From the late 1940s through to early in this century, Canada enjoyed a reputation as a determined, capable and effective internationalist. Regardless of which party formed the government, this country actively engaged with other peoples and states in the in the pursuit of collaborative solutions to the world’s major problems and challenges. From the founding of the UN, post-war reconstruction and the Suez crisis to non-proliferation issues, protection of the global commons and working to address the plight of children in conflict, Canada was always present, and, when appropriate, ready to lead.
As Canada’s relative power and influence inevitably declined with the recovery of Europe and Asia and the emergence of China, India, Brazil and others, the scale of Canadian activism was down-sized. Grand, long-term goals such as eradicating poverty and bringing peace to the world gradually gave way to to smaller, “niche” projects such as the land mine ban, conflict diamonds and the construction of innovative new doctrines such as the Responsibility to Protect. The nature of Canadian internationalism changed with the times, and public diplomacy was mobilized to advance the likes of Human Security Agenda, but a core commitment to internationalism endured.
Today, little remains of that tradition, and international policy decision-making seems related mainly to the quest for future electoral advantage.