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Reinventing our role in the world – from the Serious Canada series

A new geopolitical order is taking shape. The globe is rapidly realigning under American and Chinese spheres of influence and the pandemic has only raised the stakes. How can Canada finally get serious about its internal stability and external security so it can effectively play a role as a middle power? That is the question this National Post series will answer. Today, Avi Abraham Benlolo on the kind of Canada we can build by 2050.

Avi Abraham Benlolo: We need to be assertive, expand our international presence and re-friend our traditional allies

Author of the article:

National Post & Avi Abraham Benlolo

Publishing date:

Sep 25, 2020  •  Last Updated 5 hours ago  •  4 minute read

Parliament Hill is seen in Ottawa in a file photo from May 18, 2020. PHOTO BY JUSTIN TANG/THE CANADIAN PRESS


By Avi Abraham Benlolo

Reinventing our role in the world – from the Serious Canada series

Somewhere along the way, we forgot to be proud of our great nation. We lost our national identity. We became confused about who we are as a nation and where we are going. In our vastness, we somehow lost our national character and became rudderless and more self-interested.

The next prime minister not only needs to work harder at bringing all Canadians together, he or she needs to zero-in on the very meaning of being Canadian and make it actionable. Our combined identity must be more than beer, beavertails and scenic landscapes. We need a comprehensive business plan that engages all citizens about the Canada they want to see by 2050 and a fundamental reinvention of our role in the world.


Canadians are generally a quiet bunch in comparison with our neighbours down south or across the pond in say, France or Belarus. But while we still have a chance to shape our future, it’s time for us to say enough is enough with scandals, deceptions and empty promises. They are there to obfuscate from the fact we have lost our way, especially on the world stage. We need to arm ourselves with a clear sense of priorities before they get shaped for us by other players and forces.


Where once we stood tall against communism and proudly with our NATO allies and our peacekeeping missions, today our foreign policy essentially rests on how much money we can spend around the world. But with U.S. dominance in transition, how are we preparing to protect ourselves in a more chaotic world order? Rather than strengthening our national defence with top-of-the-line equipment like  F-35s to give us military edge, we devalue our national interests by purchasing used planes, subs and helicopters. How will we defend our north against Russian incursion?


Having lost our bid for a seat on the UN Security Council, we turned inward instead of putting our vision forward in foreign affairs. We can still engage in multilateralism with like-minded nations and re-energize our foreign policy in areas we excel in — including human rights, climate change, peace, refugees and non-proliferation treaties for weapons of mass destruction. At the same time, we need to forward-think and engage in the digital revolution and new technologies and create global policies around cyber-technology.


The coronavirus pandemic and a prorogued Parliament has turned our attention inward. But the day after COVID-19 is quickly approaching. What will our place in the world be? Will we keep ignoring critical international developments like the recent Israel-UAE-Bahrain peace agreement that was signed at the White House? Canadian television stations gave little live coverage of this historic event — shutting out Canadians from participating in this critical dialogue.


Aside from negotiating trade agreements with the U.S. administration, we appear to be misaligned with our greatest friend and neighbour. With democracy under threat, a Russia that is flexing its muscle, and new technologies spreading false information like viruses, this is the time to strengthen our relationship with America. And given our shared values and interests, we should be working together in all things, especially a COVID-19 vaccine.


Instead, we feel more alone each day. This week’s throne speech mostly focused inward and touched only in passing on Canada’s intent to create and maintain “bilateral and multilateral relationships to advance peace and economic prosperity.” While calling for Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor to be brought home, we failed to condemn China for its arbitrary arrests and its repression of the Uyghurs and its own citizens in Hong Kong.


China will come to the table if we strengthen our position and communicate effectively. As a start, we must stop sending contradictory messages and proudly reaffirm our belief in democracy and human rights. The revelation, for example, about secret talks with the repressive North Korean regime to open an embassy in Pyongyang shows we might be willing to tolerate unsavoury nations. At one point, we even considered reopening our embassy in Tehran. The pursuit of alliances with despots who promote terror and nuclearization hurt our brand as a peaceful nation.


We need to begin imagining a post-COVID world with Canada’s reinvented role within it. It’s time to reinvigorate our global affairs to mobilize international coalitions and navigate a new position — a new vision that brings national pride. Canada can build new alliances in Africa, in the Middle East and in South America. As a First World powerhouse, we can strive for economic independence and sustainability and work towards standing up for ourselves.


The world is a mess and this can be our opportunity to lead. America and Europe are struggling with political, racial and economic divisions. Africa is fighting poverty, crime and conflict while the Middle East is a tinderbox for extremists. In this, Canada can emerge as a global leader. We have a chance to seize this moment by realigning our brand and vision. We need to be assertive, expand our international presence and re-friend our traditional allies while developing military might. That kind of vigour will unify Canadians, promote national identity and put us back on the world stage.



https://nationalpost.com/opinion/reinventing-our-role-in-the-world-from-the-serious-canada-series

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