Dualistic Images of Canada in the World: Instrumental Commonalities/Symbolic Divides

  • Andrew F. CooperEmail author
Part of the Palgrave Macmillan Series in Global Public Diplomacy book series (GPD)


Canada has a tradition that emphasizes bipartisan consensus on foreign policy. This tradition however has been bent albeit not completely broken during the time of the Chrétien/Martin, Harper, and Trudeau governments. There remains some considerable agreement between Liberals and Conservatives on a wide number of key issues, not the least the significance of the American-Canadian relationship as the main game of Canadian foreign policy. Rather than the instrumental substance of policy being a source of intense differentiation, the key points of division center on a clash of symbolic identity-oriented narratives grounded in the past. For Conservatives the images of Canada that should be showcased depict a tough and dependable nation, going back to episodes such as Vimy Ridge in World War I. For Liberals by way of contrast it is the soft power of Canada that is highlighted, whether ‘Pearsonian’ peacekeeping or more recent niche initiatives on land mines and the International Criminal Court. This chapter examines how these historical episodes and initiatives are referred to, by whom, and in what context. The major question to be teased out concerns the implications of these different images expressed in public diplomacy either reacts to or shapes Canada’s role in global affairs. While the symbolic debate is not about the core substance of Canadian foreign policy, the contest over Canadian identity is important in framing who and what Canada is ‘with’ in the world.


Canadian foreign policy Public diplomacy Main game Niche diplomacy Like-minded-ness 

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2021

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Balsillie School of International AffairsUniversity of WaterlooWaterlooCanada

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