Canada’s World

A Citizens’ Dialogue

Canada’s World is a three-year citizens’ dialogue focused on advancing a new vision for Canadian international policy.   Canada’s World is not an organization, but a collaborative non-partisan, non-ideological initiative of Canada’s leading scholars, business, diaspora, ethnocultural and civil society leaders, youth, retired diplomats and senior public servants who are active in international programming, research, education and public policy development.

The aim of Canada’s World is to engage Canadians in creating a new narrative for Canadian international policy.  Unlike traditional policy reviews and consultations led by government, this initiative is funded by individuals, businesses, international organizations and foundations who wish to enhance Canada’s international reputation and who seek to inspire citizens to articulate and advance a new international policy for Canada – a policy that builds on Canadian interests, values and assets; demonstrates a strong understanding of the complexities of international relations; acknowledges the multiplicity of actors involved in international policy; addresses some of the key global challenges; reflects the diversity of Canadian society and, is future-oriented, compelling and effective.


Why do we need a citizen’s dialogue on Canada’s international policy?

1.1  The gap between perception and reality of Canada’s place in the world is growing.

 Canadians believe our country is a leader in the global community.  What many Canadians do not recognize is that our perceptions of our selves as global peacekeepers, bridge-builders and advocates for the poor is far out of proportion with the reality of our actions in the world.

By some accounts, Canada’s influence in the world is eroding.  Our percentage of funds to overseas development assistance is lower than it has been in decades.  We stand 34th on the list of contributors to peacebuilding operations and our position on the human development index has slipped from first to sixth.

With the exception of leadership on a few notable human security initiatives (the creation of the Responsibility to Protect doctrine, the ratification of the International Landmines Treaty, the set-up of the International Criminal Court),  Canada has shown little demonstrable leadership on international issues since 1992. As a nation which prides itself on its global image, this withdrawal from playing an active leadership role in international affairs is puzzling and concerning for many Canadians.

1.2  There is a need to increase the number of Canadians who think and care about international policy

International issues affect every aspect of our lives (e.g. the price of our food, the cost to heat our home, the quality of the air we breathe, or the type of fabric we wear).  Global trends affect domestic policy decisions, and in turn, domestic policy affects Canada’s actions internationally.  Despite the pivotal role Canadian international policy plays in our daily lives, very few Canadians know or understand international policy.   Consequently, international policy issues barely appear on the journalistic radar screens during election campaigns.

There are some signs that this is changing.  The public’s concern with Afghanistan, the Middle East, climate change, Canada’s relationship to the US, have some pundits speculating that international policy will  play an important role in the next election.

While this may or may not be the case, the fact that so few Canadians understand or discuss international policy issues is a concern, particularly since one of the key jurisdictional responsibilities of our federal government is to set foreign policy and manage our international affairs.

1.3  Discussions about international policy are becoming increasingly polarized. 

Canadian international policy is a complex and constantly evolving field.  There are dozens, if not hundreds of trends that are impinging on Canada’s ability to act domestically and internationally  eg. globalization, climate change, the rise of religious fundamentalism, economic protectionism, growing disparities between rich and poor, human rights, HIV/AIDS, nuclear proliferation, small arms trade, refugees, migrant labour, decline in adherence to international norms – just to name a few. But rather than trying to understand these complexities, some Canadians find it easier to rely on simple dichotomous – or black and white reasoning – to bolster their international policy positions.  Slogans like – “Troops out of Afghanistan”, “No to APEC”, “Human Rights over Trade”, “US out of Canada” are expressions of this dichotomous reasoning and serve to fuel the polarization of international policy discussions.

Historically, Canadians have favoured a more balanced approach to decision making based on reasoned dialogue.  But rarely have Canadians been engaged in a dialogue about Canada’s position in the world.  With the exception of a few consultations led by Foreign Affairs as part of their policy review processes, authentic citizens’ dialogues about international policy are few and far between.

1.4  There are competing visions about Canada’s role in the world that deserve careful consideration.

There are a number of important books and articles that have recently been published that outline visions for Canada’s place in the world. These visions are compelling and address different tensions in Canada’s foreign relations.  Some emphasize Canadian values, while others focus on Canadian interests.  Some advance Canada’s strategic niche as a small nation among large nations, others suggest that Canada’s niche should be as a leader among small nations.  In some books, the authors argue that Canada should focus on global security issues and strengthen Canada’s contributions to the UN and NATO’s military missions.  In others, the emphasis is on strengthening Canada’s diplomatic efforts and allocating greater resources to building human centered development as the means of addressing global security.  Similarly, Canada’s relationship to multilateral institutions and our relationship to the United States, which comprises 80% of our international trade, are analyzed debated and discussed.

The discussion among Canadian international policy scholars is broad and varied.  Yet as rich and informed as it might be, it rarely permeates beyond the specialized journals and academic roundtables to reach a broader Canadian public.

1.5  Our perceptions of ourselves as a nation are evolving

Among the defining characteristics of a nation state are its people and its territory.  With globalization and the increase in migration, our notions of nation states are changing.  While Canada may have a clear territorial identity over which it exercises its control, can the same be said of its people?

How does Canada manage a population of immigrants (who may be second, third or fourth generation) who have multiple alliances, who are transnational in their businesses and their connections and who are pluralistic in their world view?  Our immigration, our connectivity through the internet, our trade across borders have created an openness in our country. This openness has created both opportunities and challenges for Canada. How do we manage these challenges and leverage these opportunities?  How do we advance a vision for our nation that embraces this new reality?

1.6  The nature of government decision-making is changing

Government is changing and our process for decision-making is changing. Non-state actors (e.g. business, civil society organizations, young people, philanthropists) are no longer waiting for government to act, they are becoming leaders in advancing their own versions of social and economic change.  Government capacity for research and policy is eroding and the locus for federal decision-making is increasingly being centered out of the Privy Council Office, the Prime Minister’s Office and the Ministry of Finance. Against this backdrop, where do citizens fit?  If government is shrinking and the manner in which policy making is shifting, what new democratic processes need to be created to ensure that citizens’ have a voice?   What can we learn from the existing scholarship on direct democracy and citizen engagement in public policy?  What new innovations can we develop to ensure that the democratic voice of Canadian citizens is not lost through the shifts in government decision-making?


 Canada’s World is first and foremost about engaging citizens’ in a dialogue that moves  beyond rhetoric, and examines key international policy themes from a basis of common information.

The second goal of Canada’s World is to inspire Canadians to formulate and advance their own future-oriented vision for Canadian international policy.


Develop a broad and inclusive collaborative initiative that involves organizations, individuals, businesses and institutions active internationally

  • collaborators feel empowered to participate in the design and delivery of
  • the initiative is Pan-Canadian and reflects a diversity of communities and opinions
  • funding is derived from a variety of sources

Design a national dialogue process that empowers citizens to deliberate, formulate and advance options for Canadian international policy

  • citizen dialogue participants learn about Canadian international policy
  • the process facilitates dialogue, deliberation and learning
  • the process is inclusive and reflects the demographic makeup of Canada
  • resource materials are created that support participation, dialogue and deliberation
  • citizens concur with the findings of their dialogue sessions
  • the dialogue findings are communicated effectively to government and other international policy stakeholders

Engage a diverse range of Canadians in the dialogue process

  • the Canadian public knows about the citizens’ dialogue process and opportunities to participate
  • a broad range of Canadians participate in the dialogue process through their school, university, community organization, virtually through the website or through the media
  • input from the public informs the national dialogue deliberations

The citizens’ dialogue process is seen as a model for citizen engagement and deliberation on public policy issues

  • the dialogue process is transparent and well documented for the historical record and for the benefit of future exercises


Phase I: Design and Development

2.1 Consultations with Key Constituents

In the first quarter, the initiative will consult with Canadians from a diversity of sectors in the design and development of the citizen-engagement process.  These consultations will focus on clarifying the scope and indicators for success of the initiative, identifying source material for the website and deliberative guide, generating ideas for the design of the dialogue process, identifying key resource people and partners, developing suggestions for the opinion research and securing in-kind and cash support.

Timeframe: November 2006 to April 2007

2.2 Base-line Opinion Research and Evaluation Methodology

There are many opinion polls on Canadians’ attitudes towards government policy.  Canada’s World will review the existing polls and work with  an opinion research firm to develop a base-line poll of Canadian attitudes and interests in international policy.  The opinion poll will be repeated in the final four months of the initiative to determine movement in public opinion.

In addition to examining opinion research, Canada’s World will develop the evaluation methodology at the front end of the initiative.  The evaluation methodology will outline the tools, benchmarks and indicators of success. Throughout the process, lessons derived from the evaluations will be incorporated in the process design.

Timeframe: May to July 2007

2.3  Developing a Citizens’ Dialogue Handbook

To prepare participants and guide the citizen and on-line dialogue processes, Canada’s World will create an accessible, bi-lingual handbook that will include:

  • An introduction to the dialogue process, policy and international policy.
  • Polling information about Canadian attitudes and interest in international policy.
  • Information about how non-Canadians perceive Canada’s in the world
  • Fact sheets providing comparative statistics of Canada in relation to other countries in the world.
  • A history of the major trends and initiatives in Canada’s foreign policy since 1931
  • A primer on the key theme to be discussed at the regional dialogue.
  • A list of questions to assist participants to prepare for the regional dialogues. These questions are not intended to frame the discussions but are meant to provoke reflection in advance of the session and demonstrate to participants the scope for international policy deliberation (The following questions are merely examples of the type of questions that will be asked.  The final list of questions will be developed by an advisory body of individuals with expertise in deliberative dialogues:  How are we connected to the world? What impact has diversity and immigration had on redefining Canada in the world? What assets do Canadians bring to the international arena?  What social innovations can Canada share with the international community? How should we manage our relationship with the US?  How do we protect our territory and our people within a globalized world?  What role do we envision for our military?  How do we address global poverty and inequity? What does it mean to be a global citizen?).

The guide will be provided in hard copy to participants in advance of the citizens’ consultations and will be available electronically through the website.

Timeframe: April to September 2007

2.4  Development of the Website

A cornerstone to the Canada’s World initiative will be an interactive website designed to educate and mobilize a diversity of audiences to participate in the initiative.  The website will be designed to draw people in and help them move through the arc of:

Awareness – Education – Judgement – Advocacy – Action

The architecture will enable multiple modes of entry into the website  – through communities (e.g. youth, ethnocultural and Diaspora communities, teachers, community groups, interested Canadians, academics, etc), actions (e.g.. learn more about Canada’s World, participate in the daily blog, become a member of a thematic discussion forum, download our publications), special offers (thematic surveys, classroom activities, competitions) and content (what is Canada’s World, resources, publications, site map) etc.  As a key vehicle for engagement, the website will undergo constant development and refinement. The following basic information will be provided on the website by its launch in September:

  • The information contained in the citizens’ dialogue handbook, tailored to different audiences
  • On-line interactive surveys
  • “How To” guides for facilitating citizens’ dialogue – these guides will be tailored to different audiences e.g. young people, ethnocultural communities, book clubs, seniors groups
  • Learning aides for teachers interested in developing classroom dialogues for grades 6 to 12
  • A section for young people in how to get involved in the initiative which will include:  tips on mobilizing young people, Canada’s World youth event calendar, resources on hosting your own dialogue, project design templates, action plans, fundraising strategies, grant proposal templates, budget outlines, report-back templates, etc.
  • An opportunity for citizens to provide input into the creation of the citizens’ agenda through text, audio and visual uploads
  • A blog providing information on the progress of the initiative
  • A on-line discussion group focused on a weekly international policy question featuring articles and interviews with international policy specialists
  • Links to key resources and groups
  • Member profile directory to support networking
  • Interactive activities identified and developed through the strategic communications and public affairs campaign

Timeframe: The development of the website will begin in April and launch in September 2007.  It will be updated regularly throughout the duration of the initiative.


Phase II: Developing and Advancing a Citizens’ International Policy Agenda

3.1  Identification of the Key Policy Initiatives through Citizens’ Dialogues

The centre-piece of the initiative will be a three step citizen dialogue process.

Step 1:  Identification of scenarios

Canadian international policy is developed within a complex environment that is constantly shifting.  In step one of the process, a group of up to eight Canadians will meet for two days to identify future scenarios for the world. The scenarios will be used as a tool in the third phase of the deliberative process.  The Canadians that are selected for step #1 will have the following qualities.  They will be: well-known and trusted leaders, broad thinkers, reflective of the diversity of Canada, global citizens, capable of thinking about the future, interested in the initiative.

Timeframe: May to September, 2007

Step 2: Regional Citizens’ Dialogues

Working with the Canadian Policy Research Network, the staff team will organize nine regional dialogues across Canada (Atlantic, Quebec – 2, Ontario – 2, Manitoba/Sask., Alberta, British Columbia, the North).

Participant Recruitment

Participants will be recruited by a professional polling firm using random digit-dialling and supplemented with outreach for hard-to reach populations (First Nations, Métis and Inuit, marginalized communities, persons with disabilities and newcomers).  The questions asked through the recruitment phase will provide a base line of information to compare views of those individuals who attended the sessions and those who declined to attend.  There will be 40 participants over the age of 18 selected for each dialogue and screened for demographics (e.g. urban, rural, sector, age, gender, ethnicity, geographical representation etc.).  Participants will be provided with an honorarium, the dialogue guidebook and a logistics briefing before attending the sessions.

Timeframe: June to August 2007

Dialogue Design

Each citizens’ dialogue will be two days in length.  Simultaneous translation will be provided in Quebec City, Montreal, Halifax and Ottawa.  In addition to exploring participants’ visions for Canadian international policy, each session will focus on one international policy theme.  The themes will be selected by an advisory committee based on suggestions by government officials, polling of Canadian attitudes and the views expressed by those individuals and organizations contacted in Phase I. Participants will learn about the issue, debate various approaches, question experts in the field, make trade-offs about key policy choices, and develop their own set of policy options related to the theme.

The deliberations will be guided by a respectful process and framed by clear questions to provide sufficient focus without being leading or directive.  The sessions will be supported by experienced and professional facilitators and subject experts will be available as resource persons.  Participants will be confident that those who invited them to the dialogue will listen carefully to what emerges from their collective conversations.

The results of the participants’ deliberations will be recorded, transcribed, analyzed, and summarized in a dialogue report.  Each report will be provided to participants once the regional sessions are concluded.  Regional reports will be synthesized and incorporated into a workbook for the national dialogue.

At the beginning and at the end of the two-day session, participants will be asked to complete a survey and an evaluation form.  Participants will also be asked to nominate or put their name forward for the national dialogue.

In addition to the general citizen’s dialogues, specific dialogues with targeted audiences will also be held. These dialogues will allow Canada’s World to drill deeper into the ideas and visions of some key audiences such as young people and diaspora communities.

Timeframe: September to December, 2007

Virtual Learning

Following the regional citizens’ dialogue, participants will be invited to continue the engagement process (and their learning process) through an on-line discussion group.  This discussion group will focus each week on a key theme, challenge or “wicked question” that relates to Canada’s international policy.  Resource people representing a variety of views, will be asked to participate as resource people in the on-line discussion.

Timeframe: January  to March 2008

Step 3:  The National Dialogue

Drawing from the regional dialogue participants’ groups, up to 40 people will be invited to a five day national dialogue process.  This facilitated process will delve deeper into the issues and consider Canada’s international policy against the scenarios developed in Step #1.  The discussion will enable participants to deepen their thinking and sharpen their analysis of Canadian international policy.  Participants will have an opportunity to ask questions of resource people, probe the ideas developed in the regional dialogues and sharpen the policy options developed for each thematic area.  Detailed planning for the national session will be informed by successes and lessons from the regional sessions.

The national dialogue results will be analyzed, shared with participants, revised accordingly and then published as a report.  A popular version of the report will be published as a book. This book will outline the citizens’ international policy agenda that will be advanced on Parliament Hill and through the strategic communications campaign.

Timeframe: April to June 2008

3.2  Public Outreach

To reach a broader community of Canadians in the discussion of Canada’s international policy, Canada’ World will work through the media and other communication channels using a combination of news and feature reporting.  Outreach activities will include:

  • Working with mainstream, ethnocultural and community media at the front end to assist in the design of the engagement process
  • Launching the initiative (news)
  • Releasing the results of the first public poll (news)
  • Working with regional and national broadcasters to host televised versions of the citizens’ dialogue
  • Engaging radio talk show and feature public affairs programmes to cover aspects of the dialogue.
  • Working with stakeholder groups to educate and mobilize their networks in the initiative.
  • Releasing media advisories in the regional and community press announcing the participants and the themes for the dialogues (news)
  • Publicly releasing the draft report of the citizens’ dialogues through the media and inviting feedback through the website.
  • Working with national and local media to publish feature commentary pieces on future scenarios for Canadian international policy.
  • Creating and maintaining an online blog and survey.
  • Providing facilitators’ guides for teachers, students and individuals to host their own roundtable dialogues and creating a mechanism through the website to enable the outcomes of such dialogues to be uploaded.

Timeframe: The outreach strategy begins in Phase I and continues throughout the initiative.

3.3  Ethnocultural and Diaspora Outreach

With the exception of First Nations, Canada is a country of immigrants. Whether we are first or eighth generation Canadian, we all have some connection to another place or country.   For some Canadians this connection is very strong (e.g through business ties, remittances, family, or political affiliations).  As Canada become more diverse, our vision of ourselves as a country, changes.  One of the goals of Canada’s World is to strive to be inclusive – to reach out to ethnocultural and Diaspora communities to engage them in a dialogue about Canada in the World and to profile the voices of such a dialogue.

To this end, Canada’s World will hire an ethnocultural and Diaspora Outreach coordinator and university intern to mobilize communities to engage in the Canada’s World process.  In addition to advising Canada’s World on ethnocultural and Diaspora issues, the outreach coordinator and intern will:

  • work with ethnocultural media to publicize Canada’s World,
  • assist in preparing the print and on-line resource material to ensure that it is appropriate for ethnocultural and Diaspora communities,
  • convene dialogue sessions within and among ethnocultural groups,
  • mobilize groups to self-organize,
  • encourage Canadians from ethnocultural and Diaspora communities to actively interact in the website forums and blogs,
  • liaise with the regional dialogue process to ensure that ethnocultural and Diaspora voices are represented and heard,
  • organize at least two media stories profiling the issues of ethnocultural and Diaspora communities,
  • mobilize communities to participate in advancing the policy agenda,
  • ensure that the voices of ethnocultural and Diaspora communities are reflected in the citizens’ agenda and final reports.

Timeframe: Dependent on funding, the university intern may be in place as early as June.  The Ethnocultural and Diaspora Outreach Coordinator will be hired in July.  The activities will take place throughout the duration of the initiative.

3.4  Youth Campaign

Engaging young people in the initiative will be critical.  Working with a youth advisory team, Canada’s World will lead a grassroots youth engagement campaign entitle the Youth Civic Action Strategy.  The strategy has many dimensions.  A separate proposal has been developed for this initiative and is available in Appendix B .

3.5  Advancing the Policy Agenda

It is not the aim of Canada’s World to change government policy.  It is the aim of Canada’s World to ensure that the findings of the citizens’ dialogue process are effectively communicated to government and to the multitude of actors engaged in international policy.

Working with public affairs specialists, Canada’s World will define a critical path for sharing the policy outcomes through formal and informal government channels and through the media.

The public affairs strategy will identify relevant government, private sector and non-profit channels to advance the policy agenda.  The strategy will also outline key benchmarks for evaluating the success of the strategy.

Components of the Public Affairs Strategy may include:

  • Presentation of the final report to the Prime Minister
  • Formal representations to Standing Committees
  • Briefings to Members of Parliament
  • Roundtable Dialogues with relevant civil servants officials
  • Meetings with business and trade associations, educational institutions, unions, international organizations, ethnocultural and Diaspora communities and civil society organizations

A strategic communications plan will be developed in tandem with the public affairs strategy so that each component complements and advances the educational goals of the Canada’s World initiative. The plan will identify key target audiences, key messages, and communications vehicles for advancing the citizens’ agenda.

Timeframe:  June 2008 to June 2009

Phase III: Evaluation

As noted in section 2.2, the evaluation methodology will be determined in the first phase of the initiative.  The methodology will outline the key indicators of success and the tools that will be used to evaluate activities in the process and assess the impact of the initiative.

Some of the tools will include:

  • Polling of public attitudes on Canadian international policy at the beginning of the initiative.
  • Surveys of potential participants during the random-selection process to measure shifts in views of participants who participate in the dialogue process with those that declined to participate.
  • Surveys before and after each regional dialogue to measure shifts in attitudes of dialogue participants over the deliberative process.
  • Evaluation of the dialogues by participants, facilitators, resource people and organizers to determine effectiveness of design, logistics and outputs.
  • On-line surveys to gauge public interest and engagement in the process.
  • Tracking of website statistics including on-line sessions, users’ demographics, page views, downloads, uploads, blog contributions to measure public engagement.
  • Analysis by a third party of the data from the dialogues to ensure integrity in the dialogue reports.
  • Tracking of outreach efforts to determine scope and demographic reach.
  • Media monitoring to determine scope and nature of outreach and coverage.
  • Monitoring of reference to policy options by government and non-state actors to determine substantive impact.

In the third phase a formal evaluation of the process and results of the initiative will be conducted.  Staff and advisors will review the outputs and impact of both the public affairs and the strategic communication components of the initiative, the poll and the online surveys.  A final evaluation report will be compiled for distribution among collaborating organizations.

Timeframe:      July 2009 to October 2009


Shauna Sylvester, a founder and former Executive Director of IMPACS – the Institute for Media, Policy and Civil Society will lead the Canada’s World initiative. Ms. Sylvester has over twenty years experience working internationally and has advised civil society organizations, government and philanthropic institutions on a range of international policy issues.  She has experience leading national deliberative dialogues and founded Canada’s first full-service public relations organization serving the needs of civil society organizations.

Ms. Sylvester will work with an advisory committee consisting of leading academics, corporate leaders, civil society leaders, philanthropists and former diplomats.

Canada’s World – PDF

Canada’s World is a project of the Simon Fraser University Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue in association with the following academic and non-profit organizations:

The Simons Foundation
Advancing positive change through education in peace, disarmament, international law and human security.
The Simons Foundation

The School for International Studies, Simon Fraser University
Interdisciplinary research and teaching on peace and security; international development; human rights and international law; and governance and civil society.
The School for International Studies at Simon Fraser University

The Liu Institute on Global Issues, University of British Columbia
Exploring emerging issues in sustainability, security, and social justice that affect large groups of people in different places and need concerted action and new knowledge to find solutions.
The Liu Institute on Global Issues at University of British Columbia

The Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, University of Toronto
Home to academic centres, research labs and teaching programs of the Asian Institute; the Centre for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies; the Centre for the Study of Global Japan; the Centre for the Study of the United States; the Trudeau Centre for Peace, Conflict and Justice and the Citizen Lab.
The Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, University of Toronto

The Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Waterloo
Research, public education, and support for peacemaking efforts, investigating the economic and political consequences of militarism, monitoring regional conflicts and arms flows, undertaking “citizen diplomacy” projects, and providing conflict management skills training.
The Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Waterloo

War Child
Fostering the capacity of people within communities to find long-term solutions to the problems caused by conflict.
War Child

The Remix Project
Helping young people from marginalized and under served communities trying to find success on their own terms with educational programs, facilitators and facilities.
The Remix Project

World University Services Canada
Bringing together a diverse network of students, volunteers, schools, governments, and businesses around youth-centered solutions to improve education, economic, and empowerment opportunities for young people to overcome inequality and exclusion in countries across Asia, Africa, and the Americas.
World University Services Canada

Journalists for Human Rights
Working around the world to train and engage local journalists, media outlets, civil society organizations and other relevant stakeholders to strengthen and improve human rights coverage in local contexts.
Journalists for Human Rights

Montreal Council on Foreign Relations
Promoting greater knowledge of international affairs through events and partnerships to encourage closer cooperation between entities that share an interest in international affairs providing a platform for distinguished international visitors and Canadians to share their insight and experience on international affairs.
Montreal Council on Foreign Relations

Schools Without Borders
Working with the most innovative educators around the world to accelerate new and ancient ways of learning outside of the classroom.
Schools Without Borders

Canadian Policy Research Network
Canadian Policy Research Networks was a non-profit, non-partisan socio-economic think tank based in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, with a focus on citizen engagement and policy research and analysis.
Canadian Policy Research Network

Canadian Foundation for the Americas
Providing policy analysis, dialogue and debate to aid policy-makers, academics, development workers and the general public to foster greater understanding of hemispheric issues of importance to Canada.
Canadian Foundation for the Americas