Canada in a Changing World
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 4 Oct 1979, p. 17-34
MacDonald, The Honourable Flora, Speaker
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Item Type
The political realities of the world we live in: a short historical review and then a discussion of changes that have taken place and the realities of today. Some global events that have changed the world, such as the re-emergence of China onto the world stage, the demise of two great blocs of power, hostile activiites in the East, newly-emerged countries in Africa and Asia. The dynamics of conflict. Third World countries and their development. The factor of oil and oil prices. Food problems. Aid programs and Canada's participation. Peace-keeping missions. Is Canada paying enough attention to economic and trade relations? Relations with the United States. Military alliances and commitments. Are policies developed in the 1970's appropriate for the 1908's? A planned government review of foreign policy.
Date of Original
4 Oct 1979
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The speeches are free of charge but please note that the Empire Club of Canada retains copyright. Neither the speeches themselves nor any part of their content may be used for any purpose other than personal interest or research without the explicit permission of the Empire Club of Canada.
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100 Front Street West, Floor H

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Full Text
OCTOBER 4, 1979
Canada in a Changing World
CHAIRMAN The President, John A. MacNaughton


Madame Minister, distinguished head table guests and ladies and gentlemen of The Empire Club of Canada: A most warm welcome to this splendid beginning to the fall season of The Empire Club of Canada. Our attendance today is large and enthusiastic and, as you can see, our head table is a distinguished one.

Before hearing from our guest of honour there are several announcements and a presentation.

The first announcement is made with regret. Eric F. Thompson, President of this club during the 1945-1946 season, passed away during the summer. Those who were members of the Empire Club during that period will remember his program of speakers that included many officers who had played a major role in the allied war effort. It also included two Saskatchewan Members of Parliament--the legendary Agricultural Minister, Jimmy Gardiner, and the promising newcomer, John George Diefenbaker.

As a second announcement I draw to your attention that on each table are applications for membership in the Empire Club. I encourage any of you who would like to be members to complete the application, invite your host or hostess today to sign it as proposer, attach a cheque in the amount of $25.00 and forward it to the club office. If your host or hostess is reluctant to endorse the application send it to the office unsigned. As President, I will regard your desire to join the Empire Club as an indication of discriminating taste, your prepayment as a mark of upright character and I will sign as your proposer, sight unseen.

My third announcement relates to the second. During this season we will be fortunate enough to have this large room on only three occasions. As a result, several of our very popular upcoming speakers will be in rooms that accommodate only a portion of those in attendance today. Your board of directors has decided that on such occasions attendance will be limited to members and one guest each on a reserved seat basis. The first such restricted meeting will be on November 1 when we will hear from Finance Minister John Crosbie, and I encourage those of you who wish to attend to be sure that your application for membership is in or, if you were a member last year, that your dues have been paid.

The presentation I referred to earlier is to be made by the Honourable Thomas Wells, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and Government House Leader in the Ontario Legislature.


Mr. President, Madame Minister, Right Honourable Mr. Michener, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen: As you all know, in the past year The Empire Club of Canada under the presidency of Brigadier General Reginald W. Lewis has celebrated its Diamond Jubilee. Since that first meeting in Webb's Restaurant in downtown Toronto on November 18, 1903, over seventeen hundred prominent speakers have been welcomed to this rostrum and have spoken with real authority on the issues of the day. In recording these speeches in its yearbook and distributing it not only to members but free of charge to schools, colleges, universities and public libraries across Canada, the Empire Club has endowed Canadian history, tradition and education in a unique and very valuable way. As your Past President, Peter Hermant, said in your brief to the Task Force on Canadian Unity, the yearbooks constitute a first-person account of the history of Canada, the Commonwealth and the world.

Far from being anachronistic, the Empire Club name is a designation that continues to signify strong loyalties and a respect for sound traditions and proven customs. It is a fine synonym for whatever name applies to that union that maintains our heritage of loyalty and freedom under the Crown. Certainly all of us in Ontario are indebted to The Empire Club of Canada for the outstanding contribution that it has made to Canadian life over the past seventy-five years. Its success and loyalty has been the result of the dedication of its many members, but particularly of the leaders, the seventy-six presidents that began with Brigadier General the Honourable James Mason in 1903, leading up to Brigadier General Reginald Lewis in 1978--a list that includes one former Governor General of Canada who is here today, and three former Premiers of the Province of Ontario.

Mr. President, the Government of Ontario is anxious to recognize and to honour this loyal society for its outstanding contributions to the cultural history, not only of this province but of the whole of Canada. And so today, on behalf of the Premier of Ontario, and the Government, I would like to present to Brigadier General Lewis, the President of The Empire Club of Canada in its seventy-fifth anniversary year, a presidential ribbon of office in the colours of the Order of Canada. From this ribbon hangs a gold medallion that has on its front the crest of the Empire Club and on its reverse side the crest of the Province of Ontario. Also, to commemorate the presidents who have served since 1903, I would like to present an illuminated scroll to you, Mr. President, bearing their names and the years of their presidency, signed by the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario and the Premier. It also has a replica of the medallion which I am going to present to Brigadier General Lewis.

In presenting this medallion, Brigadier General Lewis, and in thanking the club through this presentation on behalf of the people of Ontario for seventy-five years of service, I hope that you and your successors will wear this ribbon with pride and that the great tradition of this club will continue for many more years.


Mr. President, Madame Minister, Mr. Minister, distinguished guests, members and friends of The Empire Club of Canada: First let me say, Mr. Wells, in all humility, that I am overwhelmed by this magnificent gesture of the Premier and of the Government of Ontario to recognize the seventy-fifth anniversary of The Empire Club of Canada. Will you please convey to the Premier just how grateful we are and how pleased we are to accept this gracious gift at this significant milestone in the history of our club. I would be less than honest if I did not tell you that this is a very proud moment for me, for it is with great pride that I wear this emblem of office, a pride that I know will be felt by all future presidents. If I may call this a chain of office, they will wear it not only as a symbol of the office of the Presidency, but as a symbol of all that for which the Empire Club stands.

Thinking of it as a chain, and thinking of the dictionary definition of a chain as "anything that binds and restrains," then surely this emblem shall serve as a symbol that binds us together as members of the Empire Club. And yet it will perhaps restrain us from any puffed-up sense of our place in the affairs of either God or man. In this spirit, then, and having had the honour of being the first to wear it, and for what I hope will be the shortest period of time on record, I will now pass this emblem of office to the man who has been chosen to lead us in our seventy-sixth year, as we head towards our first century--Mr. John MacNaughton, President of The Empire Club of Canada, 1979-1980.


Mr. President, I would now like to present the plaque with the names of the President of the Empire Club in its first seventy-five years, with our best wishes.

We have one other presentation. This is one that was not scheduled, but since you, Brigadier General Lewis, had the honour of being President in the Diamond Jubilee year, we thought that you would like a personal memento. You did not wear the chain of office for long, but we have the moulds from which the medallion on the chain was made. Only three medals have been struck from these moulds, one on the chain and the two on the scroll. The moulds have now been plated, and you are now the owner of those casts.


Mr. Minister, today when I was travelling by subway from my office at Bloor to Union Station, I was thinking what a long journey it was, compared with those Thursdays of last year when I used to run through the notes of my introductions and the time went by in a flash. I thought what a relaxed day it would be today, to sit here and have nothing to do. But now with having this problem of getting up twice to speak, I feel rather like the club--seventy-five years of age.

I want to tell you, Mr. Minister, how I will personally cherish this always as a memento of a wonderful year with a wonderful club. Thank you very much indeed.


Thank you, General Lewis, for this chain of office and for your good wishes.

Now to the business of the day.

The large numbers in attendance today and the enthusiasm throughout this room combine to form an auspicious beginning to the fall season of our 1979-1980 program of luncheon meetings. But more importantly, the warmth of this gathering is a demonstration of the regard our members have for our guest speaker, the Honourable Flora MacDonald, Secretary of State for External Affairs.

Miss MacDonald is no stranger to this podium. She has stood here twice before and on both occasions has been greeted by an audience of friends and admirers. However, her appearance this afternoon is surrounded by a special sense of occasion because she comes to us not as an Opposition Member of Parliament, as she did on her two earlier visits, but as a Senior Minister of the Crown who is making her first public statement to a Toronto audience since being appointed to high office on June 4th of this year.

Those who have followed Miss MacDonald's political career from its beginnings in North Sydney, Nova Scotia, know that she has had her eye on a position with the Department of External Affairs for many years. In his biography of Robert Stanfield, Geoffrey Stevens writes that in 1957 Flora MacDonald, who had a passion for both politics and travel, "headed for Ottawa to try for a job with the Department of External Affairs on the theory that people in the diplomatic service get to do a lot of travelling."

Twenty-two years later Flora MacDonald got the job and her agenda for the first four months as Secretary of State for External Affairs has proven her theory about travel. Since her swearing in, Flora MacDonald has visited Paris for an economic conference, Tokyo for a gathering of leaders of major western powers, Geneva for a meeting on Southeast Asian refugees, Lusaka for the Commonwealth Conference, New York for an appearance before the General Assembly of the United Nations and, to complete her tour of international power centres, Toronto for an address to the Empire Club.

In her travels to foreign capitals, Flora MacDonald has been representing Canada to the world. And all reports are that she has been distinguishing her nation at every stop. After her address to the Geneva conference on refugees the foreign minister from Denmark was overheard saying to her "You're being discussed around here. And the words that are being used are 'intelligent' and 'tough'."

Reports from her address to the U.N. last week are that diplomats from around the world are excited by the verve, forthright manner and evident compassion for people exhibited by Canada's new foreign minister.

On the homefront Peter C. Newman, in his September 3rd, 1979 editorial in MacLean's, wrote that Flora MacDonald's "courage, moral sensitivity and plain good sense equip her better than anyone else since Lester Pearson to marry an instinct for political pragmatism with a raging sense of idealism and come up with some badly needed new external initiatives."

Her address to us today affords members of this club a welcome opportunity to begin our seventy-sixth consecutive season by looking beyond our boundaries through the eyes of a new and already respected international leader. On behalf of all members and our guests here today I am pleased to welcome to our podium the Honourable Flora MacDonald, Secretary of State for External Affairs, who will address us on the topic "Canada in a Changing World."

THE HONOURABLE FLORA MACDONALD: Mr. President, Mr. Minister, distinguished head table guests, ladies and gentlemen: It is now exactly four months since the new government took office and I was sworn in as Secretary of State for External Affairs. And I'll tell you--it's been quite some four months.

Anyone who hasn't been involved in a change of government will find it hard to understand just what an intensive period we have been going through. There has been an enormous amount to do. First, we had to familiarize ourselves with the sheer mechanics of government. And since we have chosen to change the structure of decision-making at the centre, the whole process has been doubly difficult. For example, it has meant helping our senior civil servants adapt to new structures, and to work with the Ministers in a different way.

Second, we had to learn about the true state of affairs facing us. It wasn't until we were actually in office that we got access to the information we had asked for so often while in Opposition. The true state of affairs we found, particularly the government's financial affairs, was really quite different from what we had been led to expect. And believe me, it wasn't better.

In addition, of course, we have all of us been having a crash cram course on our individual portfolios. Speaking personally, this has been probably the most fascinating period of my life. I was truly lucky, in that I have had a long interest in international affairs, and over the years I have travelled to many different countries all around the world. But even so, the amount to learn has been tremendous.

As a Cabinet we have had to devote a great deal of time to the legislative program we shall be introducing when the House opens next week. In parallel with this, we have been preparing our estimates, as part of that annual festival that governments go through in the budgeting process. These exercises, of course, call for a drawing together of the information we have gathered, and the experience we have gained in our other activities--and always keeping in mind the commitments we made while in Opposition.

So life in the past four months has been a relentless series of meetings, consultations, briefings and reading. And for me it has also meant attendance at five major international conferences on four continents--the latest being the United Nations General Assembly in New York during the past ten days.

Now, I mention these things not to gain any sympathy for the hectic pace that all this has involved, nor am I trying to show what great value for money you as taxpayers are getting from the salary you pay me. I mention it rather to explain that until I started to think about what I should say to you, I really hadn't had many opportunities to reflect on the state of the world as it is today, of the kind of forces at play, and the impact all these things have on Canada.

That's why I particularly welcome the chance to speak at the Empire Club today. It has allowed me to pause in the galloping race of events and to formulate more specifically in my own mind some of the questions that have been bothering many of us for some time. In doing this, I shall not pretend to have all the answers--but it seems a good place to start.

First, I ask myself what kind of a world is it that we are living in. What are the political realities? The last time the Government of Canada asked this question out loud was ten years ago during its full scale foreign policy review. Well, things have changed since then.

Ten years ago it was still possible to believe in a broad system of international security based on the spheres of influence of the two superpowers. Some effects of this broad system paralleled those of the colonial era of the last century. By the late sixties, of course, the process of decolonization was nearly complete--the European empires had been pretty well disbanded. But though the empires had gone, they left behind a certain way of thinking about international affairs. No matter what you may think of the morality of imperialism, it did at least give a stabilizing frame of reference to world affairs. By and large, during that colonial period, conflict around the world was controlled by the European homelands, countries whose own economic self-interest weighed heavily against spontaneous outbreaks of conflict between neighbouring countries or colonies. The Pax Britannica was, after all, an almost unprecedented period of stability in the history of human affairs. And so one legacy of the colonial period was a rather intellectual approach to international affairs based on the stability that it brought. A decade ago, then, there was still a view of the world, shared by many, that the two superpowers would guarantee between them some sort of stability in the global system.

And certainly there was some evidence to support this view. In the fifties and sixties the United States saw fit to intervene with troops when trouble broke out in Guatemala and in the Dominican Republic without outraging international public opinion. The Soviet Union brutally quashed political change in the satellite states of Hungary and Czechoslovakia. Of course, that system of stability was both incomplete and imperfect, but in those days it was still possible to view the world in that way.

Today the view is quite different. The world is not split into two great blocs who have a definitive influence. We have seen the development of a strategic nuclear stalemate, with neither superpower having overwhelming force. Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore at the Commonwealth Conference in Lusaka described this as a new Roman arch, built not of bricks but of nuclear missiles, under which it is possible for other countries to find room to manoeuvre. That manoeuvrability is not entirely an unmixed blessing. In just the first nine months of this year, for example, Vietnam has invaded Cambodia, China has had a border war with Vietnam, South Yemen has attacked North Yemen, and Tanzanian soldiers have invaded Uganda. All this in nine months--and without the direct intervention of either of the superpowers. Political instability now pervades many regions. Civil uprisings and internal conflicts are apparent in many different parts of the world.

The re-emergence of China onto the world stage adds an almost incalculably important new factor into the equation. Not only is China renewing its political interests in Southeast Asia, interests that date back thousands of years, but its intent to frustrate Russian ambitions on one hand and its expressed interest in western technology on the other is leading to involvement in other parts of the world as well. The impact of this enormously important development is still difficult to evaluate. Not for over a thousand years has the world seen China, with its vast and energetic population, devote itself to a single set of international objectives under an effective central leadership. The coupling of such resources to modern western technology is bound to bring about enormous changes to the international scene, and a major shift in the balance of power.

Another very important factor that has emerged in the past decade is the increasing self-reliance of many of the newly emerged countries of Africa and Asia. In many cases, internal instabilities or external pressures have led to the build-up of substantial armed forces in areas where such were previously relatively unknown. This widespread increase in the capability to make war also introduces an unsettling element into the scene.

There have, of course, always been a number of areas of active armed conflict around the world. I am told that since the Second World War there have been no fewer than one hundred and fifty such outbreaks. It would be naive and unrealistic to think that human nature could change so completely that the recourse to war will be a forgotten and disused device. What is particularly worrying at the moment, however, is the duration of some of the conflicts, such as the thirty-year struggle in Southeast Asia. For conflict has its own dynamic, its own inexorable logic. Once a generation is born and raised to maturity in an unremitting atmosphere of war, the stoppage of that conflict becomes enormously difficult. Peace and war are not just two marks on a switch to be turned on and off at will, and the longer a state of war exists, the longer the period it will take to achieve a thorough peace. Southeast Asia is the prime example of this.

I mention this dynamic of conflict particularly in connection with other points of conflict between some of the smaller states. The situations in the Middle East and Southern Africa, for example, though both at the moment showing some hopeful signs of settlement, are of such a duration as to cause considerable anxiety about the social and political stability of the areas, even if agreement is reached.

The room for manoeuvre under the Roman arch of nuclear stalemate has also allowed the countries of the Third World an opportunity to use their influence in world forums in an increasingly forceful way. The Group of Seventy-seven, the term adopted by the Third World countries acting as a bloc in international meetings--a group which now numbers well over a hundred--has become a determining influence in international meetings. And one has to remember that that bloc includes such diverse countries as Saudi Arabia and Ethiopia. No longer can the countries of the developed world reach agreement on the direction of world affairs without recourse to the governments of the Third World bloc which represent such a large portion of the world's population.

But in the past decade the disparities between these developing countries have grown enormously. The fastest rates of economic growth in the world are to be found in some of these countries. Oil, of course, has accounted for much of this. The almost unimaginable wealth of some of the oil-producing countries places them in a vastly different position from that of some of the other developing countries. And the impact of rising oil prices--great though it has been in the industrialized world--has been well nigh crippling to many countries in the Group of Seventy-seven.

But oil does not account for all the economic progress in the developing world. Singapore, for example, with nothing in the way of natural resources at all, has now achieved a per capita income equal to that of Ireland, the country which is now chairman of the European Community. The Malaysian economy is one of the fastest growing in the world, and we all know what the South Koreans have been able to do.

At the other end of the scale, some of the Third World countries seem to be making no noticeable progress at all in solving their economic problems. At the most basic level of sheer survival, some countries are falling behind in food production per capita, even while their populations continue to grow. Zambia, for example, which I visited this summer, used to be a substantial exporter of food. Today it can no longer meet its own requirements. These factors, to some extent foreseeable ten years ago, are now stark realities.

While talking about food problems, I cannot help but digress to mention the absolutely desperate situation arising in Cambodia, now called Kampuchea. Formerly a major rice exporter, that country faces one of the most appalling food shortages in the history of the world. So disruptive have been the effects of its internal political upheavals, and the invasion by the Vietnamese, that only five per cent of the arable land in that country is now under cultivation. The projections of need are staggering. Worse still, however, is the complete disruption of the internal functioning of the country, the total breakdown of its infrastructure. Even if food can be gotten to the country, there are no facilities left to distribute it. Seldom has the international community been faced with such a massive need, so difficult to fill.

As I mentioned, the Third World countries have shown an increasing independence in their dealings with the developed world. What is not nearly so clear is whether they will be able to find enough community of interest and collective will to deal with some of their own problems.

Looking more narrowly at the world of our western allies and our traditional trading partners, the scene here, too, is unlike that of a decade ago. I needn't recite for this audience the factors that have so changed the economic atlas. Who, ten years ago, could have foreseen the present state of the U.S. dollar, the readjustments called for by the energy situation, or today's price of gold? Our current experience and future prospects for a combination of high unemployment, continuing inflation and slow economic growth have enormous implications not only for the western countries themselves, but also for the role they play in the international scene.

These are a few of the things that I notice are different about the world today compared with ten years ago. And looking at these factors, I cannot help wondering whether the emphasis and priorities of Canadian foreign policy are really serving our best interests in this substantially different world. Let me give you just a few of the questions that come into my mind.

I look at the distribution of effort that our Department of External Affairs and our aid programs have, and I wonder why we are so deeply committed in certain parts of the world. What are Canada's real interests in this involvement? It certainly doesn't have to do with trade; our commerce with most of these countries is minimal. We are not like the former colonial powers of Europe who have both ties and obligations dating from the previous century.

Even more generally, I wonder on what basis we have chosen to participate in individual aid programs. Have we taken into account the economic returns Canada may expect in both the short and long term? How good are we at assessing projects from the point of view of actually helping real development in the recipient country, and of doing ourselves some good at the same time? Would we be more responsible international citizens if we concentrated our attention in fewer countries or in fewer fields, so that our impact could be greater?

Along the same lines, I wonder if Canada should be so deeply involved in peacekeeping operations. Does this constitute the best contribution we can make to peace and security in regional trouble spots? I know the costs we bear for these, both in terms of national expenditure and in the very direct human effects they have on the military personnel themselves and their families. Why are we spending so much time involved in the contact group in Namibia? Do Canadians really care?

Ever since the Second World War Canada has been cultivating the image of an international nice guy. We're friends to everyone, the honest brokers. We've spent billions on aid and untold man-hours of effort in being as upright and noble to the Third World as we can be. And yet last month in Havana the non-aligned countries cheerfully branded us as imperialists. Pakistan is one of the very largest recipients of our aid programs, but it led the attack. Not only that, it is a country whose head of government, before he was executed, said that he would rather reduce his country to eating grass than give up the right to develop a nuclear bomb. Is it really the right thing to do to divorce aid policy entirely from the rest of our relations, both political and economic, with the country concerned?

I also wonder if we are paying enough attention to economic and trade relations. Why is it, for example, that Canada still has so little trade with such powerful and growing economies as Mexico and Brazil and Venezuela? Perhaps we've also been far too slow in establishing really solid economic ties with the fast-growing countries of the Pacific rim.

I'm also not sure that we really have paid as much attention as we should to our nearest neighbour and closest partner, the United States. I say this without in any way compromising my stand as a staunch Canadian nationalist. But our relations with the United States are so enormously important that they just must be our first priority. Have we really been as attentive, as co-operative, and yes, as tough as we should be in this regard?

And beyond all this, of course, is the question of our military alliances and commitments. There are just as many questions needing answers here as in foreign and aid policy.

As I said at the outset, Mr. President, I don't pretend to have the answers to all of these questions. It may be that the polities that were developed in the early 1970s are still appropriate for the 1980s. But given the substantial changes in the international scene, I feel it is my responsibility to make sure that we don't take the answers for granted.

That's why we as a government have initiated a thorough review of foreign policy. I think this review is absolutely essential if we are to have any confidence at all that we really know, and are able to serve Canada's genuine interests in an increasingly interdependent world. There are two characteristics I want this review to have. First, I want it to have input from Canadians outside the government. By involving a revitalized Parliamentary Committee on External Affairs and National Defence we shall provide a vehicle for participation by private groups and individual citizens. In this connection I want to invite anyone interested to make sure your views get inserted into this process.

The second characteristic I want it to have is that it be quick. I have no interest in a long, drawn-out process that will take years to complete. We have to make decisions every day. Therefore, the sooner we come to agreement on these fundamental issues which I have placed before you today, the better.

Foreign policy is no esoteric academic exercise reserved for ivory towers or diplomatic tête-à-têtes. It has enormous implications for each and every Canadian--for our security, for our economic well-being, for our contribution to the rest of the world. Given the international pressures that exist, we must realize that if we don't exert every possible effort to devise the kind of foreign policy most appropriate to Canada in the 1980s, then others will. And neither you nor I want to leave that job to others.

The thanks of the club were expressed to Miss MacDonald by the Right Honourable D. Roland Michener, a Past President of The Empire Club of Canada.

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Canada in a Changing World

The political realities of the world we live in: a short historical review and then a discussion of changes that have taken place and the realities of today. Some global events that have changed the world, such as the re-emergence of China onto the world stage, the demise of two great blocs of power, hostile activiites in the East, newly-emerged countries in Africa and Asia. The dynamics of conflict. Third World countries and their development. The factor of oil and oil prices. Food problems. Aid programs and Canada's participation. Peace-keeping missions. Is Canada paying enough attention to economic and trade relations? Relations with the United States. Military alliances and commitments. Are policies developed in the 1970's appropriate for the 1908's? A planned government review of foreign policy.