FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL TRADE CANADA
Policy Position Paper
Topic: Canada’s Engagement in the Americas
Name of University or Organization: Carleton University
Name of Course: Public Affairs and Policy Management, International Studies Capstone Seminar
Name of Professor: Prof. David Carment
Date Submitted: Wednesday, November 26, 2008
INTRODUCTION: Canada’s Engagement in the Americas
The broad goals of Canadian engagement in the Americas are laudable. The main concern expressed in
this paper is that it is important not to underestimate the human capital that exists in Latin American
countries. To be effective, Canada’s role in the Americas should be largely supportive – it should focus
on fostering greater opportunities in these countries by improving the capacity of governments and civil
society. Another broad theme was to enable the sharing of experiences and best practices, across
organizations and countries – both from Canada and more locally in various regions of the Americas.
REGIONAL SECURITY IN THE CARIBBEAN
1.1 – The drug trade is a global problem that has numerous, severe, and pervasive implications involving
a wide array of illicit activity. Canada will need to take a two-pronged approach to contribute to crime
prevention in the Caribbean:
First, Canada will need to address drug trafficking and money laundering, which perpetuate crime in these
• Increasing policy collaboration and coherence of Caribbean states by assisting in the development of
a joint protocol on drug trafficking and money laundering;
• Strengthening the capacity of mechanisms such as the Conference of Defence Ministers of the
Americas (possibly through its institutionalization);
• Engaging in security sector reform (may include armed forces, police, judiciary, prison systems, etc.),
• Investing in local crime prevention initiatives and in strengthening civil society; and,
• Supplying resources to the security sector (e.g. technology and equipment)
Second, Canada will also need to adopt a longer term, more comprehensive approach to address the
systemic problem of poverty and social inequality in order to help alleviate some of the underlying causes
of crime. Canada could do this by:
• Providing development assistance to address the longer-term issue of uneven socio-economic
• Deepening mutually favourable trade relations with Caribbean states which would also help with job
creation (e.g. possibly, though not necessarily, through a regional trade agreement);
• Providing greater opportunities for children/youth in the Caribbean to obtain an education through
targeted education funding to Canadian development agencies, and Canadian and local NGOs;
• Creating scholarships dedicated to underprivileged Caribbean youth as well as opportunities for
academic exchanges to Canada;
• Supporting the incorporation of labour skills training into educational programming (e.g. cooperative
education programs); and,
• Investing in small, locally-owned businesses (e.g. by providing micro-credits).
2.1 – Generally speaking, Caribbean governments are not well prepared to respond to natural disasters
and their aftermath. While Cuba has an exemplary natural disaster preparedness and response record,
countries like Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Haiti, do not have the same capacity to
respond to hurricanes and other natural disasters and, as a result, experience significant devastation each
Canada could help to build local capacity in the Caribbean for disaster risk management by:
• Instituting a working group of disaster risk management experts from the Caribbean and Canada to
encourage the sharing of expertise (e.g. best practices, lessons learned, etc.) and services;
o Developing/refining comprehensive national natural disaster/emergency response and
evacuation plans would be a critical agenda item of this conference
• Investing in national and/or local disaster risk management initiatives as well as in critical sectors
such as construction and health care; and,
Providing funding and resources specifically targeted to natural disaster preparedness and response (e.g.
via relevant government ministries, NGO)
THE ROLE OF CIVIL SOCIETY TO PROMOTE AND PROTECT DEMOCRATIC
INSTITUTIONES AND VALUES
1.1 – Traditionally representation within Latin America has been skewed towards the elite and thus has
excluded the needs of the poor who represent the majority within these regions. The practice of
“monopolizing” representation by the economic elite must be deterred by external actors, including
Canada, in order for democracy to be properly consolidated within Latin America. Without doing so,
many citizens will continue to be disenfranchised with the institution of democracy or will continue to
view the system as corrupt, inequitable and unconcerned with their plight.
Canada can help to engage civil society through a variety of supportive initiatives in collaboration with
Latin American officials, such as:
• Identifying, accommodating and including marginalized and minority groups (e.g. the illiterate,
those who do not speak Spanish) in their native tongues
• Organizing events to familiarize/interact civilians with political parties/candidates
• Assisting in the creation of employment opportunities in political campaigns for civilians to gain
a sense of ownership and responsibility in the democratic process
• Creating greater access in various forms of media for isolated communities (mainly television)
• Monitoring the electoral process to ensure accountability
• Reporting unfair practices, especially those by the elite
• Respecting the sovereignty of Latin American political ideals and affairs
Canada must remain impartial, neutral and committed to the actualization of democratically-
elected governments representative of the people. Since the United States has had a historical role in
aiding in the removal of democratically-elected socialist governments, Canada should not put themselves
in a position of an imperialistic-overseer of sovereign Latin American affairs. Canada can guide and work
collaboratively with regional organizations that have a reputation as independent and legitimate in order
to ensure accountability, but they cannot overstep their bounds if the results being obtained are not in line
with the political and economical views of Canada or other Western states. Canada must accept that if
nations within this region choose a socialist government legitimately, then this is their choice; just
because the West does not value socialism doesn’t mean that this is an invalid form of governance.
2.1 – Civil society can facilitate the active participation of citizens with core democratic elements by
providing an avenue through which citizens who want to engage can be accessed and trained. It can also
provide a link between citizens and core democratic elements. It is crucial to differentiate community
organization and participation, from groups that engage with national or other levels of government. A
progression between these two will not always occur naturally. External support can help local
organizations to become involved in national politics.
Civil society and democratic institutions can be mutually reinforcing; by engaging with each other both
will be strengthened. A strong and diverse civil society, can also identify, expose and bring attention to
government corruption. Grassroots organizations can also provide support for political parties, which are
fundamental to stable, and lasting democracies.
• Canada should continue to provide support for local, grassroots organizations. Additionally and
separately, Canada should help local organizations form linkages with other groups, and engage with
the democratic process.
• Canada should support training programs aimed at teaching local activists ways to engage with
democratic institutions and methods of organizing at regional, national and international levels.
• The Canadian government provide support directly, or through Canadian NGO’s.
3.1 – The most important way civil society can be supported to help youth, indigenous people, and
women become involved in political processes is by building capacity. These groups should be supported
within their communities. As suggested above, community groups that already exist or that are
established may need help linking to other groups and learning to engage with government.
Some examples of CIDA programs that address this.
• “Across the Americas, CIDA has established a pilot Indigenous Peoples Partnership Program to build
the capacity of indigenous organizations in partnership with Canadian Aboriginal organizations.”
This partnership has the potential to strengthen all groups involved by sharing strengths and
• “In Andean countries, CIDA support has provided more than 500 women’s organizations with
training in advocacy and monitoring compliance of key gender equality legislation and policies.” This
program enhances the capacity of groups to engage with the legislative process, building on the
organizations existing strengths.
• Similar to the recommendations for civil society question 2, Canada should support Canadian
organizations that partner with local groups and facilitate training programs. These should be targeted
at the groups identified, youth, indigenous people and women.
• Canada should continue the CIDA programs that support these goals.