A Citizens Design Brief for Canadian Foreign Policy

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What do Canadian citizens believe to be a socially and culturally responsible foreign policy?

How should Canada conduct herself realistically in the complex future of international relations?

What ought to be the most critical objectives for Canada’s social license to act in global affairs?

We continue our Canadian peacefinding series with a dialogue to co-create foreign policy principles and proposals for a complex 21s century society. Almost 15 years ago, my colleague Dr. Liss Jeffrey with her organization By Design eLab led a pan-Canadian civil society dialogue under the auspices of Foreign Affairs to engage citizens from across Canada in contributing to a citizen’s response to a new Canadian foreign policy stance.  This was a unique undertaking in that it was based on both collocated citizen engagements, synchronous connection across the country, and digital contributions from participants in an integrated consultation process.

Today there is also little transparency or clarity in Canadian foreign policy objectives and leadership. After nearly a decade of hitching foreign policy to global trade agreements and US/NATO military support missions, Canada has lost its leadership and (many believe) its reputation.  as a moderating and peace-oriented balance to extreme militarism and ethnic violence in troubled nations No administration since 2003 has reconnected with the citizens to understand our positions, concerns, or proposals for a Canadian foreign policy that reflected citizen concerns, or at least to some extent, a more democratic (and less elite-driven) model of foreign relations.  There have been formal debates, but no citizen engagement.

Between “Atlanticist” think tanks, an decades-long impenetrable Washington consensus on our designated enemies, and a corporate-concentrated Canadian (and Anglo-American) media – our foreign relations have been colonized entirely by elite club members with opaque agendas. Our news presents few alternative positions among its editorials and reporting on allies, adversarial relationships, terrorism, or human rights. We are constantly surrounded by authoritative voices proclaiming the dominant narrative, and the alternative narratives and values are brushed aside.

Foreign policy is as much a domain for grassroots citizen participation as indigenous affairs, labour relations, healthcare, or education. Perhaps even more, since bad foreign relations decisions disrupt the futures of our families and children and relationships with other cultures. In this session we will construct (an outline or draft) a citizen’s policy brief following dialogic design principles. Possible outcomes could include:

  • Proposing a mandate for an honourable and transparent diplomacy model – Supported by Track II diplomacy between cultures.
  • Identifying a set of clear guidelines for the proposals to endorse war or state violence.
  • Articulating a mandate for decolonization of Canadian government interests, ensuring corporate and special interests are not colonizing (determining) the marginalization of rights and freedoms anywhere in the world.
  • Providing for a clear path of state representation that fully includes Indigenous people, as rights holders to treaty lands of Canada, in diplomatic and foreign affairs decision making.
  • Positive relationships based on Canada’s support of indigenous people and cultures everywhere.

We will close by defining actions and possible outcomes consistent with participant proposals. These may include editorial writing and citizen participation in hearings, forming alliances with other grassroots groups concerned with decolonizing our foreign policy, and sponsoring a continuing dialogue series on the issues.

Join us Wed April 12 from 6:00 – 9:00 for this first foreign policy dialogue. Register on Eventbrite for (a limited number of) free tickets.


Peter Jones and graduate students from the Strategic Foresight and Innovation program at OCAD University will convene and document this dialogue. An adaptive dialogic design method will be employed to facilitate the session, which is considered an “open stakeholder” Agora dialogue model.