Canada's Investment In Its Embassies

Published: Wednesday, 06/15/2005 12:00 am EDT

"I think Canada has to make a greater investment in personnel resources in Latin America at our embassies. We have to strengthen them, we have to spend more money in terms of public diplomacy, especially. We have to get the message out to the Latin Americans as to who we are and that we're their neighbours, and what benefits an association with Canada can bring. We have to strengthen, also, our capacity to encourage Canadian exports. I think we need to take a look at Canada's free trade agreements with Mexico and Chile, for example, and Costa Rica, they have also done a quantum leap in the cultural and person-to-person linkages, so trade relationships are good frameworks from within which to cast political relations. We also have to look beyond the strict trade aspects of the free trade relationship, and look at how do we reinforce the human connections. It's getting more people on the ground, it's getting more Latin Americans to study in Canada. We're doing a fairly good job now with Canadian education centers in certain countries in Latin America of getting Latin Americans to focus on Canada as a place to send their kids to study, and obviously once you have that situation, these kids go back to their countries with a new vision of Canada and they start to spread the word as to what Canada is all about. So in that sense I think academic relations are very important because the professors who are doing Canadian studies now are the first points of contact for students who will eventually want to come to Canada to study Canada, and who will eventually return to their country to become decision makers and take a much more benevolent view towards Canada as a source of technology, as a source of products, as a source of education, as a source of ideas. In my embassies abroad ­ and I've been at two embassies abroad where we've had very strong Associations of Canadian Studies ­ I feel them as being the nucleus around which you build public diplomacy. A lot more money and a lot more time and effort has to be invested in Canadian studies because in the end what you're doing is you are creating a series of lobbyists in the country that are very credible. If somebody came to the embassy and asked me about Canada, the reaction would be, 'I'm paid to say nice things about Canada,' but professionals [associated with] Canadian Studies Association of Mexico are not paid, so when they say something good and nice about Canada, it's credible. Why? Because they are Mexican, they know the country, and they are not paid by the Canadian government to be lobbyists. So in that sense the Canadian Studies Associations are incredible public diplomacy tools that have to be built up more by the Canadian government and by the private sector. I think the private sector has to be sensitized also to the fact that by creating issues of knowledge about Canada, we are also creating new markets for Canadian products and Canadian technologies, and in that sense supporting public diplomacy is also very much a private sector initiative. Not yet [on the rise in Latin America]. FOCAL is looking for funding from the private sector also basically because we believe that what we're doing benefits the private sector tremendously in terms of the knowledge we're bringing to Canada about the region, about the issues of the region. The private sector has to develop sensitivity to that fact that we need this kind of knowledge to survive and we need the output and the activities that associations of Canadian studies are doing abroad in order to enhance that knowledge and enhance the experience of Canada."

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