On September 16, 2006, approximately 30 esteemed academics, former diplomats and politicians, and representatives from non-governmental organizations (NGOs) came to Waterloo, Canada, for a two-hour, high-level panel discussion on the future of Canadian foreign policy sponsored by the Canadian International Council (CIC). The session was co-chaired by Allan Gotlieb, Canada's ambassador to the United States from 1981 to 1989, and Paul Heinbecker of Wilfrid Laurier University (WLU), distinguished fellow at The Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) and Canada's ambassador and permanent representative to the United Nations from 2000 to 2003. On the table for discussion was a position paper on Canada's role in global institutional reform by Gordon Smith, executive director of the Centre for Global Studies at the University of Victoria.

The aim of the session was to allow for a frank and open dialogue between experts; for this reason, Chatham House rules were in effect. To no one's surprise, given the personalities in the room, the discussion produced neither consensus nor concrete recommendations. Even so, a number of common themes emerged, many of which are highlighted in this report. Taken together, they suggest that, despite the major cuts to the country's diplomatic, defence and development programs in the 1990s, Canada remains uniquely positioned to make a meaningful difference in the world. The challenge for policy makers is to recognize how Canada can help most effectively, and then to act accordingly.

  • CIGI Senior Fellow Andrew S. Thompson is a specialist in the fields of international human rights, civil society movements and fragile states.