Feature

Canada: Embracing middleweight status

Canada now sees itself as part of a new international clique of “middle powers.”

Paul Wells
Macleans

Canada now sees itself as part of a new international clique of “middle powers,” said Paul Wells.Ever since the Conservative government of Stephen Harper was re-elected last year, it has been massaging relations with a handful of countries—Turkey, Indonesia, Nigeria, and Vietnam. Foreign Minister John Baird has been traveling to their capitals and inviting their foreign ministers here, and trade agreements are under negotiation. What do they have in common? “Like so many far-flung Canadas,” all of them are “big regional players with bright economic futures.” And except for Vietnam—which is important for its location near China—they all have large Muslim populations. The government’s initiative is an important recognition of the fact that some 1.6 billion people in the world are Muslim, and it announces “the slightly more surprising news that the Harper government has decided it cannot forever work around them.” Canada can’t exert significant influence all by itself, or by staying in the shadow of the U.S. If it is to matter, it must partner with other emerging players. “To paraphrase Wayne Gretzky,” said Baird’s press secretary, Rick Roth, “you have to go to where the puck is going to be, not where it is.”

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