these speeches — it's former FBI Director James Comey's testimony before the Senate," says Tamkin.

"I think it sort of goes to underscore both ministers' points, which is that … this current administration in the United States has its mind on other things … that it has turned inward, that it's focused on anything but its role in the global order," she explains.

"And that therefore in the minister's mind and in the Canadian government's mind, this is a time for Canada to step up."

Carvin says Freeland's assessment that U.S. is withdrawing from its role as a global leader is accurate because the Trump administration sees its "traditional relationships as transactional relationships."

According to Carvin, Americans no longer seem to have a uniform desire for their country to be a global leader.

"As a result, the world can no longer depend on stable American leadership that's willing to bear the costs of that role."

Listen to the full segment at the top of the web post.

This segment was produced by The Current's Liz Hoath, Kristin Nelson and Samira Mohyeddin.