In his opening remarks, executive branch member Fraser Holman articulated the Canadian International Council – Toronto Branch’s enduring commitment to showcase the most distinguished and exciting thinkers of our time, and the event held on October 2, 2013, Canada – What Power Have We Become? exemplified this commitment to innovative discourse. Dynamic and stimulating discussions took place, first between the event’s two speakers, Dr. Adam Chapnick and Dr. Irvin Studin, and then between the two scholars and the audience.
The night began with Dr. Chapnick, who sought to first define the term ‘middle power’ and then to explain the significance of the concept vis-à-vis Canadian foreign policy. Dr. Chapnick provided a four-fold definition of a middle power, based on 1) a state’s rank on the international stage, 2) its capacity to act, 3) the behaviour it displays, and 4) the portrayal of the state by its own leader. Dr. Chapnick asserted that Prime Minister Harper’s decision to practically eliminate the term middle power from his political language is particularly telling, and not surprisingly Canada has recently displayed no interest in any of the four factors that define a middle power. As such, Dr. Chapnick explained that Harper diverges from Axworthy and Chrétien on this issue, as these men pushed Canada to become a middle power.
Dr. Irvin Studin maintained the stimulating atmosphere with his assertions about Canada’s past and future power. In sum, Dr. Studin argued that although Canada is not currently a strategic power, it is on the path to becoming one. He agreed that at present, Canada is not a strategic power, however Canada can become a strategic power because historically, two factors cultivate a strategic power, those being culture, and geopolitics. In terms of culture, Dr. Studin explained that Canada was predisposed to being an a-strategic actor owing to its historical foundations; namely, its Constitution. Secondly, Dr. Studin explained that Canada has remained an a-strategic actor because it has historically remained comfortable geopolitically. But Studin argued that Canada could be come a strategic power due to the cocktail of the relative decline of US power, the melting of the arctic and the increase in pure technology. Dr. Studin’s admits that the fruition of his arguments is contingent upon the future unity of the Canadian federation.
The event was especially engaging not simply because each scholar persuasively introduced a thought-provoking set of arguments, but because each scholar presented a distinct view. Dr. Chapnick’s optimism for Canada’s future was Dr. Studin’s pessimism, and vice versa. While both scholars were optimistic about the future of Canada’s power, Dr. Chapnick’s hopefulness stemmed from his claims that a state can achieve its interests without anyone noticing and Canada is most effective when it goes unnoticed. Conversely, Dr. Studin ascertained that Canada will become a ‘toujours’ topic because it will develop a greater presence on the international stage.
The Canadian International Council – Toronto Branch’s upcoming event, Religion: Friend or Foe? R2P and the Syrian Dilemma will take place on October 21. Like with this past affair, the CIC – Toronto Branch hopes that the October 21st event will again attract a large and diverse audience, and provide stimulating discussion and debate on the most pressing issues of our time.
Sara Mena Greco
Volunteer Blogger – Canadian International Council, Toronto Branch