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Whistler Forum Hosts International Coalition

abstract:William Roberts is the founder of the Whistler Forum for Leadership and Dialogue and his connections to political, civic and humanitarian think-tanks run deep. Modeled on the Aspen Institute, the Whistler Forum just completed a weekend retreat with an interesting array of participants. The purpose was to discuss the current geo-political environment in the new Obama reign, and come up with a position paper that recommends how Canada needs to approach relations with our giant neighbors south of the 49th parallel. Participants asked the questions: What are Canada's values? What are the trends in the geo-politics? What should our priorities be in positioning ourselves in today's world? Issues of political stability and terrorism came up, as did the importance of global warming and development in the third world. Read more about the participants and the points they discussed. We'll see where it all goes.


November 12, 2008
— &camp


Chair, Graham E. Fuller

It's hard to believe that Graham Fuller lives in Squamish, BC. His years of government experience, at the CIA for 17 yrs and the RAND Corporation for 12, add to his cache. He speaks several Middle Eastern languages and is currently an independent analyst on issues of Islam, ethnicity, democracy and geopolitics. He got his BA and MA from Harvard in Russian and Middle Eastern Studies. He's written many books and articles. The Future of Political Islam, "Plagrave, 2003" and his latest, "The New Turkish Repulic: Turkey's Pivotal Role in the Middle East."

Paul Heinbecker

Paul is a career diplomat with a lifetime spent in the Canadian government first with the Department of External Affairs and later with the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, then as the Director of US General Relations and Chairman of Policy Development in External Affairs. He's served as a permanent representative of Canada at the UN and was involved with interventions in Zaire and Kosovo, and he participated at the Kyoto Climate Control Convention. He serves as the inaugural director of the Center for Global Relations at Wilfrid Laurier University. If you read one of his books, start with Irrelevant or Indispensable?: The United Nations in the Twenty-first Century

Jeffrey Simpson

Is the Globe and Mail's national affairs columnist and recipient of a Governor General Award for nonfiction, the National Magazine Award for political writing, and a two-time winner of the National Newspaper Award for column writing. He has authored several books. His latest is, Hot Air: Meeting Canada's Climate Change Challenge Along with several distinctions, Simpson has been awarded the Order of Canada.

Shauna Sylvester

Is founder of IMPACS - the Institute for Media, Policy and Civil Society - a charitable organization with offices in Vancouver and Toronto. She has served on dozens of boards and written and edited several publications related to social and environmental issues. She lives in Vancouver with her husband and two children.

Michael Byers

Holds the Canada Research Chair in Global Politics and International Law. His focus recently has been on the Arctic and Canada-US relations. His practice covers international law and politics specializing in human rights, international organizations, the use of military force. He has published several books whose titles intrigue, Intent for a Nation: What Is Canada For? "War Law: Understanding International Law and Armed Conflict," to name two.

Andre Gerolymatos

PhD and Chair of Hellenic Studies he is a professor whose research covers political and social history of Modern Greece, Ancient Greek and Roman diplomatic history and international relations. His recent books have to do with Turkey and the Baltic states, "Red Acropolis, Black Terror: The Greek Civil War And The Origins Of The Soviet-american Rivalry,1943-1949"

The Process

Also present at the forum were members of the Sea to Sky Corridor and people from past and present Sea to Sky Leadership cohorts. The discussion was a three-part process: first we were asked to bring forward ideas for where the world is going, trends in other words, and what might be Canada's place in it? Paul Heinbecker said that climate change and nuclear weapons must be first and foremost on any agenda of discussion. Mike Byers said the global economic depression factors large. Jeffrey Simpson thought that international terrorism is a major concern to which Graham Fuller chimed in ethnic and religious issues must be addressed. People also questioned the effectiveness of international institutes in addressing world issues and whether new architectures would be formed. Shauna Sylvester brought the results of her "14 dialogues with a cross-section of Canadian interviewees" that covered 9 key themes: The nature of change in world conflict; erosion in standards of International laws and shifts in global power; communication issues and a disconnected youth from traditional politics; the emergence of cities as important global actors; the erosion of sovereignty.

The next phase of discussion was meant to recap previous points and reduce them down to trends. One way of looking at them was to try to answer "What are Canada's values, interests and assets?"

The third session, and one I unfortunately missed, was the final position paper. For that you are going to have to go to the Whistler Forum's website and watch for the soon-to-be-released results.

As a lay-person taking part in such a fascinating discussion with people whose lives have been devoted to political, academic, social and legal systems in the world and in Canada, it was an honor to attend. Next time you see a small discreet ad in the newspaper announcing a Whistler Forum event, make it a point to attend—you won't be disappointed.

For Further Interest



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