Ethics and Security in Canadian Foreign Policy


294 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-7748-0862-4
DDC 327.71





Edited by Rosalind Irwin
Reviewed by Grame S. Mount

Graeme S. Mount is a professor of history at Laurentian University. He
is the author of Canada’s Enemies: Spies and Spying in the Peaceable
Kingdom and The History of Fort St. Joseph, and the co-author of
Invisible and Inaudible in Washington: American


Rosalind Irwin and her dozen associates—one American and the others
professors at Canadian universities—study the role of ethics in
Canadian foreign policy. To what extent have recent governments been
practitioners of realpolitik, and to what extent have they exhibited
idealism? Chapters deal with foreign aid, the International Criminal
Court (ICC), the campaign against landmines, the Haitian intervention,
CANDU exports, even the Turbot dispute with Spain. Some of the writers
disagree with each other. Andy Knight of the University of Alberta
praises Lloyd Axworthy for promoting the ICC, but Heather Smith of the
University of Northern British Columbia is not so admiring. She thinks
that in China and Indonesia Canadian economic interests have had
priority over human rights. Dalhousie’s David Black finds Canada’s
human rights policy one of “consistent inconsistency.”

Regarding international assistance, Cranford Pratt of the University of
Toronto asks whether obligations toward non-Canadians have seriously
affected Canadian foreign policy. Since 1977, she says, humanitarian
considerations have not entirely disappeared, but Canadian self-interest
has become increasingly important. In an article about women farmers in
Kenya, three writers charge that Canada’s foremost priority has been
trade. Tom Keating of the University of Alberta demonstrates that
Canadian self-interest is a major reason for Canadian involvement in
Haiti. One Liberal MP warned that as long as living conditions in Haiti
remained unpleasant, Haitians would want to migrate to Canada. The
Canadian government itself wanted to win the good will of francophone
voters in general and Haitian-Canadian voters in particular by appearing
to be active in an area populated by French-speaking Haitians.

As far as CANDU sales are concerned, Duane Bratt of the University of
Calgary is convinced that economic interests have until recently been
more important than considerations of ethics or security. Peter Stoett
of Concordia defends Canada’s turbot war against Spain on the grounds
that preservation of the species should be a higher priority than
respect for outdated international law.

Briefly, ethics has played a role in the shaping of Canadian foreign
policy. Whether that role is as great as it should have been is


“Ethics and Security in Canadian Foreign Policy,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 25, 2024,