Introduction of Dr. Jennifer Welsh


28 March 2006

Well, it must seem at times that our country, Canada, must be unique in the world, by virtue of being so worried about whether we are unique in the world. Much of this preoccupation focuses on finding our role or our place in the world and uncovering some virtuous moral qualities that allegedly guide our foreign policy. Over the years there have been debates about what these principles might be or what specifically our role might be. One line of thinking, based on our imperial heritage and our ties to Great Britain and now our security ties to the United States, see us as the junior partner of a great power: the loyal ally, the reliable friend, the ‘ready-aye-ready’ and all of that. And a similar type of approach would emphasize that our unique historical position is such that we be linchpin between Great Britain the United States. That's later been modified to see Canada as, perhaps, the linchpin or the connection between Europe and North America, more generally.

Others have argued perhaps that we find the answer to this question in looking at our status, our power in the world. Well, what are we in terms of power and status? Are we the smallest of the big powers? Are we the biggest of the small powers? Oh, I know, we'll compromise. We must be a middle power. Well, that tells us something doesn't it? There are other people that argue that, well no, we might have been less powerful in the past but depending on how you look at things, we are now a principal power, a foremost power. Our power in the world is rising.

More commonly, others will say that we are a declining power. We are a power that had our day maybe in the 1950s when relatively speaking we were more powerful compared to other states. Still others say that's the wrong tack and we should be looking at what unique values we have. Is there something about our identity, perhaps our bilingualism, our multiculturalism? I remember an old poster; I think it was produced sometime in the 1970s. I don't remember what government agency it was but it had a picture of the globe, as I recall, and then it had some number, I forget what number, some millions of Anglophones in the world. And below that there was another number, so many millions of Francophones. And it said at the bottom, 'Canada, the best of both worlds'. So, there is that possibility. (Of course that reminds me, you probably know this story about the best of both worlds. If we really are at the intersection of the British sphere and French sphere and the American sphere, well, perhaps we could have the best of all three of those nations? The government of Britain, the culture of the French and the efficiency of the Americans. But of course, tragically, things didn't quite work out that way. Instead, we got the French gouvernement, American culture and British efficiency.) And of course, there are others who suggest that Canada should be considered to be the bringer of peace, the great mediator, the helpful fixer, the compassionate bridge between the rich and the poor. And the list goes on and on.
I could give you many other examples. But in any case, into this debate comes Dr. Welsh's magisterial 2004 book, At Home in the World. In it she brings a fresh, critical eye to the old shibboleths of Canadian foreign policy, particularly critical of that image of Canada as the Great Powers' best friend, or as some kind of middle power. But despite this critical, sometimes realistic approach to looking at these old platitudes, one comes away from Welsh’s book with a sense that behind it all, there is a commitment to what we used to call ‘Pearsonian internationalism’. That is, a belief that Canada's main image is that of a multilateralist. Of the country that works as a team player among other countries to build international institutions. And I think that is clearest in the call in her book for Canada to be a model citizen of the world.

Dr. Welsh, as was already mentioned, completed her undergraduate degree at Saskatchewan University, and went on to Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, to complete a masters degree and a doctorate. She is currently teaching at Oxford and is a fellow of the Somerville College. She's written many books and articles, but the work that we really are celebrating here tonight is her 2004 book, At Home in the World: Canada's Global Vision for the 21st Century, which came out in a new edition just last year. I think it is a sign of the esteem with which that book is held that last year when the long awaited Martin foreign policy review seems to have been stalled in something of a deadlock, she was invited by the Government of Canada to come in and to help with the completion of that project. So I think all around we can feel very privileged tonight to have her with us to speak on these issues, and I hope you will join with me in welcoming to StFX Dr. Jennifer Welsh.


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