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Engaging Diasporas in Foreign Policy

Page history last edited by Trevor 10 years, 8 months ago

Facilitated by John Monahan of the Mosaic Institute of Toronto

Time: 1:00-3:00pm

Room: 1500*, SFU Harbour Centre

*Note room change!


Summary: This session will be a facilitated group roundtable discussion to consider three broad, interrelated questions.

  1. What role should diaspora communities living in Canada play in the formulation, delivery and/or enhancement of Canadian foreign policy with respect to peacebuilding, conflict resolution, and international development?
  2. What strategies can be employed to encourage diaspora communities in Canada to become more actively involved in contributing to Canada's foreign policy with respect to international peace and development?
  3. What are the most effective mechanisms for ensuring foreign policy related ideas and proposals of Canadian members of diaspora communities are incorporated into Canada's official foreign policy?

Can we provide three recommendations, one relating to each question?

Let's begin!



John's happy to be here and glad the weather's nice; is this really Vancouver? Thrilled people have showed up for the discussion. John's not the expert, we all are. This is an area of foreign policy that changes the foundations and affects all aspects of the policy. This is really about examining how we create our foreign policy. Who's involved? Are we making use of comparative advantages? Our ethnocultural diversity. We've worked conscientiously for a few decades to foster diversity and immigration. The result is a multicultural pool of potential regional experts, which we rarely take advantage of. *Refer to the three questions above.* Basically, how can we connect our decision makers with our citizen experts?


Everyone knows Canada is beautiful, but multiculturalism seems to scare people. How many worldwide know that Canada is multicultural? Why does multiculturalism frighten people? Is multiculturalism superficial, a catchy advertising slogan or does it accurately reflect Canada? In Toronto, just under 50% were born outside Canada! Across Canada it's about 20%. That's not taking into account parents or grandparents. How many can say their lineage can be traced back more than a few generations? In terms of foreign policy, we have not taken advantage of our multicultural capacity for well defined and realistic policies. Should our policies be made in upper Boardrooms when our local shops are filled with those experienced in the different regions of the world.



No one here is speaking on behalf of their organization, but as individuals with valued opinions. Everyone says "hi" (representatives from CIDA (http://www.acdi-cida.gc.ca/home), Global Stewartship (http://www.capilanou.ca/programs/global-stewardship/about.html), CUSO-VSO (http://www.cuso.org/?setlang=/), and many more) and many state various questions or thoughts they have related to the issue (generally too fast to record). Some concerns are: is the issue representing diasporas in policy or government? What can I do to help? Diasporas are more than Muslim movements. The three questions are good: role, strategy, and mechanisms. Worries about the brain drain going on around the world. Also, someone thought diaspora with a capital D (Diaspora) could only refer to the Jewish diaspora; there are various schools of thought.



The Zeitgeist is changing. Increased talk of engaging citizens in creating foreign policy (among others). Even in the business sector (eg. MASS LBP) there are initiatives showing that it can even be profitable. Let's not wait for the government to catch-up to the public; it's public policy, the public can create it. Canada's World dialogues.


Canadians are connected to their world; 67% feel a personal connection to a region or country outside of Canada. Canadians send five times as much money overseas as CIDA's entire budget! Canadian's are also thinking about what it means to be a citizen. What does it mean to be Canadian? (Canada's World Poll, 2008; http://www.canadasworld.ca/


Background of the Mosaic Institute

The Mosaic Institute is an action-oriented think tank that harnesses the connections, knowledge and resources of Canada’s ethnocultural communities to advance Canadian solutions and promote peace and development in conflict-ridden or under-developed parts of our world. Based in Toronto, one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world, the Mosaic Institute believes that the knowledge, resources and global connections of passionate Canadians from all corners of the globe have the potential to change our world. These “citizen experts” are uniquely positioned to enhance Canada’s global commitment to the advancement of peace and development.

     The Mosaic Institute is guided in its work by the following values and beliefs:

  1. Canada’s ethnocultural diversity is one of the defining characteristics of Canadian society, and it is one of Canada’s foremost competitive advantages in an increasingly globalized world.
  2. It is fundamental to the Canadian identity to be a promoter and builder of peace.
  3. Peace is not just the absence of conflict, but also a state of being that is free from systemic want and deprivation.
  4. It is always the right time to pursue peace; fatigue, pessimism and fatalism are all the enemies of peace.
  5. Canada has a globally-recognized capability as a peacemaker nation and as a mediatory middle-power committed to confronting a wide variety of regional and multilateral conflicts and other impediments to peace.
  6. As a result of its long record as a promoter of peace, Canada has accumulated significant "diplomatic capital" in the global community.
  7. Canada has both an opportunity and an obligation to set an example for other countries by expending more of its substantial diplomatic capital in the promotion of international peace and justice.
  8. It is appropriate and important for Canadians to be actively involved in helping to shape and influence the content of Canada's foreign policy.
  9. Canadians from parts of the world beset by conflict or suffering from under-development are particularly well-placed to influence Canada’s foreign policy and to engage directly in peacebuilding and development activities focused on their countries of origin.
  10. In order for peace to replace conflict, we must embrace and celebrate difference and diversity, and work both in Canada and abroad to build bridges of understanding among different peoples.


See their website at http://www.mosaicinstitute.ca/



May not be exact or in agreement with everyone's specific definition, however, these definitions will be the foundation for our discussions.

Diaspora: a group with a common ethnocultural identity that has taken up permanent residence outside its traditional homeland, often as a result of having been displaced by factors beyond its choosing or control.

Foreign policy: the aggregate of the priorities, policies, and programs of the Government of Canada concerning Canada's relationship with both state and non-state actors around the world, with a focus on peacebuilding, conflict resolution, and international development.

Role: a part played or a function carried out.

Strategies: plans and approaches for achieving a desired end.

Mechanisms: organizational entities or processes by which something is done or comes into being.


Key Questions

Breaking into groups. Previous questions are only suggestions and groups can modify them or make their ownA series of sub-questions for each was presented to kickstart discussionGroups will come back in a half-hour with a summary of their roundtable.

Who found the topics became more complicated than they anticipated? Everyone, except one: "I began thinking it was hopelessly complicated."

  1. What role should diaspora communities living in Canada play in the formulation, delivery and/or enhancement of Canadian foreign policy with respect to peacebuilding, conflict resolution, and international development?

    Key Ideas: It's hard talking about what it means to be a diaspora in Canada. Diaspora members should lead by example and show what multicultural Canada really is, embodying what it means to be cultural ambassadors and upstanding citizens. Canada, in turn, should assist and provide opportunities for our culturally diverse population. Further the government should foster collaboration in communities and ask these questions of both members of diasporas and other community members. This leads to honesty, in regards to cultural baggage, as diaspora members - rarely neutral - can often push for the continuance of conflicts past those living with the reality of them.

  2. What strategies can be employed to encourage diaspora communities in Canada to become more actively involved in contributing to Canada's foreign policy with respect to international peace and development?

    Key Ideas: An increase in grassroots, citizen dialogues that provide a large cross-section feeding of ideas to legitimate outcomes and recommendations (for gov't), which is more representational than soliciting ideas only from well-funded, organized groups. Is the House of Commons representational and legitimate? Choose one; How can we improve it's representation or legitimizing more untraditional forms of representation and other mediums outside of Parliament? Who should pay for the implementation of such strategies? A public-private partnership is better than exclusive independent or controlled government funding. Further, those creating these processes should have a vested interest in their success and therefore should take part in funding efforts - possibly (rather than throwing money at them that they have no reason to account for). Expand invitations to the broader community; Rarely do citizens reject an invitations, rarely do they receive them.

  3. What are the most effective mechanisms for ensuring foreign policy related ideas and proposals of Canadian members of diaspora communities are incorporated into Canada's official foreign policy?

    Key Ideas: We don't know what they are, but we should make them better. Seriously; rather than throwing the baby out with the bathwater and starting again, we should take the current institutions and re-tool them. To begin, we should focus on the outputs of the process. What are we trying to do: create an understanding of what it means to multicultural or representing the view of each diaspora? Are the lessons of multiculturalism important or representing each individual voice, regardless of content? When we collect this information and pass it off, how do we know the ultimate authority won't cherry-pick the data (and within the collection, each voice) within their own perspective and use it mistakenly? The outcomes may be important, but remember that it remains a process-oriented system existing to generate the best output.

         To make matters more complicated, should Canada maintain a set of core values or should this process allow for a more fluid set of Canadian values as diasporas have their say? Should immigrants be required to integrate into Canadian society, or should they change it? The biggest challenge in this discussion is what happens when the accepted rights of one culture (Canada) butts heads with the rights of the other. Collective vs Individual rights. Examples include the kirpan (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kirpan#Canada) and Sharia law (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sharia).

         Are diasporas not Canada's strength? Are Canadian values worth more or less than the values of the diasporas? The courts decide, based on the rule of law (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rule_of_law), what practices fall under the protection of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms (http://laws.justice.gc.ca/en/charter/), etc. as part of our Social Contract (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_contract). Are our laws representative of our values? Are our laws our values? Our values codified in our laws? Or not? We are an open, intelligent society; can these values (and therefore laws) not change over time? Negotiation happens, but it can take time. The composition of Canada will change over time and, with that, so will Canadian values and Government laws (even if our particular/individual values will not).


Thanks for coming!


Please remember that this is a summary of the discussion and that there was much dissent or otherwise differing views, as well as agreement. This is not the final word, just a starting place for more discussion in the hopes of finding a future solution.

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