Canada and Bilateral Human Rights Dialogues

Webster, David (2010) Canada and Bilateral Human Rights Dialogues. Canadian Foreign Policy Journal, 16 (3). pp. 43-63.

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Human rights have been asserted rhetorically as a goal of Canadian foreign policy for several decades. Beginning in 1997, Canada, along with other countries, began to turn towards the use of bilateral human rights dialogues (HRD) with countries considered to have poor human rights records. A study of these dialogues sheds light on the place of human rights in Canadian foreign policy, and on Canadian relations with Asia. Canada opened three dialogues, with China, Cuba, and Indonesia. This article positions those HRDs within the history of Canadian foreign policy on human rights and considers the origin of Canada's FIRDs as a way to demonstrate some action on rights, while avoiding any linkage between rights and the promotion of trade. It then examines the course of the failed I{RD with Cuba, the suspended dialogue with China, and the ongoing Canada-Indonesia HRD. HRDs became an end in their own right, showing few measurable results, and freezing out meaningful participation by civil society, while serving as an excuse to avoid multilateral action-a substitute rather than an addition to multilateral forums. The article proposes some conditions that should be met if HRIDs are to be continued, and suggests that effective rights advocacy would require a return to multilateral rather than bilateral forums, the integration of human rights into all aspects of Canadian foreign policy, and a willingness to accept the flaws in Canada's own human rights record.

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Item Type: Article
Divisions: Humanities > History
Depositing User: David Webster
Date Deposited: 26 Mar 2015 13:05
Last Modified: 26 Mar 2015 13:05

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