Canada Deserving Power Status in the World

Canada deserves principal power status in the world. As a nation, Canada has proven to be a leader in all respects of human endeavor. The nation has one of the world’s most robust economies both in terms of raw size and per capita strength. It is a production economy rather than simply a consumer one. Canada is a leader in both fossil fuel and renewable energy production. Canada has long been a leader in human rights, and its culture of diversity, with hundreds of ethnic groups living in harmony, is a model for the globalized future. The nation lacks the historical baggage that restrains many other nations in their thinking, allowing Canada to be innovative and creative in terms of dealing with the challenges of the modern world. It stands independent from its neighbours with respect to conflict, but when it does become engaged it has always been a leader. This essay will outline these features of Canada and its achievements on the world stage. The essay will use this information to back the argument that Canada deserves principal power status in the world, on the basis of its achievements and its importance to the global power structure today.

Historical Influence

Following Canada’s independence in 1867, the country searched for a few decades for a national identity, but finally found one during World War One. Since that point, Canada has been able to carve out an identity as one of the strongest nations on the planet, one whose influence in all facets of human endeavor has transcended its relatively small population. The country’s institutions were founded on the British model, and its role as one of the largest and strongest members of the Commonwealth helped it forge a stronger international identity during the latter years of the 19th century and the early 20th century. During World War One, the country was able to benefit both as a safe producer of goods for war-ravaged Europe and as one of the feature combatants, winning key battles such as Vimy Ridge, the Somme, Passchendaele and the key battle at Amiens that led directly to the end of the war (Veterans Affairs Canada, 2008).

In the final years of the war, Canada began its legacy as a human rights leader by granting the right to vote to women, one of the first nations in the world to do so. The country played a pivotal role in World War Two as well, taking Juno Beach, one of the five Norman beaches on D-Day, and then subsequently liberating the Netherlands. After that point, Canada worked towards improving its human rights standards, became an economic leader and forged a stronger international identity on the world stage.

Canada draws its influence from its historic ties to Britain and from its economic ties to the United States, but has been careful to forge influence that is distinct from these entities. The country has on many occasions set its own course with respect to foreign policy — non-engagement in many violent conflicts of those nations, for example. Canada has also maintained relations with nations like Cuba, despite protests from its allies. The country’s approach to foreign relations has generally been less imperialistic and more measured than the approach of either the UK or the U.S. This willingness to chart a unique course is evidence that while Canada derives some of its strength in the world from its close relationships with those countries — and with France — that it is independent in its voice and therefore deserves for that voice to be heard fully.

The Voice of Reason

Canada has been a leading proponent of the neoliberal vision of the world. It has played an active role in the creation and propagation of international bodies such as the League of Nations, the United Nations, the G7 (now G8), the OECD and other such bodies. Canada has long been a key member of NATO as well. This is the platform by which Canada seeks to have an influence in the world, eschewing the economic and cultural hegemony favoured by larger nations with a more realist approach to international relations.

Liberalism contrasts with realism in that the liberalist view holds that the objectives of actors on the world stage are generally compatible and that by working together and freeing humans and nations from constraints this cooperation will lead to positive outcomes for all. Realists hold that the world is in a state of competition (Langill, n.d.). Many world powers such as the UK, the U.S., China and Russia are clearly aligned with the realist tradition of political thought. Many other nations, including most of the European ones, favour the liberalist viewpoint and this viewpoint is embedded in the international mechanisms that have fueled globalization. Canada, along with nations like France and Germany, is one of the largest and most powerful countries in the world that is staunchly on the liberalist side of the political philosophical ledger. Politically, this means that Canada has taken a leadership role as a peacemaker and a political power broker, a key negotiator on the world stage.

Canada’s influence as an actor that is less truculent that other major nations is strong, and earns the country respect among other, smaller nations. The benevolent nature of Canadians is reflected in the country’s foreign policy, and Canada has become a nation that others can turn to for help, where that help is less likely to be politically-loaded, when compared with more hegemonic powers. Canada has been a leader in pushing for an international criminal court, implementing protections for child soldiers and for the writing off of African debt (Clark, 2011). The nation’s status as the voice of reason is bolstered by the criticism it receives from groups like Amnesty International. When groups like this equate the human rights issues associated with Israel’s security with the human rights offenses of the Arab world (death sentences for homosexuals, subjugation of women and official policies of genocide against Jews, for example) it makes Canada look good to offend the sensibilities of such groups.

Economic Influence

Canada has long been a member of the OECD, the World Trade Organization, the G7 (now G8) and other leading proponents of economic liberalization. The country has one of the world’s largest, most diverse and most sophisticated economies. With a GDP ranked 15th in the world and a per capita GDP ranked 6th among larger nations (CIA World Factbook, 2011). Whereas many larger economies are based on models of consumption or low-cost production, or massive populations, the Canadian economy is one of the most diversified in the world. The nation has a strong manufacturing base, a modern service sector and perhaps most importantly still maintains a strong resource sector.

In a world where natural resources are becoming increasingly scarce, Canada is increasingly important. The nation is one of the only major producers of fossil fuels that is subject to stable democracy, for example. As a leading producer of oil and natural gas, Canada is of critical importance to the world economy in the next 100 years. Perhaps just as important, the country’s stability means that nations wishing to acquire its surplus resources do not need to engage in the sort of political maneuvering and conflict initiation that characterizes international involvement in the Middle East. Canada is also a source of other resources that are highly valued, ranging from precious minerals to timber to water. It is this natural abundance that will fuel Canada’s position as a world leader in terms of economic importance in the 21st century and beyond.

Canada is also influential in terms of its involvement in world trade. The country is party to a number of major trade organizations and agreements. The free trade deal it signed with the United States that was the precursor to NAFTA was the first such major deal and paved the way for the dozens of similar deals around the world that have happened in the interim. Canada also has a strategic economic position. It is adjacent to two other major world economies in the U.S. And Mexico, it has close ties geographically with both Europe and Asia. It also has the cultural ties to both continents to back up this positioning. As a result, Canada is a cultural crossroads, if not a geographic one. Even with the latter, there is the potential for an Arctic trade route to open with the melting of the summer sea ice, and this will also increase Canada’s importance in world trade.

Human Factors

As a predominantly immigrant nation, Canada is a microcosm of the globalized society to come. Three of the world’s most diverse cities — Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal — are within its borders. Canada’s population features people from all corners of the world and all major religions (most minor ones, too). This means that Canada is a hotbed of leading thought on international issues, of diversity management expertise and is representative of a model in which the people of the world can come together to meet their common objectives, eschewing the conflict of their homelands.

Indeed, the lack of historical baggage is one of Canada’s most significant assets in the world. As a nation, Canada has the ability to understand the different conflicts that characterize human society and international relations. Canada has people from all corners of the earth so is in a position to understand the issues, but because of historical and geographic isolation the country is capable to forming more even-handed and detached opinions. Most countries in the world carry some form of baggage that makes it difficult to take a reasoned approach — for example colonialism in Africa, anti-Semitism in the Middle East, traditional rivalries in Europe or CIA interference in South America are many examples of the baggage Canada does not have. Incidents today can be taken independent of things that happened five or six hundred years ago. Only with the First Nations does such baggage exist and that is generally a domestic issue that does not characterize Canada’s standing on the international stage.

Canada has instead been allowed to flourish and has charted a course of international leadership in human rights, driven by its non-interventionist, liberalist approach. The country has become one of the world’s foremost peacekeepers, having taken on some of the most challenging missions such as Rwanda. The UNAC (2007) notes Canada has a strong record of peacekeeping, and its only criticism is that Canada does not contribute as many peacekeepers as India, the UK, the U.S., France, Bangladesh and Pakistan — all countries with three to thirty-five times the population of Canada — not a compelling argument against Canada’s peacekeeping strength.

In addition to Canada’s work on the international stage, Canada has also been a strong proponent of human rights domestically. Canadians enjoy some of the highest living standards in the world, and achieve strong results in terms of education, health, and economic status. Income disparity is relatively low, despite the economy being strong and diversified. Canada has also taken a leadership position on the environment. Although its status as a fossil fuel producer and cold-weather country makes it difficult to achieve universally positive outcomes with respect to the environment, Canada’s legal structure for environmental protection is strong and the country has become leader in the development of alternative and sustainable energy sources, placing 4th in the world in renewable energy investment per dollar of GDP (Scott, 2011).


The world is facing a 21st century that offers tremendous potential for the advancement of humankind, but resource scarcity and the inability of nations to transcend centuries-old conflicts threatens to derail any progress and could drag the world’s nations into successive rounds of bloody conflict. It is important that the world’s leading nations are those that have the ability to steer human society in the right direction. Canada is one of those nations that is best equipped to do so. Canada seldom ranks #1 in any particular category of human or international development, but the country is always ranked high. Taken together, Canada’s economic and social achievements both domestically and on the international stage are indicative of its leadership position in the world.

Canada’s presence on the world stage also highlights its status as one of the most powerful countries with a liberalist outlook. Not only should different political viewpoints be given the opportunity to contribute on the world stage, but arguably the country’s liberalist focus is more valuable in the 21st century context because globalization will increase the need for cooperation among nations in order to deliver positive economic and social outcomes for all of the world’s people.

The most logical conclusion that one can derive from these facts is that Canada is one of the nations that has the ideal balance of attributes, of successes, to guide the world to the future that most people are seeking. The country has grown since it became independent, at first asserting itself on the world stage during the conflicts of the first half of the 20th century, then later as a progressive leader in both the development of liberalist ideals and in the promotion of human and environmental rights. Because of this, and because its stable democracy has delivered consistently positive results for both its own citizens and for those of the countries with which it deals, Canada clearly deserves principal power status. Its influence and successes outweigh its relatively small size, and Canada’s status in the world should reflect that.

Works Cited:

CIA World Factbook. (2011). Canada. Central Intelligence Agency. Retrieved June 11, 2011 from

Clark, C. (2011). Amnesty International says Canada no longer leads on human rights. Globe and Mail. Retrieved June 11, 2011 from

Langill, R. (no date). Approaches to the study of international politics: Realism, liberalism and Marxism. St. Martin’s University. Retrieved June 11, 2011 from

Scott, A. (2011). Canada a world leader in renewable energy: thanks to provincial leadership. Environmental Retrieved June 11, 2011 from

UNAC. (2007). Myths and facts — Canada and UN peacekeeping. UNAC. Retrieved June 11, 2011 from

Veterans Affairs Canada. (2008). Canada and the First World War. Veterans Affairs Canada. Retrieved June 11, 2011 from

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