Canada’s new language for the world

Conservative government removes Liberal language from foreign policy


In an attempt, apparently, to differentiate itself from its Liberal predecessors, sources tell Embassy that the Conservative government has been trying to change the language used by Foreign Affairs bureaucrats, putting its own spin on the ideals for which this country stands. Out are words and phrases like “human security” and “good governance.” In are “human rights,” “the rule of law” and “democracy.” “There are phrases you are not supposed to use,” says one diplomat. “Anything that smacks of the previous government is totally verboten. There is this tendency, almost like a knee-jerk reaction, to discount or ignore or change whatever it is the Liberals did and let’s put a new Conservative face on it.”


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Canada’s new language for the world

  1. "Good governance" is out, eh?

    • So are "peace" and "order".

  2. Wow this is long overdue …. way to go …. for too long we have had this incestuous relationship between the Liberal Party and the sheer volume of positions they have been able to fill and the associated influence they have had with what should be a somewhat independent role of the higher levels of our bureaucracy .. way to go ..

  3. This isn't just about language. There could be a subtle change in policy here, too.

    I used to work at the Ottawa-based Institute On Governance. For the Institute, "good governance" is about fair, transparent and effective decision-making. So, societies with different systems of government can employ good governance.

    If good governance has been replaced by conceptions like democracy, that seems to be a normative position in favour of liberal democracies, as opposed to simply societies that use good governance. If true, this means Canada's foreign policy is now an explicit quasi-imperial effort to spread democracy around the world.

    However, maybe it was always that way and the new language is just more honest about Canada's foreign policy objectives…

    • Hard to believe that this is not a policy shift or 'clarification'; otherwise what is the point of refining the language.

      Quasi-imperial because we lack the military might to be truly imperial I assume?

  4. Let's face it, "good governance" is far too intangible to really mean anything. As for "human security"? That is even more difficult to define.

    I'm certain the changes were made for political reasons (most of which I don't know, understand, or likely care for), but it's time Canadian started understanding that any hope for their own good governance and human security only exists when we pay attention to “human rights,” “the rule of law” and “democracy.”

    We are liberal enough. It's time to remember that laws have a place in a democratic society. In fact, you can't be democratic with them. Human rights have to work with the rule of law, not against it. Our current "human right of the month" has to give way to a long-term sustainability for the proper balance between individual rights and the rights of society.

  5. When Mulroney left, Chretien changed many words, policies and directions, even renaming departments. However, Chretien had the advantage of a civil service that was still generally bias toward the Liberals, despite the efforts of the Conservatives.

  6. Just recalling Harper's plagiarized speech. Wonder where they picked up their new 'language'…
    On the use of 'Human Rights' over 'Good governance'. I appreciate some balance here and the use of alot of different language. I don't think that Canada's role in contributing to the primacy of Human Rights Law globally is something to be particularly proud of. I know that John D. Montgomery has been critical of Canadian academics in this regard. I enjoy his take on things.

  7. Well at least they don't still insist on being called "Canada's New Government".