Canada FM says Canada must do more as US leadership wanes

"This is about us standing on our own two feet, having a foreign policy that expresses as an independent and sovereign country what we need to achieve in the world to guarantee our safety and security and also to promote our values", the top diplomat told reporters following her remarks.

The Trudeau government has been careful to avoid antagonizing Donald Trump but Freeland, like German Chancellor Angela Merkel last week, indicated that the US president should no longer be viewed as a reliable partner.

She also keyed up the reveal of the hotly-anticipated defence policy review on Wednesday by committing to the role of middle powers like Canada in mitigating the influence of great powers.

Freeland said Canada doesn't need an inward-looking "Canada First" foreign policy, but given that the now questioning the worth of its global leadership, it is more important than ever for Canada to plot its own course in the world.

The speech affirms Canada's support for multilateralism and rules-based global systems, human rights, gender equality, fighting climate change and spreading economic benefits more widely.

"Many of the voters in last year's presidential election cast their ballots, animated in part by a desire to shrug off the burden of world leadership".

The government will make a "substantial" investment in the military to be announced Wednesday, seek a seat on the United Nations Security Council, look for progressive trade deals and unveil Canada's first feminist worldwide assistance policy.

"To put it plainly: Canadian diplomacy and development sometimes require the backing of hard power", she said. But the principled use of force, together with our allies and governed by global law, is part of our history and must be part of our future.

"Our ability to act against such threats alone is limited - it requires co-operation with like-minded countries", Freeland said.

"As the Prime Minister said last week: Canada is deeply disappointed by the decision by the USA federal government to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate". In the 1990s, her Liberal predecessor, Lloyd Axworthy championed a "soft power" agenda that focused on protecting civilians in armed conflict at a time when the government of the day was cutting defence spending.

She said Canada has a "huge interest in an worldwide order based on rules".

"And new shared human imperatives - the fight against climate change first among them - call for renewed uncommon resolve".

Canada will soon start talks on renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement, under which it sends a majority of exports to the United States.

"It is clearly not our role to impose our values", she said. "And we seek and will continue to seek to persuade our friends that their continued worldwide leadership is very much in their national interest-as well as that of the rest of the free world", she said according to a prepared text of her remarks.

But while criticising United States foreign policy, Freeland conceded that Canada has not pulled its weight in terms of its military spending, a criticism that Trump has made of several North Atlantic Treaty Organisation members, without necessarily singling out Canada.

Ottawa has been among Washington's closest allies.

"It turned out not only could you, we did".

  • Leroy Wright