Foreign policy 411

By Mike Bowerman

Students with an interest in Canada’s role on the international stage were given insight into the nature of foreign policy last Friday when President of the Canadian Institute for International Affairs Barbara McDougall lectured at the University of Calgary. The CIIA looks at a broad range of global issues and provides a forum for discussion among those who take a particular interest in this vital component of Canadian policy.

"The mission of the CIIA is to interest Canadians in foreign policy," said McDougall. "[We meant to] raise the level of debate on foreign policy in the public so Canadians are informed and excited about Canada’s role in the world and the influence of the world on Canada."

To this end, the lecture on foreign policy issues covered all major regions in the world and included issues ranging from military security to the environment and economics.

Students were surveyed on Canada’s participation in the United States’ proposed National Missile Defence program, a controversial military endeavour that would require substantial increases in Canada’s defence spending. Depending on the outcome of the U.S. presidential election, Canada could face significant external pressure to join the American initiative.

In the past, the CIIA tended to disseminate information and provide a forum for discussion, but it is moving in more activist directions.

"Just in the last year, [we] broadened our mandate to include influencing the policy process," McDougall noted. "We’ve always provided some input in terms of public opinion, now we want to have a much more substantive impact on the policy process, so we’re doing policy papers though not necessarily taking sides on an issue."

The institute’s lengthy history precedes its 1928 inception and it has established itself nationwide.

"The CIIA has 12 branches across Canada, including here at the
U of C where [Dean of Social Sciences] Stephen Randall heads the program," said McDougall.

A Nov. 24-26 symposium in Montréal on culture and Canadian foreign policy is the institute’s next major event, with forums including prominent political, media and academic figures. Students are encouraged to participate in this and other CIIA events and activities.

"Student opportunities are in volunteering," noted McDougall. "Being affiliated with the CIIA shows employers you have a long standing interest in foreign affairs that extends beyond the classroom."