Lib­er­als to lay out for­eign pol­icy next month; Free­land calls it ‘canola’ plan


WASHINGTON — Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau has tasked his for­eign min­is­ter with de­liv­er­ing a ma­jor speech lay­ing out the gov­ern­ment’s ap­proach to in­ter­na­tional af­fairs on all its key pil­lars: De­vel­op­ment, diplo­macy, de­fence and trade.

The speech by Chrys­tia Free­land early next month will set the broad con­text be­fore the gov­ern­ment an­nounces its long-awaited de­fence pol­icy re­view June 7, lay­ing out the big­ger pic­ture be­fore the mil­i­tary specifics.

“This is our 150th year (as a coun­try),” Free­land said in an in­ter­view. “The prime min­is­ter feels that now is a great mo­ment for us to give Cana­di­ans that broader, con­nect-the-dots ex­pres­sion of the ways in which we are work­ing to ad­vance our na­tional in­ter­ests — and ad­vance our na­tional val­ues.”

Free­land made the com­ment on the top floor of the Cana­dian em­bassy in Washington, over­look­ing the U.S. Capi­tol dome. But she was adamant: The speech would not be about con­trast­ing Canada with its south­ern neigh­bour.

She il­lus­trated her point with a farm­ing metaphor — and the need for a home­grown for­eign pol­icy, emerg­ing from Canada’s spe­cific na­tional con­di­tions. It’s a metaphor close to home for her, based on a crop her fa­ther farms in Al­berta.

“It’s canola,” she said. “It is a na­tive plant, na­tive to Cana­dian soil.”

Sources ex­pect the speech to ex­tol the mer­its of open so­ci­eties, open trade, plu­ral­ism and the pro­mo­tion of hu­man rights. Such rhetoric would in­evitably prompt com­par­isons with Canada’s next door neigh­bour.

In Washington, some of those ideas have fallen out of fash­ion. In the na­tion­al­ist, America-First zeit­geist, open trade, open bor­ders and the prop­a­ga­tion of na­tional val­ues abroad are not the stuff of fed­eral cab­i­net speeches.

Don­ald Trump pro­poses ma­jor cuts to diplo­macy and aid. His in­au­gu­ral ad­dress ex­pressed re­gret at all the for­eign high­ways and armies built with U.S. tax dol­lars. He’s even been re­luc­tant to crit­i­cize abuses by strong­man lead­ers in Turkey, the Philip­pines, and Rus­sia.

Take the events un­fold­ing across town Tues­day while Free­land was visit­ing Canada’s em­bassy.

Guards for Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Re­cep Er­do­gan were rough­ing up protesters — in Washington, D.C., out­side the Turk­ish em­bassy. Yet the U.S. gov­ern­ment was as muted about it as it had been about Rus­sia’s sus­pected in­ter­fer­ence in France’s elec­tion.

A few days af­ter that in­ci­dent, two se­nior Rus­sian of­fi­cials got an in­vite to the Oval Of­fice.

Still, Free­land in­sists the speech won’t be about com­par­ing and con­trast­ing with the neigh­bour. She sup­ple­ments the canola metaphor by slam­ming two fists on a ta­ble: “Our for­eign pol­icy stands on its own two feet.”

The speech will be a broad pre­lude to a spe­cific an­nounce­ment: a long-awaited mil­i­tary pol­icy re­view now ex­pected June 7. The Lib­er­als be­gan work­ing on it soon af­ter they took of­fice, and have be­gun pre­sent­ing it to al­lies. The process was led by De­fence Min­is­ter Har­jit Sa­j­jan — he was with Free­land this week as they dined with their U.S. coun­ter­parts Rex Tiller­son and James Mat­tis.

Now it’s time to com­mu­ni­cate clearly with Cana­di­ans about the risks ahead, Free­land said.

Canada is about to de­ploy hun­dreds of sol­diers to Latvia and will lead a NATO bat­tle group there. Mil­i­tary of­fi­cials have al­ready said they ex­pect Cana­di­ans might be tar­geted in a Rus­sian cy­ber­war­fare cam­paign.

Free­land can per­son­ally at­test to that. She’s al­ready been sanc­tioned by Rus­sia, placed on a no-travel list, and ref­er­ences keep pop­ping up in so­cial me­dia to her grand­fa­ther hav­ing edited a pro-Nazi news­pa­per in oc­cu­pied Poland.

Free­land said Cana­di­ans should un­der­stand the threat of a new hy­brid war­fare — one that fuses mil­i­tary ca­pa­bil­ity with cy­ber­at­tacks. She’s re­peat­edly dis­cussed it with in­ter­na­tional col­leagues.

But she says there are risks for stand­ing up for NATO and for the sanc­tity of bor­ders in east­ern Europe — which she called a cor­ner­stone of the in­ter­na­tional or­der since the Sec­ond World War.

“Step­ping up to a chal­lenge al­ways ex­poses you to risks — oth­er­wise it wouldn’t be step­ping up. We need to be mind­ful of those risks. We need to be mind­ful of the new chal­lenges that hy­brid war­fare poses,” Free­land said.

“I am con­fi­dent that we are re­silient. … I’m con­fi­dent that our coun­try is up to the chal­lenge.”


For­eign Af­fairs Min­is­ter Chrys­tia Free­land has been tasked with de­liv­er­ing a ma­jor speech lay­ing out the gov­ern­ment’s ap­proach to in­ter­na­tional af­fairs.

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