What are Canada’s key foreign policy priorities?
The promotion of Canadian values lies at the heart of Canada’s foreign policy. A few of our key priorities include: strengthening multilateralism and the international rules-based order; respect for human rights, including inclusive policies; and promoting a progressive trade agenda.
You have indicated that one of Canada’s priorities is to uphold the international rules-based order. What does this mean and why is it so important to Canada?
Canada has huge interest in an international order based on rules. That said, institutions like the United Nations, WTO that were established with a view to defend multilateralism, are being tested and questioned for their effectiveness.
It is our view that all countries have a role to play to ensure objectives of the multilateral institutions are met (e.g. human rights protection, open markets). The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us just how important it is to work together to find solutions to global challenges.
Why is the Czech Republic an important partner to Canada? What are key areas of cooperation?
Canada and Czechia have longstanding and close ties based on a strong connection between our people dating back many years (including sheltering Czechoslovak political refugees in 1948 and 1968). There are now more than 100,000 Czech-Canadians in Canada.
In 2019, our two countries signed a cooperation roadmap, which outlines key areas of cooperation, including security and defence; R&D, and info-sharing on key foreign policy issues. etc. We also cooperate at multilateral for a, e.g. Czechia and Canada are members of the Media Freedom Coalition. Both countries also promote democratic values abroad and the Czech Republic signed on to the Canadian-led Declaration on Arbitrary Detention in January 2021. We also share common passions, such as our love for hockey, nature, and beer!
Canada and the Czech Republic are both NATO members. Tell us about Canada’s priorities in the Trans-Atlantic alliance, security and defence
For Canada, NATO is one of the main contributors to maintaining international peace and security and it is the cornerstone of Canadian security and defence policy. We are proud to say that the Canadian Armed Forces are among the most engaged, and responsive armed forces within NATO. Our priority right now is for NATO to remain modern and flexible to be able to timely respond to current and future threats.
Even though the pandemic continues to put strains on the international system, we remain confident that, with our partners, we can recover from this situation together. Canada and the Czech Republic have intensified our relations in recent years. Our troops stand shoulder to shoulder in the Canadian-led NATO Enhanced Forward Presence battle group in Latvia; and Canada has introduced representation at the Vyskov NATO CBRN Center of Excellence.
Indigenous peoples were the original inhabitants of Canada. We hear about challenges and discriminations that these communities in the North have historically faced. What is the Government doing to address these issues?
Canada was originally a land of indigenous people, who inhabited the land for centuries. Today, there are almost 1.5 million indigenous peoples in our country. Our history has had dark chapters that included attempted assimilation and exclusion of these peoples. Canada works with leaders of First Nations, Métis Nation, Inuit, and other key partners, on a national engagement strategy for developing and implementing a national reconciliation framework.
One in five Canadians was born in a foreign country. Canada is a land of immigrants. Why is Canada so open to foreigners?
Canada regards diversity and inclusion are strengths since they lead to a more prosperous, innovative, and connected country. Immigration ensures that we have workers to fill crucial labour market gaps to remain competitive on the world stage despite an ageing population and declining fertility rates. The COVID pandemic has also highlighted the contribution of immigrants to the well-being of our communities since 25% of workers in our health sector are immigrants.
How does Canadian government deal with racism?
The diversity of Canada has not always been respected. Our immigration policy was not always open to all countries; it was only in the 1960s that Canada opened its doors to immigrants from all corners of the globe. Even though we know that Canada is strong because of our diversity, unfortunately, Canada is not immune to racism and discrimination. For this reason, Canada has developed the “Building a Foundation for Change: Canada’s Anti-Racism Strategy 2019–2022”.
You have been working at the Embassy of Canada for almost five years. How does coronavirus affect your work?
Diplomacy is best conducted person to person in my view, however, we have learned to be creative and resourceful in the past year. We have been able to promote our priorities, such as addressing violence against women and LGBT rights, through hosting virtual sessions with civil society partners, Canadian experts and politicians. While we cannot be together in person, we need to adjust. I am also proud of the work of our Consular section, which ensures our citizens‘ well-being. I have enjoyed my posting in Prague very much, and the past year has been different and challenging, but working from home has helped with my work-life balance a bit and it has given me some extra time to be a part of my childrens‘ lives.
How has the epidemic influenced Canada’s foreign policy?
The epidemic has only reconfirmed the importance of multilateral cooperation to address global challenges. During these difficult times, many might think that protectionism is necessary. However, Canada can see that at the same time, the crisis has shown everyone that it is impossible for states to solve global problems on their own. Our commitment to COVAX initiative is one example of this.
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