Canada as a Principal Power: A Study in Foreign Policy and International Relations


478 pages
Contains Illustrations, Index
ISBN 0-471-79885-1




Reviewed by Barry M. Gough

Barry M. Gough is a history professor at Wilfrid Laurier University and
author of The Northwest Coast: British Navigation, Trade, and
Discoveries to 1812.


This is a brilliant, new synthesis of Canada’s role as a power — as a principal power! It adds mightily to our understanding of our foreign policies in the post-Pearson era, for it argues most cogently that “Canada has evolved from a middle power as it was designated in the St. Laurent-Pearson days, to a principal power acting in ways that combine its commitment to a functioning, stable international system with the pursuit of policies reflecting Canada-based interests. This profile of external behaviour conforms closely to the complex neo-realist perspective of Canada as a significant actor in an increasingly diffuse international system” (p.115).

Students of Canadian foreign policy will find this attractively published work of special value because not only does it explain the dimensions of an active national foreign policy in the Trudeau era (in the form of shaping the world order on Canadian terms) but because it provides well-researched profiles on the nature of the international world order, the history of international affairs since 1947 from a Canadian point of view, and the main features of population, energy, and trade in the more recent past. It also includes case studies of Canadian foreign policy: on refugees (from Hungarian to Indochinese), on international space activities, on national energy policies, and on the Middle East.

This book was very well worth doing. It is not only a useful teaching tool but a provocative and welcome assessment of the means, patterns, and prospects of Canadian foreign-policy-making well into the 1980s.


DeWitt, David B., and John J. Kirton, “Canada as a Principal Power: A Study in Foreign Policy and International Relations,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 21, 2024,