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Notes from my Diary

A Decolonial Foreign Policy for Canada

Tuesday 1 August 2023, by Jooneed Khan

AS Canada kicked out Brian Mulroney’s Tories and brought back the Liberals under Jean Chrétien in November 1993, the new Foreign Minister, André Ouellet, assembled a national brainstorming event on Canadian Foreign Policy early 1994 in Ottawa.

With more than 15 years (then) as international affairs reporter and analyst at the Montreal daily ‘La Presse’, I was invited to participate. I accepted. Canada had plucked me out of Mauritius in 1964 with a Commonwealth scholarship for university studies. I came back as an immigrant in 1970, and became a citizen in 1987 when I was already the proud father of Canadian-born children.

The Cold war had ended in 1989-1990 in the most negative way for me - a native of Mauritius moulded over the 50-year struggle of the Global South for decolonisation, sovereignty, dignity, peace and development.

My teenage years were marked by a struggle against our own Apartheid (Mauritius got one person, one vote only in 1958) – while Algeria fought its war of liberation, and South Africa and Palestine were fighting their very own brands of Apartheid.

Mauritius became independent in 1968, but it remains under ‘Economic Apartheid’. The same is true for South Africa - where only ‘Political Apartheid’ was terminated in 1994. In Palestine, the full-spectrum struggle continues…


The Cold War had locked the Global South for half a century in the horrible trap of the brutal Est-West conflict – with genocidal wars in South East Asia, the MidEast, Southern Africa, Central and South America. This was compounded by economic domination of the Global North, the Centre, over the Global South, the Periphery. For the South, It was full-fledged ‘under-development’ in progress…

The Global South then, i.e. the overwhelming majority of humanity, looked forward to the end of the Cold War, and to the ‘Peace Dividends’ that would ensue with an earnest pivot to the long-delayed North-South Dialogue - which gained momentum in the context of East-West ‘Détente’ of the 1970s with a series of UN and other reports on global economic disparities.

In tune with Canada’s claim as a ‘peace-keeper’ nation, and a ‘Middle Power’ linked to the Global South through both the Commonwealth and the Francophonie, Prime minister Pierre Trudeau tried a North-South dialogue of his own in the 1980s, as well as an East-West détente ‘Peace Tour’.


The dynamics culminated with the North-South Summit of Oct 22-23, 1981, in Cancun, Mexico, with Trudeau as co-chair, partnering with Jose Lopez Portillo, President of Mexico.

It was the only North-South Summit ever held. Trudeau kept good relations with Cuba, and he recognized the People’s Republic of China in 1970, nine years before the US. But he kept Canada in NATO, and allowed US cruise missile testing – though he reduced military participation in the alliance.

Trudeau’s other projects bore the same stamp of ‘calibrated ambiguity’.

His 1982 Constitution enhanced Canada’s sovereignty, but kept the British monarch, who came to sign the document, as the country’s Head of State. He rallied the English provinces around the new Constitution – but he alienated Quebec with its French majority.

His Charter of Rights and Liberties increased the power of the (federal) Supreme Court – but it ignored the demands of First Nations for repeal of the 1876 colonialist, racist and apartheidist Indian Act, and for a return to the Treaties their forbears signed with the Crown, and which preserve their sovereign rights over and under land and water.


Pierre Trudeau resigned in 1984, leaving the field to Brian Mulroney’s Tories who, over two terms, threw Canada’s weight behind ending political Apartheid in South Africa – and behind bringing Quebec back into the Constitution. Trudeau kept silent over South Africa – but he actively helped defeat Mulroney’s Meech Lake Accord.

Trudeau died in 2000, a whole decade after the end of the Cold War. So he saw the US Hegemon, emerging as ‘victor of the Cold War’ and ‘Sole Superpower’, swiftly moved to reshape the World Order.

As early as 1989-1990, the US attacked Panama, entrapped Iraq in Kuwait, started to break up Yugoslavia, and backed the Tutsi 15% minority’s military drive to set up a ‘Black Apartheid’ regime in Rwanda – to better control and loot the fabulous wealth of the martyr nation of DRC-Congo.

The Global South’s hopes of ‘Peace Dividends’ went down the drains, together with one half-century of a World Order founded on the UN Charter, the Human Rights Declaration, the supremacy of Diplomacy over War, and the Conventions intertwined into the architecture of International Law. Both Trudeau and Mulroney, lawyers by profession, kept silent.


Addressing a joint session of Congress on the ‘Gulf Crisis’ on Sept 11, 1990 (while Canada was going through the Oka Golf Crisis), US President George HW Bush Sr said: ‘Out of these troubled times, a new world order can emerge…, a new era of prosperity and peace.’

That was one 9/11, under Bush Sr. Another would follow 11 years later, under Bush Jr.

Iraq insisted it was ready to negotiate and withdraw, but Bush Sr adamantly refused. He was bent on war, which he declared on Feb 23, 1991, and ended on Feb 28, after 100 hours of full-spectrum destruction and massacre, including some 30.000 Iraqi soldiers, civilians, and families from many nations, destroyed on the ‘Highway of Death’ as they were leaving Kuwait AFTER the war had ended!

On Feb. 28, 1991, just hours after the fighting ended, Bush Sr celebrated victory, proclaiming: ‘By God, we’ve kicked the Vietnam Syndrome once and for all.’ He had shown that the US, not the UN nor anyone else, but the US alone, was fit to act as ‘policeman of the world.’

This was the overall objective context, and the subjective frame of mind, that informed my decision to participate in André Ouellet’s Foreign Policy ‘consultation’ in early 1994.

My table of some 30-40 participants was chaired by Adrienne Clarkson – who would be appointed Governor General by Jean Chrétien in 1999. Attendants were given 2-3 minutes to air their briefs.


I began by pointing out I too was a visible minority of one at the table. But I stressed I was ‘as Canadian as Samuel de Champlain and sir John A Macdonald: a first generation Canadian!’ This opening statement was received with smiles and chuckles.

I then listed my basic recommendations for a new Canadian Foreign Policy for the post-Cold War world:

  1. Canada should abolish the monarchy and become a Republic.
  2. Canada should repeal the colonialist and racist Indian Act and, in a spirit of mutual respect and mutually beneficial interest, rebase relations with First Nations on Treaties they signed with the Crown over the course of Canada’s colonial History.
  3. Canada should in earnest bring Quebec back within the Constitution, in a manner that fully respects Quebec’s identify and interests within the Canadian system, including the decolonisation of relations with First nations.
  4. Canada should withdraw from NATO. (This idea was met with loud rumbles of disapproval around the table).
  5. And Canada should form a G5 ot G6 with major democracies of the Global South – like South Africa (which was rapidly heading for Black majority rule), India, Brazil, Mexico, Nigeria… as a new permanent framework for a relaunch of the North-South Dialogue.

Long before the fact, this last suggestion meant breaking with the Unipolar Order and embracing Multipolarity!


Nearly three decades have elapsed since the 1994 Ottawa meeting. And Canada remains more than ever a vassal State in the US/UK/EU/NATO System – now under direct challenge from Eurasia (SCO – Shanghai Cooperation Organisation) and the BRICS group of nations, flanked by dynamic, new CELAC (Caribbean/South America), African Union, ASEAN, and West Asia (ex-Middle East).

Indeed, Canada’s ‘National Policy’ proclaimed by Tories and Liberals alike over more than two centuries has never been ‘national’; it has in fact been a perennial adjustment to UK Imperial and Colonial ‘Rule by Privy Council’ – first against the US, then under the US itself.

In his 2018 book ‘Left, Right, Marching to the Beat of Imperial Canada’, Yves Engler has lucidly, and dismally, exposed how the so-called ‘Left’ built from 1932 around the CCF, SDP and NDP on a Labour and Trade Union base, remains hostage to Canada’s ‘Imperialist structural System’. Thomas Mulcair even purged the word ‘socialist’ from the NDP constitution!

The ‘calibrated ambiguity’ of Pierre Trudeau’s half-hearted constitutional ‘insurgency’ becomes clear in the context of the Imperial Structural Reality. Sir John A., who advocated an ‘Aryan Canada’, said: ‘A British subject I was born; a British subject I will die’. Trudeau gave the impression he disagreed – but he never dared say so.


In late 1996, Chrétien appointed Ron Boudria Minister of International Cooperation and the Francophonie. As he was launching a tour of Africa, he told me: ‘Africa trusts Canada because we have no colonial baggage…’ I said he should stop peddling that myth. He was stupefied. I said: ‘Canada is a paragon of successful colonialism. If it were not, you and I would be speaking Mohawk or Inuktitut, not English and French!’ His face lit up, and he said: ‘You’ve got a point there!’

The disconnect between Canada’s ‘non-colonial Foreign policy’ claims and the reality of Canada walking in lock-step with the G7, NATO and the US can only be traced to the fact of Canada as UK subject and US vassal. Foreign Policy and Internal Policy make up an organic whole. Which is why I suggested in 1994 that Canada put its house in order first, then carve for itself a new, creative, original and meaningful role in the world."

Jooneed Khan is a Journalist & Rights activist