Stephen J Toope ’79, current Director of the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto, spoke about ways that Canada could become more engaged in global affairs this Monday at a seminar organized by the Canada Program of the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs.
During the seminar, Toope argued that in order for Canada to have a more robust role in foreign affairs, the country must realistically assess where it stands in the changing world, evaluate its assets as a nation, and then set realistic goals.
He added that the current administration has a tendency to look back at past liberal eras for inspiration, and though the practice is not unusual, it is critical to remember how the current world is different than past eras.
“I think a nostalgia for liberal internationalism could derail attempts to really rethink Canadian foreign policy in a sophisticated way,” Toope said.
Ali Hamandi, a graduate student who attended the event agreed with Toope’s presentation. Hamandi was a 2014 Trudeau Scholar of the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation, where Toope was President from 2002 to 2006.
“I think it’s important that we reassess our position in the world, how to move going forward, and to realize what our strengths and weaknesses are, and to accordingly craft a new foreign policy strategy,” Hamandi said.
Referencing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s recent visit to the United States—the first official visit by a Canadian prime minister in 19 years—Toope said that although Canada is usually not a main interest of the United States, the country had full-attention in the capital for a couple days.
“There seemed to be a genuine interest in what is a very important bilateral relationship,” Toope said. “We still have huge trade interest across the border, and we share a lot of values, and we’ve worked together on many issues in the last 100 years, at least.”
About 20 people attended the event, including faculty members, junior scholars of the Canada program, PhD students, undergraduates, and local residents.
Monday’s event was just one among many from the Canada Program, which invites prominent scholars and experts in various fields to speak and shed light on wide range of issues pertaining to Canada's relationship to the United States.
“The idea is to also promote conversations amongst people within the Harvard community about issues and research ongoing about Canada,” said Professor Alison Mountz, a visiting Professor of Canadian Studies this year and the main organizer of the seminars.