By Sauvé Scholars 2008-09
Shauna Sylvester came to meet with the Sauvé Scholars to talk to them about her project and solicit their input. Shauna is the Director of Canada’s World and a Fellow at Simon Fraser University, which is home to the collaboration between 15 faculties at universities and 40 foundations and not-for-profit organizations across the country. Canada’s World is a three-year citizens’ dialogue that engages Canadians in developing a new story for Canada in the world. It brings Canadians together for conversations on the issues that define the current global environment – issues that provide both opportunities and challenges for Canadians. Unlike traditional processes and consultations led by government, this project is funded by individuals, businesses, international organizations and foundations who want to inspire citizens to write a new story for Canada. Canada’s world is unusual in many respects.
First, it is not government sponsored. Second, unlike almost all past dialogues with Canadian citizens, it focuses on international policy themes rather than domestic issues. It addresses the gap between the citizens’ perception of Canada’s role in the world (67% think Canada is more influential now than 20 years ago) and the reality of the role the country actually plays. The reality is that popularity enjoyed at home following the changes in government policy in order to gain local support has been paid for in Canada’s diminishing positive influence on the world scene in many international areas including an unwillingness to strengthen gun control legislation, prison reform, the repatriation of prisoners, Kyoto and the deteriorating environment, mediation role in international disputes, nuclear non-proliferation and worldwide political liberty.
One of the accomplishments of the dialogues is the achievement of political literacy amongst individuals who previously felt unable to participate in the process, along with the creation of a network of young people who take issues in different directions. Shauna also pointed out with some pride that there is a fascinating underground activity – groups forming on their own, who subsequently share the results of their dialogues with Canada’s World. Shauna is a gifted interviewer and consequently, the Scholars were quickly drawn into the topic and during a stimulating exchange, eagerly responded to her questions about how they view Canada.