Remarks by Paul Dewar, MP on Canada's role in the world
February 10th, 2012
A few months ago I met an opposition Member of Parliament from Zimbabwe.
She is in her early 50’s. Her whole life, she has been fighting for freedom, dignity and justice.
And I mean fighting: she has been beaten, raped and jailed.
She told me they locked her into her house and set it on fire. She fled by jumping out the top window of her house.
But she will not stand down until she defeats Mugabe. She, and millions of women and men like her, will not stand down until they win freedom, dignity and justice for all.
I’m Paul Dewar. Also a Member of Parliament. I'm running for the leadership of the New Democratic Party.
I too am fighting for a better world – for a stronger and more caring Canada. For a society where we take better care of each other. For a future to believe in.
Like you, I have the privilege of living in one of the world’s best countries on the planet.
In my fight for a better world, I will never have to face the battles that Thabitha faces.
Working with people like Thabitha reminds you of the privilege we have, as Canadians and as a politician.
With that privilege comes the responsibility to stand in solidarity with people like Thabitha.
With that privilege comes the responsibility to take leadership.
That’s why I want Canada to be a responsible leader in our changing world.
That’s why I want us to project a bold and ambitious agenda for cooperation. To build a more compassionate, peaceful and sustainable world.
A generation ago, Canada was known for its internationalism.
We punched above our weight.
We created the modern concept of UN peacekeeping.
We fought against apartheid.
The world came to Ottawa to create a treaty banning landmines.
We didn't shrug off acid rain as a fact of life – we took action.
Sitting between two super-powers with thousands of nuclear warheads pointing at each other didn't deter us. We boldly stood our ground and said no to nuclear proliferation.
As Canadians, we could always disagree with each other on any single issue. But we were united behind a Canadian consensus in our values.
Now, it is with some malaise that we speak about Canada’s role in the world.
Under Mr. Harper’s government we’ve lost our way.
There is no clear principle underpinning our foreign policy.
The orders of the day are ideological quibbles and partisan point scoring. Not consensus building and cooperation.
That’s not our Canada.
Our Canada is not small-minded and mean.
When I met Thabitha, when I visited the Democratic Republic of the Congo, when I saw firsthand the ravages of war in Iraq and in Afghanistan, I thought about my own country.
What must Canada do?
And I know no Canadian can face these horrors and shrug them off.
I truly feel that there’s a generosity of spirit in this country. And I deeply feel that your generation is thirsting to pull together and make a real international impact.
In a strong way, that impact has to be felt through the rejuvenation of Canadian capacity to be a leader in multilateralism.
It has to be felt by projecting our social democratic values globally.
Here’s what I mean in practical terms:
As Prime Minister, conflict prevention will be the essence of my foreign policy. A responsible Canada in a changing world must mediate, not militarize, conflicts.
Let’s end the chicanery and grandstanding of the current government. Canada can and must achieve its objectives by convincing the world of our positions.
Look at the current tensions with Iran.
Mr. Harper is engaged in reckless and provocative rhetoric from the sidelines. We must be firm in our opposition to nuclear proliferation. But heated rhetoric only advances the agenda of the Iranian regime. I'm convinced the regime wishes for a conflict in order to bolster its waning support among the Iranian population. A war will be disastrous to regional stability and will unleash horrors of human suffering right across the region.
As Leader of the Official Opposition, you can count on me to oppose Canadian engagement in a war with Iran.
What would I do instead?
I would create a Centre for Peacebuilding and Human Security with a dedicated pool of experts to deliver practical and interdisciplinary responses to human security threats. Threats like conflict, famine, humanitarian disasters, large-scale human rights violations, and environmental degradation.
This centre will harness the expertise of civil servants as well as Canadian academics and recognized practitioners from civil society—many of whom have frontline experience in the world’s trouble spots.
Let’s make Ottawa the place where the world comes to find peace and alternatives to war. Let’s take leadership on nuclear disarmament and on small arms treaty to prevent wars.
Should prevention fail, I would be committed to the principle of Responsibility to Protect—the moral obligation to intervene to protect civilian lives where a domestic government is unwilling or unable to do so.
My government would assess Canadian involvement on a case-by-case basis, giving consideration only to missions with a clear United Nations mandate. And the decision would always face the test of a full parliamentary debate, vote and committee oversight, including quarterly reviews of Canada's involvement.
Investing in diplomacy is also important when it comes to our relationship with the US.
The United States will always be our most integrated partner in diplomacy and trade. But our influence in Washington depends on our diplomatic influence everywhere else in the world. If we rejuvenated our diplomatic strength, if we were bold, ambitious and independent in our dealings with the world, Washington will look to Ottawa for solutions.
A responsible Canada in a changing world will recommit to reducing global poverty.
Mr. Harper is cutting our international development budget. And the department is in disarray with an ideological government that doesn’t believe in poverty eradication – at home or abroad.
I will set Canada on course to meeting our longstanding target of devoting 0.7% of Canada’s Gross National Income to official development, through achievable incremental steps while meeting our own debt obligations.
Furthermore, I will graduate our development agency to the level of a full department with a clear mandate for poverty eradication. And I will implement rigorous mechanisms for accountability including for our contributions to the World Bank.
I would give this new department the independence to implement policy that is evidence based, not driven by narrow ideological agendas. For example I would immediately end the ban on funding for organizations that provide women with a full range of options for family planning and reproductive health care.
Let’s build our development capacity – and let’s stand up for human rights by leading an international campaign to end the death penalty.
A more equal world is also a safer world. A more sustainable world is a more secure world. Every dollar spent on aid and development has a greater impact on protecting our common security than military expenditure.
Women are the greatest asset in the struggle for economic growth, equality and democracy.
All roads lead from women to social change. When women have access to power and education, communities are safer, populations are healthier and the economy is more equal.
That’s why those who want to destroy communities have made the bodies of women the front-lines of modern warfare. That’s why rape is increasingly used as a pre-meditated strategy of war in places like the Congo to break down communities and take away the rich resources they live on.
These horrific attacks are a threat to our human security. They are unconscionable and they must be stopped.
Under my leadership, women’s empowerment will be at the centre of our diplomatic and development agenda.
I want Canada to lead an international campaign for Just Minerals: to end the trade of conflict minerals that sustain the horrific violence against women in the Great Lakes region of Africa.
We will make the economic, educational and democratic empowerment of women and girls a core focus of Canada's development policy.
We will recruit and train women in peacekeeping and peacebuilding, with the resources necessary to end sexual and gender-based violence, strengthen prevention capacity and improve response and support for survivors.
Women are not only victims—they are also critical to peacebuilding efforts. To this end a central plank of Canada’s international diplomacy will be to ensure women have a meaningful role in peace processes. Lasting peace can never be found if more than half of the population is systematically denied its right to participation.
Responsible leadership is leadership that recognizes climate change is the greatest threat to our collective existence.
Mr. Harper has no plan to reduce Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions. He plays a spoiler role in international negotiations on climate change.
Under my leadership, Canada will become an honest partner in tackling climate change.
I will build Canada’s credibility by respecting international commitments, embracing multilateralism, and recognizing the centrality of climate change to our shared survival and economic prosperity.
I will be an active participant in global negotiations on climate change. And I will not shirk our responsibility by hiding behind the complexities of global negotiations.
At my first G20 meeting, I will ask other G20 leaders to expand our focus on climate change and find a consensus.
Progress at G20 will mean a head-start at global negotiations. We are the countries that produce the vast majority of the emissions – and we are the countries with the economic capacity to take action. It's time for responsible leadership.
A responsible Canada conducts responsible trade.
Free trade agreements between Canada and other countries must reflect not only a strong political or economic relationship – but shared values and global objectives.
We need a responsible trade policy that protects Canadian sovereignty over local and national decisions.
A responsible trade policy that reserves strengthened trade for countries that demonstrate measurable commitments to human rights standards. Those countries that abuse human rights will not be rewarded with preferential trade with Canada.
My government will actively champion Canadian businesses abroad that play by Canadian rules and laws—this includes responsible environmental and labour standards.
After implementing strong corporate social responsibility legislation, Canadian companies operating abroad will be known for their high standards of CSR. Those complicit in serious illegality abroad—be it corruption or human rights abuses—will be barred from receiving government support, including generous financing arrangements from Crown agencies such as Export Development Canada, for a 10-year period.
Canada also needs to level the playing field. Charity is nice, but economic justice is better. We will use our position in the G8 to end one of the biggest impediments to economic growth in poor countries—unequal trade barriers. Canada should lead by example by lifting these barriers on least developed countries that have committed to, or have a demonstrated record of, democracy, respect for human rights and the Rule of Law.
When our investments abroad contribute to violations of human rights and environmental degradation, business as usual is not an option.
This is what responsible leadership in a changing world will mean:
Preventing conflicts and promoting peace.
Reducing poverty and promoting human rights
Tackling climate change head on
Pursuing responsible trade.
I know that Canadians are ready to be bold and ambitious.
This is why I’m seeking the leadership of my party. This is why I want to become your Prime Minister.
Next time I see Thabitha, I want to say that Canada stands with her and millions like her fighting for their freedom.
Next time I go to the Congo, I want to see real progress on the ground.
Next time I'm in the Middle East, I want to help the peace process.
I want to see an end to violence against women and I want to see an end to the death penalty.
If you share my determination to see Canada as a leader in building a better world,
If you share my determination to protect and project our social democratic values,
If you share my determination to tackle climate change, to build a more compassionate and peaceful world…
I want you to join me in this campaign for a stronger and more caring Canada.