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Canada's Engagement with Democracies in the Americas
Canadian Foreign Policy (2008)
  • Maxwell A. Cameron, University of British Columbia
  • Catherine Hecht, University of British Columbia
Canada’s engagement with Latin America over the past two decades was predicated on three inter-related assumptions: that the region was becoming more democratic, that it had embraced markets, and that, as a result, it was reasonable to expect a more cooperative and pragmatic tone in inter-American affairs. These assumptions have proven faulty. Although democracy remains the preferred system of government, many voters are dissatisfied with their elected governments; the record of progress in reducing poverty and inequality has also been disappointing; finally, the international politics of the region have become more fraught. The current Canadian “re-engagement” with the region offers an opportunity to begin from more realistic premises. While skeptical of the notion of a “third way,” we suggest that democracy support in the Americas should reflect several key lessons of past decades. In particular, we emphasize continued bilateral support and initiatives through multilateral institutions, in response to needs expressed from the region; and support for formal institutional mechanisms that ensure that elections are meaningful expressions of the sovereignty of the people, that power is exercised in accordance with the rule of law, and that economic growth and social policies deliver equitable benefits across the diverse states of the Americas. Rather than encouraging market reforms in the hope that they the generate prosperity that sustains democracy, and in the process foster a more cooperative hemispheric community, Canada should contribute to building a community of citizens through policies of institutional strengthening and inclusion as the foundation for meaningful democratic practices and equitable and productive economic systems. Support for democracy will be less likely to feed into the pro-sovereignty backlash in the region if Canada aligns with other major donors and the priorities of multilateral institutions like the Organization of American States. Furthermore, unless Canadian policy is (and is seen to be) driven by the needs of citizens in the region, there is a significant risk that it will be ineffective or perceived as unwanted interference. Support for democracy motivated by a genuine desire for fully inclusive, orderly, and just democracies, as a foundation for international peace and prosperity, is sure to find echoes throughout the Americas.
  • Canada,
  • Latin America,
  • foreign policy,
  • democracy
Publication Date
October, 2008
Citation Information
Maxwell A. Cameron and Catherine Hecht. "Canada's Engagement with Democracies in the Americas" Canadian Foreign Policy Vol. 14 Iss. 3 (2008)
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