Today's discussion:

Canada’s international isolation has never been more apparent

Diplomatic capital must be earned. Constantly shirking international obligations, most egregiously the direct request to increase Canada’s defence budget, has exhausted that.

Read article

Comments (30)

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Please wait...
Your comment has been posted and should appear immediately.
You comment has been received but needs to be moderated before it appears.
Oops! Something went wrong. Please try again or contact us for help.
Sean Speer

I know that I’m a broken record here but I really think the underlying problem is a considerable share of federal politicians aren’t interested in the exercise of federal power. What has drawn them to politics are redistribution and other social policy issues that reside primarily at the provincial and local level. The media pushes in this direction too by focusing so much of its reporting on “care” issues: child care, dental care, health care and so on. These issues are important — don’t get me wrong. But if they’re what motivates you, run for provincial or local politics. We need a Canadian version of “Vulcans” who defend a robust view of the exercise of national power and can counteract the provincialism of our politics.

22nd September 2023 at 9:26 am
Harry Boessenkool

Well said! I came at it from another angle the results are the same.

22nd September 2023 at 3:15 pm
Ian Gray

I am quite prepared to believe and accept India might have had some pressure on the triggers involved. However, most responsible people would need some clear evidence to support such a conclusion. This public accusation sans such support has to be seen as motivated by partisan domestic politics and perhaps a touch of petulance, with little thought or concern to the import of diplomatic consequences. A key feature of the performance of Trudeau and those close to him has been a persistent failure in consideration of the consequences of words and actions beyond the narrow political advantage being pursued.

22nd September 2023 at 11:33 am
Michael F

You honestly think this government would make such a bold accusation to a foreign power because of domestic politics and petulance? It’s been in the news that CSIS was in contact with this person several times and it would seem obvious that the reason they were contacting him was that there was a credible threat against his person.

22nd September 2023 at 11:48 am

only no sane person would believe that such an announcement was not well grounded in fact.

22nd September 2023 at 2:26 pm
Jack Granatstein

There is another aspect to this. Why do so many diaspora groups in Canada feel compelled to intervene in their home countries’ ethnic or religious disputes? Why is their connection to Canada so weak that it does not allow them to stand back from countries they might have left decades, indeed generations, ago? And why do Canadian governments not try harder to bind them tighter to Canada? And if they do want to intervene as Serbs and Croats did in the 1990s and Sikhs have continued to do for at least four decades, why did and does our government not take efforts to stop them from doing so? Our politicians have been too busy hustling votes to act in Canadian national interests or so it must seem to governments abroad. New Delhi certainly seems to have acted most improperly, but Ottawa has nothing to be proud of.

22nd September 2023 at 8:38 am
Rudyard Griffiths

The pull quote the registers the most with me:

“Canada is facing an abyss—a future where its own policy choices have led its allies to regard it as an unreliable or unworthy partner and will be increasingly unwilling to assist it in any matters that do not align with their own explicit interests.“

22nd September 2023 at 7:11 am
Bob St Amand

Reading this piece and Michael Geist’s article on C-18 it is clear that the current trudeau governement has been very successful at reducing this country”s stature to that of an impotent third world state.

22nd September 2023 at 10:34 am
John Trainor

An insightful analysis but as always the proposed remedy or solution to various Liberal govt bunglings is to encourage Trudeau to change his ways or opinion…..and we all know after 8 years of this moralizing laggard that this guy is a one man show throwing temper tantrums. Detested at home and abroad, our MSM is desperate to shield him from exposure to the Canadian public at large……thankfully Trudeau hasnt yet been successful in controlling the internet so we have some great independant journalist organizations exposing the truth.

22nd September 2023 at 2:52 pm
J Cowan

You don’t like Trudeau. I get it. Do you have any adjectives for his Conservative opponent ?

23rd September 2023 at 12:27 am
J barden

Not many people like Trudeau…. he’s an embarrassment to our once proud country. Maybe you should help us get rid of him?

23rd September 2023 at 7:50 am
James Osborne

It is unfortunate The Hub has such a rigid propensity to focus so heavily on the negative. Canada has every right to object strenuously to a foreign power allegedly murdering a Canadian citizen for speaking his mind, as is the right of every citizen. Taking to task a huge world power takes courage, a virtue often missing among nay sayers.

22nd September 2023 at 11:37 am
J Cowan


23rd September 2023 at 12:31 am
Thor Ragnorson

An honest appraisal I think. I feel its a bit early to comment on this particular story at this point but as I look at the trend line for the LPC governments policy gong show, what will this country be reduced too after 2 more years of the NDP/Liberal coalition? But perhaps that’s the plan, a weak and alienated country desperate for new friends and identity.

22nd September 2023 at 9:38 am
Rob Tyrrell

There is certainly a lengthy litany of criticisms – big, small and huge – to be made against the current Federal government.

However, do you really believe that the LPC plan, “the plan” as it were, is to make a “weak and alienated country desperate for new friends and identity”?
If so, to what end and why?

I often hear this incongruent insinuation that governments are both utterly and hopelessly incompetent AND yet working successfully towards a massively complex and secret, presumably “globalist”, plan.

22nd September 2023 at 10:32 am
Michael F

Yes exactly. Governments despite their best intentions, often get knocked into crisis reactive mode when issues begin to pile up. We’ve had several turbulent years in which this government has been scrambling. Have there been problems and missteps? Absolutely. Every administration does. The hyper partisan here look back on Harper’s government with rose coloured glasses and forgetz, or worse pardon, all the gaffes that were committed.

22nd September 2023 at 11:18 am

I think what this misses is the secular trend away from multilateralism towards a foreign policy that makes increasingly narrow calculations. The UK is desperate to re-establish itself as a trading nation post-Brexit, guiding their response. The US wants to bolster India given their proximity to China and ability to absorb manufacturing capacity in a shift away from China. We have seen this trend play out with the uncoordinated global response to COVID, the complete inability to address climate change on a global scale, and even the fracturing within NATO and allied nations in the response to Ukraine. Many nations are dealing with intense domestic pressures that is shifting the math away from long term and perhaps abstract calculus towards much more “direct benefit” payoff calculations.

22nd September 2023 at 8:58 am
Rob Tyrrell

Article Assertion
– Canada’s relations with our allies is on a steady and concerning decline and requires repair.

Offered As Evidence
– Not invited to AUKUS despite a desire to partially participate as a second tier/pillar partner (i.e. no nuclear submarines).
– Asserted lower than expected public allied support regarding India’s alleged (likely) extra-judicial and extra-territorial killing.

– What about New Zealand’s lack of AUKUS membership? Is their standing with allies also declining? Are they facing “an abyss”?

– Not meeting 2% GDP military spending commitments.
– Other?

– What are other examples of Canada “shirking international obligations”?
– Is it unreasonable for allies to be muted on India’s extra-judicial and extra-territorial killing? India is a critical swing player in the geopolitical balance of power and massive economic market. Nations’ responses to any international disputes are tempered by such paramount concerns.

My Assertion
– This piece seems to be primarily aimed at making the case for the government to meet its NATO defense commitment. Just consider the penultimate and summary paragraph. If so, the evidence and connections presented seems “pretty thin”…and unnecessary! The need to appropriately assert our Artic sovereignty should be reason enough to spend our 2%.

Looking forward to any and all offered context and criticism to my thoughts on this!…

22nd September 2023 at 8:39 am
Michael F

The US cozied up to Australia as a bulwark against the inevitable rising power and influence of China in the region. And thank you for a very reasoned response to this thinly veiled partisan hyperbole.

22nd September 2023 at 11:27 am
Duncan Matheson

A sobering essay for sure, as was the muted voices of support of allies as Richard Shimooka notes. And while his piece condemns Canada for not increasing its defence budget, should it not have been balanced by the fact that in many crisis, and peace keeping missions over the years, Canada has punched above its weight. Not looking to rationalize our shortcomings, just put the picture in a truer context.

22nd September 2023 at 8:41 am
Don McLaughlin

Canada hasn’t punched above its weight in peacekeeping for a decade and our response to crisis has hardly been sterling in the recent past. We can’t keep trading on a reputation that is increasingly shopworn and tattered.

22nd September 2023 at 11:04 am
Duncan Matheson

Actually, on a per capita basis, Canada has supported Urkaine’s war effort more than has any other country, including the US.

22nd September 2023 at 11:24 am
22nd September 2023 at 3:52 pm
Jeff Meister

Canada has clearly declined in state capacity on a variety of dimensions over time, with foreign affairs being an example of this, and the same goes for defense, diplomacy, development, intelligence and security. Politicians are not interested or knowledgeable on these topics, because they accurately think they don’t move votes. And they don’t move votes because Canadians are not interested or knowledgeable on the topics either. I doubt the average Canadian could articulate the difference between national values and interests, let alone name any actual interests.

Well, what can be done about a lack of general knowledge on the topic? Education. The Hub could start a podcast series, like the one on the business of government by Ms Lang, on national security, on intelligence, and/or on defense. Build a community and talk about and explain the details – I seriously doubt most Millennials and Gen Zs have ever read anything on national security or intelligence than the odd CBC article on military procurement problems or high profile failures – that focus on the politics, not the substance. The recent back to the basics Munk podcast episode on “what is deterrence?” is an example of what might work.

22nd September 2023 at 2:45 pm

The US response has been abundantly clear and supportive. the ideological bias of the writer is evident

22nd September 2023 at 2:24 pm
Stuart Thomson

Richard Shimooka’s piece this morning paints a stark and worrying picture of Canada’s place on the world stage. After accusing the Indian government of the assassination of Gudwara leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has to be concerned about the muted response from our allies.

“It is still early, but given the lack of lockstep recriminations to date, New Delhi cannot help but see this episode as a sign of Canadian weakness—and whatever the truth of the case, this will likely embolden them to consider such violations a viable option in the future,” Richard writes.

22nd September 2023 at 6:38 am
Roy van den Berg

This article truly saddens me. There has been a long and disastrously hard drop from Canada’s ‘Golden Era of Diplomacy’. Canada was once the international standard for proactive and credible diplomacy with giants such as Louis St Laurent and Lester B. Pearson (both Liberal Party ministers and future Prime Ministers) representing Canadian’s abroad as key architects of international organizations such as the UN, NATO, the Commonwealth, and the IMF. We had the diplomatic clout to influence empires and blocs to accept foreign soldiers on their soil through the creation of Peacekeeping forces.

The irony of where we are now from where we were. During the Suez Canal crisis, India was at severe odds with Great Britain that shook the concept of the Commonwealth to it’s core. It was Canada’s role as a respected and impartial intermediary that permitted the opposing nations to save face and, thus preserve the Commonwealth. Today, Canada holds little to no clout diplomatically. We have perfected the art of finger-wagging telling other nations what they are doing wrong (it seems more for domestic appeasement that international effect) instead of engaging with them through diplomacy (pointed or otherwise). We have a muted voice in NATO. We have been reduced to the most junior of partners amongst our closest Allies. We are better than this.

Let’s hope that the reincarnates of Ken Taylor and Lester Pearson are in the wings. We really need them now more than ever.

23rd September 2023 at 8:03 am

I copy below what the Indo-Pacific Strategy said about India when it was released less than a year ago. “Naive” and “vapid” come to mind.


India’s growing strategic, economic and demographic importance in the Indo-Pacific makes it a critical partner in Canada’s pursuit of its objectives under this strategy. Canada and India have a shared tradition of democracy and pluralism, a common commitment to a rules-based international system and multilateralism, mutual interest in expanding our commercial relationship and extensive and growing people-to-people connections.

In its engagement with India, Canada will:

– grow economic ties, including through deeper trade and investment, as well as cooperate on building resilient supply chains
– seek to expand market access by concluding an Early Progress Trade Agreement (EPTA) as a step toward a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement
– create a Canada-India desk within the Trade Commissioner Service to promote implementation of the EPTA for businesses and investors looking to enter the Indian market, or for those partnering with Indian businesses
– invest in and connect people, including by bolstering Canada’s visa-processing capacity in New Delhi and Chandigarh
– support academic, educational, cultural, youth and researchexchanges
accelerate cooperation in the fight against climate change, in protecting the environment and in deploying green technologies
– send enhanced Team Canada trade missions in priority sectors of mutual interest, such as renewable energy and clean technology

India’s strategic importance and leadership—both across the region and globally—will only increase as India—the world’s biggest democracy—becomes the most populous country in the world and continues to grow its economy. Canada will seek new opportunities to partner and engage in dialogue in areas of common interest and values, including security, and the promotion of democracy, pluralism and human rights.

22nd September 2023 at 6:56 pm
Harry Boessenkool

Canada lacks major international companies head quartered here. This mean our on the ground knowledge of other countries is not what it it should be, even compared to England or The Netherlands as just two examples. I am also unsure of the level of expertise in Global Affairs. The India issue points out that our government is so centralized in the PMO that others outside the PMO are afraid to speak out.

Foreign Affairs is not something that is high priority for this government given the ministers who have been on this portfolio since 2014.

22nd September 2023 at 3:08 pm

An excellent article with insights into Canada’s dilemma of losing a meaningful voice on the diplomatic stage, thanks to a failure to contribute substantially to its own and collective defence and considering the political advantages of not dealing with issues that could only lead to more violence, and as witnessed, murder.

Related: Is this an internecine struggle between Canadian Sikhs or is India the player we are being told. Nijjar was warned by CSIS of threats to his life, but was he told the threats came from India or Canada? A Sikh called Malik was murdered a year before Nijjar and reportedly he was quite unliked by Nijjar’s supporters. Is government investigating to determine the killers and if there’s a link to Nijjar’s killing?

22nd September 2023 at 2:29 pm