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From our editors

2016 marked a new start for OpenCanada.org. Invigorated from a site redesign in late 2015 and from a palpable interest in Canadian foreign policy following the election of Justin Trudeau, the year began on a high note.

 As a digital publication, we value innovation and change. With that in mind, we dove head first into the world of longform journalism, the natural and necessary counterpart to opinion editorials — on-the-ground reporting to help put policy into perspective. May Jeong took us to the Kandahar Province Canada’s military left behind; Ed Struzik painted a picture from the Canadian Arctic, where economic development is needed but challenging; Naheed Mustafa brought us into the homes of those living with the digital vulnerabilities of war.

To mark OpenCanada’s fifth anniversary in June, we launched a series exploring a possible ‘leftist’ foreign policy, featuring Owen Jones, Vijay Prashad, Terry Glavin and others. It was part of a long list of carefully curated essays that addressed this year’s most critical issues, from Jeremy Kinsman’s Brexit takeaways to Stephen Marche’s reflection on Canadian exceptionalism.

We also asked tough questions around Canada’s foreign policy: its role in the building of a future Kurdish state; what more Canada could do to improve the global refugee system; how Trudeau has fared overall on the global affairs file, one year into his mandate; and more.

With the recent election of Donald Trump, more eyes than ever are on Canada as we go into 2017. The war in Syria has reached a turning point but is far from over. The future of surveillance, trade agreements and pipeline projects is uncertain. Expect continued thoughtful analysis from our contributors on these topics, and in the meantime our editorial team would like to thank you, our readers, for continuing to be part of the engaged community found at OpenCanada.org.


Taylor Owen, Editor-in-Chief
Eva Salinas, Managing Editor

Recent criticism of Saudi Arabia’s human rights record, following a mass execution of 47 people on Jan. 2, has put Canada’s business with the Middle Eastern country back under the microscope. Specifically, a 2014 deal worth nearly $15-billion to supply Saudi Arabia with light armoured vehicles has been scrutinized for its secrecy and the fact that Canada’s largest arms contract has been made with a problematic recipient. As Cesar Jaramillo wrote in a piece for OpenCanada in September, “i...
 
The millennial generation — generally considered to encompass those aged between 18 to 34 years old — is often castigated in the media as entitled, unengaged in the world around them and at risk of having to settle for a life less comfortable than the ones lived by their parents. But the young people working behind the scenes of Canadian foreign policy in Justin Trudeau’s government tell a different story.Here, we feature some of the best and brightest working in global affairs — highlig...
 
Discussions about ideological cleavages in U.S. foreign policy—especially regarding military intervention—often lean on shopworn, vague and occasionally specious taxonomies. In the most common account, the world is neatly divided between realists and idealists, or interventionists and isolationists, or hawks and doves. These labels provide a rough template for understanding diverging ideas about foreign policy, but they also fail to explain the unwieldy plurality of views on intervention...
 
Leftist views are most often clear when it comes to the domestic agenda — advocating for social programs, including the protection of workers, basic healthcare and education, and against all forms of inequality. But when it comes to some of today's most urgent foreign policy issues — from the justified uses of militaries to the appropriate levels of foreign aid to what constitutes a global human rights regime — the Left is not only divided but in many cases removed from positions of powe...
 
Dreaming of home Ayub Nuri’s mother hid her tears as she wept for her dead son and daughter. Two of her children and husband had been in Halabja, a city in Iraq’s Kurdish north, when Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s air force attacked it with chemical weapons on March 16, 1988. Saddam’s soldiers had already slaughtered tens of thousands of Kurds before the attack on Halabja. Some died in poison gas attacks. Others were lined up and shot into pits in scenes that, but for the desert sand i...
 
When Mexicans went to the polls in a regional election earlier this month, they were in an angry mood and obsessed with corruption. President Enrique Peña Nieto’s Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) lost seven states, including four where the party had wielded power for 86 straight years and governors were accused of gross human rights violations, mismanagement and corruption. “Clearly the voters are into kicking the bums out. And they are bums,” says Federico Estévez, political sc...
 
There is an unnamed stream on one of Canada’s High Arctic islands that is clear and cold, and thick with char, a cold-water fish, at certain times of the summer. It plunges from a high, boulder-strewn plateau to a lowland meadow, where it winds its way slowly through the sedge, grass and willow bushes.When I camped there many summers ago, I spotted flightless snowy owl chicks tucked beneath the shrubbery. The lemming cycle had peaked by then, so it was no surprise to see Arctic foxes hun...
 
In this open memo to the outgoing British Prime Minister, former Canadian High Commissioner to the UK, Jeremy Kinsman, describes in detail just how badly the Remain campaign failed.      1. Referenda are the nuclear weapons of democracy. In parliamentary systems they are redundant. Seeking a simplistic binary yes/no answer to complex questions, they succumb to emotion and run amok. Their destructive aftermath lasts for generations. 2. Never call a referendum without being sure of ...
 
When the Canadian Forces first came to Afghanistan in 2001, Haji Torjan was running a small hotel on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. He had observed the events in New York that fall with casual indifference; he was content with the simple life he had built for himself, and thought that he would live out the balance of it without much interruption. But when an old friend, Gul Agha Sherzai, enlisted his help in pushing out the Taliban, Haji Torjan surprised himself by saying yes.      In...
 
This week, world leaders converge in New York for the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). One of the major topics on the agenda is how the world can do a better job addressing mass movements of refugees and migrants. Two major meetings are scheduled to discuss global cooperation on this issue: the UN General Assembly High-Level Meeting on Refugees and Migrants on Sept. 19, and a Leaders’ Summit on the global refugee crisis, hosted by U.S. President Barack Obama (a...
 

The Tehran Test

Maziar Bahari woke up in his cell in Tehran’s Evin Prison and thought of Zahra Kazemi. It was June 21, 2009, nine days after an almost certainly fraudulent election returned hardline Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to power, and two days after Iranian authorities violently crushed protests by the hundreds of thousands of Iranians who believed their votes had been ignored. Bahari, a Canadian citizen born in Iran, was in the country reporting for Newsweek and had watched as protes...
 
How can we create more welcoming and compassionate societies? One policy at a time. Here are nine initiatives to better promote inclusion, from a cross-section of speakers at this year's 6 Degrees forum. 1. Inspire an entire generation with a single book. Late last December, the Swedish Women’s Lobby announced plans to give a free copy of Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s short book We Should All Be Feminists to every 16-year-old in Sweden. The news stuck with me ever s...
 
Mariam Hamou lives in a modest house in suburban London, Ontario, with her husband and two little girls, who are five and seven years old. She has the best laugh. It comes easily and it’s loud and bold, originating deep in her gut. It’s the kind of laugh that even if you’re not in on the joke, you’ll play along just to hear her enjoy it. As we talk, she finds ways to joke and laugh even when she’s recounting something terrible. Hamou sits in an overstuffed chair, her feet tucked under he...
 
During the 2015 federal election campaign, on the eve of the Munk Debate on Canadian foreign policy, a Foreign Affairs briefing document was leaked to The Globe and Mail. It decried the loss of Canada’s “traditional place at some multilateral tables” and warned that “Canada may not be a ‘partner of first choice’ for foreign countries.”The assessment echoed what many Canadians, from university campuses to the upper echelons of the foreign service, felt was a result of almost a decade of g...
 
Quiet Canada is becoming a radical exception in the global political order. One startling fact is starting to separate our country from the rest of the developed world: We’re cheerful. Justin Trudeau’s “sunny ways” have been flooding Ottawa with their brightness for a year now and clouds have shown no signs of forming on the horizon yet. A year is typically more than enough for Canadians to tire of whomever they choose for prime minister during election season, and a very recent small de...
 
Politically motivated cyber attacks have made global headlines in recent months. At pivotal moments in the run-up to the United States’ presidential election, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign was knocked off message when the private communications of her campaign manager John Podesta, the Democratic National Committee, and other targets were made public in a series of leaks. Several media reports suggested the accounts were likely hacked by actors supported by the Russian ...
 
For most of the last decade, Canada was widely seen as opposing progress on an international climate agreement, culminating in former Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s decision in 2011 to become the only country to pull out of the Kyoto Protocol.Then, our new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau led a large Canadian delegation to Paris for COP21 in November 2015 and reversed Canada’s position, boldly declaring that “Canada is back” and leading the charge to support limiting warming to well below ...
 

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