When Trudeau stated that “Canada is back” in 2015, there was an expectation for an improvement in Canada’s international image and standing. The discussions as to whether Canada is actually back tend to show that there is much progress still to be made if Canada is to claim a higher standing on the world stage. This makes me question if Canada is doing what is needed in order to positively spread its image on the international stage. Currently Canada would have to double its aid spending “[t]o reclaim the high ground Canada had back in 1975…”, which appears to be unlikely. This prompts the questions: should Canada look into other methods in order to ‘bring Canada back?’ And should the well-being of Canadians be sought out first by implementing a Universal Basic Income (UBI)?

There is dispute as to whether the aid Canada provides is actually beneficial to those whom Canada provides it to. So if the way aid is being doled out isn’t always beneficial, perhaps more focus should be place into addressing the issues Canadians are facing; i.e. the unideal foster care system, welfare system, indigenous access to basic needs, and much more. Should we be looking inwards to increase the quality of life for struggling Canadians to be an example to other countries instead of following a neocolonial developmental aid structure and trying to “help” those previously colonized? While there is the argument  that Canadians need to be doing more in the aid sector, are we perhaps just going about things in the wrong way? If our intent is to better the lives of others who were previously colonized, then the way we provide aid needs to change. However, if our intent is to ‘bring Canada back’ and increase our international image and influence, then perhaps we should be looking at bettering the lives of Canadians. If Canada is solely seeking to ‘bring Canada back,’ then perhaps UBI could be the way forward.

Poverty and homelessness are still very dominant aspects in the lives of many Canadians. Around 2.3 million people in Canada in 2014 reported to have been homeless at some point in their lives. In 2019, it is outrageous that this is happening, especially when UBI pilots have shown positive results. In the United States, UBI pilots resulted in many positive outlooks all while only a minor decrease in work was determined. There was a basic income pilot project in Ontario, but it was announced that they are winding down the project with the last of the payments to be given to participants on March 31, 2019. The reasons for scrapping the pilot were due to cost, stating that HST would rise to 20% to allow for province wide implication for the program. However, to those who are struggling to get by, a 7% rise in HST could achieve a lot of good. While one cannot say without further research that UBI could work on a nationwide scale (Finland’s two year trial is expected to release final results in 2020), most data points to the fact that UBI would increase the wellbeing of people involved, which to some is reason enough as to why Canada should pursue it.

Canada is still highly focused on maintaining its bilateral relationship with the US. Multilaterally, Canada is tiptoeing to avoid agitating its neighbors to the South. As this is the case, looking internally and setting an example by bettering the lives of Canadians surely seems to be a logical first step in ‘bringing Canada back.’  However, this by no means is a reason to reduce foreign aid or to discourage growth in that sector. Canada should be providing aid and working to allow for the funds allocated for aid to become more effective in addressing the needs of previously colonized countries. Aid is important, but so is addressing the needs of our citizens. In order to ‘bring Canada back’ we must address both. By analyzing and addressing alternative means by which to “bring Canada back”, we can better address and pinpoint the need for change in any current and future foreign policy goals, objectives, and actions.



Andrea Korsch is currently pursuing a Masters in International Affairs at the Norman 
Patterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University. She is passionate about 
initiatives to improve human rights around the world.  


Featured images courtesy of KMR Photography.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect iAffairs’ editorial stance.

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