Canadians ready to tackle international challenges even as the pandemic continues

Canadians deliberated on how Canada should engage in the world to advance their health, security, prosperity and human dignity.

June 29, 2021, OTTAWA – The results of Canada’s largest-ever deliberative democracy exercise, Foreign Policy By Canadians, have revealed Canadians support significant global engagement and are distinctly open to discussing, engaging and contributing to policy discussions on Canada’s role in global health, security, prosperity, and human dignity.  

Foreign Policy By Canadians, a joint initiative by the Canadian International Council (CIC), the Canadian Partnership for Women and Children’s Health (CanWaCH) and Global Canada, found citizens to be instinctively international in their outlook and broadly in favour of global engagement to pursue objectives in collaboration with other nations. 

The report outlines the conclusions of the democratic exercise conducted in Spring 2021, just as the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic was taking hold across Canada. Close to 450 citizens from all walks of life deliberated for eight to twelve hours on some of the major foreign policy issues facing Canadian decision-makers.  

The report concludes that engaging Canadians in the process of deliberative democracy increases their knowledge of foreign policy issues and results in a more positive perception of those with differing views from their own and Canada’s system of democracy as a whole.  Additionally, the report finds that Canadians demonstrate a sense of pragmatism in the support of efforts to strengthen Canada’s security and economic prosperity, widespread support for promoting equality and human rights advocacy, and high levels of engagement on matters related to global health and Canada’s role in global COVID-19 recovery. 

Global Public Health Findings 

“It is not surprising that Canadians have expressed a desire to see Canada support global health equality.  Canadians overwhelming showed their support for helping the entire world recover from COVID-19, both from a health and an economic perspective,” said Julia Anderson, CEO of CanWaCH.  “The report further demonstrated that Canadians’ desire to support global health initiatives increased when they were given more information and have had an opportunity to discuss the issues with similarly informed peers.” 

Security Findings

“The results of the deliberation show that Canadians are anxious about the changing nature of security and are particularly concerned with cyber threats and threats to the Canadian Arctic,” said Ben Rowswell, President of the CIC. “An overwhelming number of respondents supported strong measures to uphold security, including steps to combat online threats to our elections and our economic prosperity, and a transparent and well-funded security budget.”

Prosperity Findings

“In embracing digital innovation and a collaborative approach to a clean energy future, Canadians have shown they care about foreign policy issues and understand the real-world impacts these complex policies have on Canadian lives,” said Robert Greenhill, Executive Chairman of Global Canada. “As we chart our economic recovery from COVID-19, policymakers will benefit from the insight contained in this report.”

Human Dignity Findings 

“Canadians want us to be active in efforts to promote the dignity of people everywhere, but in this report they also make it clear that there is still work we need to do here at home,” said Julia Anderson.  “From gender rights to LGTBQ issues, Canadians considered complex issues related to Canada’s role in promoting equality and expressed a strong desire for Canada to closely link its pursuit of equality abroad with the ongoing struggle to achieve it among Canadians. I think this demonstrates that Canadians care about these issues and are ready to work towards progress here and abroad.” 

Democracy Findings 

“These results show that there really is a centre in Canadian public opinion. Citizens disagree on foreign policy issues, but their differences don’t necessarily align with party positions. In an age of online polarization, it is remarkable how open citizens are to listening to one another and to doing so respectfully,” said Ben Rowswell. “When we take the views of citizens seriously, and bring them together in conversation, it increases their faith in our democracy.” 

Foreign Policy By Canadians was conducted in partnership with the Center for Deliberative Democracy at Stanford University.  Deliberative Polling ® is an attempt to use public opinion research in a new and constructive way. The process uses both a random baseline sample and intensive participant engagement. The resulting changes in opinion represent the public’s conclusions if people had the opportunity to become more informed and more engaged by the issues.


More information

For media inquiries or interviews, please contact:
Carrie Croft, Temple Scott Associates, 613-406-4986 or [email protected]
Charmaine Crockett, CanWaCH, 613-893-9489 or [email protected]

The CIC | The mandate of the Canadian International Council is to give citizens a voice in global affairs. Founded 92 years ago by Sir Robert Borden, CIC is a non-partisan, grassroots, and citizen-centred organization with 17 branches across Canada, from Halifax to Prince George.

CanWaCH | The Canadian Partnership for Women and Children’s Health (CanWaCH) is comprised of approximately 100 Canadian non-governmental organizations (NGOs), academic institutions, health professional associations and individuals partnering to improve health outcomes for women and children in more than 1,000 communities worldwide.

Global Canada | Global Canada brings together Canadians in leadership positions around the world and is based on two core beliefs. First, that Canada can best serve its interests by enhancing its global impact. Second, that Canada’s impact will be enhanced if key Canadian institutions and individuals work together in a coordinated and complementary manner, informed by a clear set of overarching principles.


June 29, 2021