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Foreign relations of Canada

Canada regards itself as a middle power -- it is rarely able to act unilaterally, but through coalitions and international organizations it affects the world.

Canada-United States Relations

The bilateral relationship between Canada and the United States is of extreme importance to Canada. About 85% of Canadian trade is with the United States. While there are disputed issues between the two nations, relations are close and the two countries famously share the "world's longest undefended border."

Canada was a close ally of the United States in both World Wars, the Korean War and the Cold War. Canada was an original member of NATO and the two countries air defences are fused in NORAD.


Just as important to the Canadian identity is Canada's strong support of multilateralism. Canada is one of the world's leading peacekeepers, sending soldiers under U.N. command around the world. Peacekeeping was invented by Canadian foreign minister Lester B. Pearson, for which he won the Nobel Peace Prize. Canada is also committed to disarmament and is especially noted for its leadership in the Ottawa Convention to ban land mines.

Canada has long been reluctant to participate in military operations that are not sanctioned by the United Nations, such as the Vietnam War or the 2003 Invasion of Iraq but does join in sanctioned operations such as the first Gulf War. It was also willing to participate with its NATO allies in the Kosovo Conflict.

Canada hosted the third Summit of the Americas in Quebec City. Canada also seeks to expand its ties to Pacific Rim economies through membership in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC). Canada also is an active participant in discussions stemming from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Canada joined the Organization of American States (OAS) in 1990 and has been an active member, hosting the OAS General Assembly in Windsor, Ontario, in June 2000.

Other Bilateral relations

Canada maintains close links to the United Kingdom, with which it has strong historic ties and shares a monarch. It also remains a member of the Commonwealth. See also: Canada-United Kingdom relations

Canada also has close, if sometimes turbulent, relations with France, partly for historical and linguistic reasons. See also: Canada-France relations.

One important difference between Canadian and American foreign policy is the relations between Canada and communist states. Canada estalished diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China (October 13, 1970) long before the Americans did (January 1, 1979). It also has maintained trade and diplomatic relations with communist Cuba, despite pressures from the United States.

Canada was also quicker to act to combat South Africa's apartheid than was the U.S.


Canada's international relations are the responsibility of Foreign Affairs Canada (FAC), which is run by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, a position currently held by Pierre Pettigrew. Traditionally the Prime Minister has played a prominent role in foreign affairs decisions.

Some of the provinces also participate in some foreign relations. Quebec and New Brunswick are both members of the Francophonie. Quebec, long ruled by separatist governments long has pursued its own foreign relations, especially with France. Alberta has recently announced that it will open an office in Washington D.C. to lobby the American government, mostly to reopen the borders to Canadian beef.

Territorial Disputes

Canada and the United States have negotiated the International Boundary over many years, with the last significant agreement having taken place in 1984 when the International Court of Justice ruled on the maritime boundary in the Gulf of Maine. Likewise Canada and France had previously contested the maritime boundary surrounding the islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon but accepted a 1992 International Court of Arbitration ruling.

Remaining disputes include managed maritime boundary disputes with the US (Dixon Entrance, Beaufort Sea, Strait of Juan de Fuca, Machias Seal Island). Also, there is an uncontested dispute with Denmark over the sovereignty of Hans Island and surrounding waters in the Kennedy Channel between Ellesmere Island and Greenland.

Published on: 2004-08-05 (15724 reads)

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