Dirty Diplomacy

Canada’s reputation on the move

phpThumb_generated_thumbnailjpg (1)What comes to mind when you think of Canada? Is it the spectacular untouched wilderness? The cultural diversity and tolerance? Canada’s reputation as international peacekeepers? Hockey? You may have stumbled across a backpack with a maple leaf sewn on it, only to find that the owner does not in fact bear a Canadian passport, but instead knows the value of the Canadian “brand”. Canadians are considered to be nice, friendly, and on a broader scale often considered a “middle power” and an “honest broker” that plays a constructive role on the global stage.

Canada’s international reputation is rooted in history. The 14th Prime Minister, Lester B. Pearson, won the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in the Suez Canal crisis. Canada spearheaded the Montreal Protocol, which curbed the use of ozone-depleting substances. The Canadian government led on the Ottawa Treaty to ban landmines. Canada was one of the first countries to sign the Kyoto Protocol. As a country, Canada has consistently been counted on to mediate in conflict zones, and was among the first western countries to impose sanctions on the apartheid regime in South Africa.

Today, however, things are changing. The current government wants to position Canada as an “Energy Superpower” which means rapidly extracting and exporting some of the most carbon intensive oil in the world. This is motivating a new direction in both domestic and foreign policy.

At home

Domestically, the Canadian Government has failed to put in place policies to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from the oil sector, has eliminated federal support for renewable energy and climate science, has continued to subsidize the oil, coal and gas sectors, and has branded First Nations, environmental organizations, and the official opposition in Canada as, “radicals,” “extremists,” and even “terrorists.”This increasingly hostile rhetoric is being used against anyone who challenges the rapid expansion of the tar sands and associated infrastructure.


Internationally, the Canadian Government’s withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol followed years of being singled out as a laggard at international climate negotiations. The Governments’ of Canada and Alberta, along with the oil and gas industry, are now collaborating on the “Oil Sands Advocacy Strategy” that attempts to undermine or kill other jurisdictions’ climate policies.

Yet the values of Canadian people have not changed– they remain rooted in a respect for our shared environment, peacekeeping and collective well-being. There is therefore hope that Canada will once again return to playing a constructive role in the world.

Featured Publication

phpThumb_generated_thumbnailjpg (3)Dirty Oil Diplomacy: The Canadian Government’s Global Push to Sell the Tar Sands

By: Climate Action Network Canada, NRDC, Environmental Defence, Equiterre, Greenpeace, Sierra Club

Published: March 2012

Our new report, “Dirty Oil Diplomacy: The Canadian Government’s Global Push to Sell the Tar Sands,” outlines the changing domestic and international policies of the Canadian government as they work to expand the tar sands – Canada’s fastest growing source of greenhouse gas pollution. This report is based on hundreds of pages of documents obtained through Canadian freedom of information laws. It paints a clear picture for the first time of the tar sands advocacy strategy, a collaborative effort of the Governments’ of Canada and Alberta along with industry to ensure that no doors are closed to Canada’s highly polluting tar sands.