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Shedding Light on Canada's Foreign Policy Alignment

  • Jonathan Paquin (a1) and Philippe Beauregard (a1)


Abstract. The purpose of this article is to explore the issue of alignment in Canadian foreign policy. The main research question is whether Canada's responses to foreign crises aligned with those of its allies, and if so, which allies and why. The study proceeds in two steps. First, it tests four major theoretical perspectives that could explain Canada's behaviour: continentalism, transatlantism, the Anglosphere argument and unilateralism. By performing a computer-generated content analysis, the article assesses these propositions by focusing on and comparing Canada's official declarations to those of the United States, France and Britain to six foreign crises that occurred between 2004 and 2011. Second, the analysis identifies whether there is a difference between the Harper and Martin governments' responses to foreign crises. The research provides quantitative and qualitative evidence suggesting that Canada's foreign policy alignment primarily tends toward a transatlantic orientation. It also shows that the Harper government was less in line with Washington than was the previous Liberal government of Paul Martin, which challenges the conventional wisdom of Canadian foreign policy.

Résumé. Cet article explore l'enjeu de l'alignement en politique étrangère canadienne et pose la question de recherche suivante : est-ce qu'à l'égard des crises étrangère le Canada s'aligne sur les positions de ses alliés et, si oui, lesquels et pourquoi? Tout d'abord, l'article présente quatre perspectives théoriques susceptibles d'expliquer le comportement du Canada : le continentalisme, le transatlantisme, la thèse de l'anglosphère et celle de l'unilatéralisme. En ayant recours à une analyse de contenu assistée par ordinateur, cet article teste la validité de ces propositions en comparant les déclarations officielles du Canada à celles des États-Unis, de la France et de l'Angleterre à l'égard de six crises survenues entre 2004 et 2011. Ensuite, l'analyse cherche à identifier s'il y a une différence entre les réponses des gouvernements Harper et Martin à l'égard de ces crises. L'étude fournit des données empiriques de type qualitatif et quantitatif qui suggèrent que le Canada a eu une orientation transatlantique lors de la gestion de ces crises internationales. Elle montre également que le gouvernement Harper est moins aligné sur les positions de Washington que ne le fut le précédent gouvernement libéral, ce qui ébranle certaines idées communément admises en politique étrangère canadienne.


Corresponding author

Jonathan Paquin, Department of Political Science, Université Laval, Pavillon Charles-De Koninck, 1030, av. des Sciences-Humaines, Québec (Québec) G1V 0A6
Philippe Beauregard, Department of Political Science, Université Laval, Pavillon Charles-De Koninck, 1030, av. des Sciences-Humaines, Québec (Québec) G1V 0A6


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