Special Edition: 15 Minutes with Canadian Policy Maker Annamie Paul

Episode Transcript

Barbara Grantham (00:00): Hello, and welcome to a special edition of 15 Minutes to Change the World, where in 15 minutes or less, you can learn more about the world and how you can help change it.

Barbara Grantham (00:25): I’m Barbara Grantham, the President at CEO of CARE Canada, and I’m excited to be hosting a series of special edition episodes where I’m speaking with Canadian international assistance leaders and policy makers. These discussions focus on Canada’s role in achieving a global gender-just recovery from COVID-19. I am so pleased to welcome in this episode Annamie Paul, the leader of the Green Party of Canada. Ms. Paul has also served as an international affairs critic in the Green Party of Canada’s shadow cabinet. Welcome Ms. Paul, and thank you so much for joining us today.

Annamie Paul (01:04): Thank you so much for the invitation. It’s really a pleasure to be with you today. I’m looking forward to our conversation.

Barbara Grantham (01:11): Well, same here. So let’s dive right in. I’m wondering, you have a fascinating background in terms of international affairs and global experience. So I’m wondering if you can tell our listeners a little bit about your experience in international affairs, both with the Government of Canada and in other roles as well?

Annamie Paul (01:28): Certainly with pleasure. My partner, who I met in law school, is an international human rights lawyer, and we both had the opportunity at the same time to go overseas with our young family to work. In my case, I was recruited through a Government of Canada program called Recruitment of Policy Leaders, and I worked in our mission towards the European Union-Canada’s mission to the European Union-in Brussels. I worked in political affairs and I focused quite heavily on international development, human rights, conflict prevention. It was just very interesting, engaging work being there at that time, this was in the early 2000s. I also have had the opportunity to work at the International Criminal Court in the office of the prosecutor as an international advisor. And I’ve also been on the civil society side as well. I worked as the EU director-European Union director-for an international conflict prevention NGO that focuses on limiting the impact of deadly conflict on civilians. And so I’ve really had a great, great honour of being able to work in international affairs and, you know, participate particularly at some key moments for some countries and it’s really been such an honour to do that in this is an experience that bring to my work.

Barbara Grantham (03:00): I find it hard to imagine how that wouldn’t be the case. And so I think that probably gives you a unique vantage point in how you see Canada’s role in the world at this particular moment in time when we are dealing with this very significant crisis here at home and abroad. Why are you so personally committed to international development? And secondly, what do you see as Canada’s role in the world at this time, given this international development experience that you have?

Annamie Paul (03:29): Well I don’t know if it’s become quite a cliché yet to say it. I mean, certainly for me, it still feels very fresh, and maybe actually reassuring too, to hear it repeated very often these days. But certainly for me, the COVID-19 pandemic has served as a really fresh reminder of how interconnected we are. COVID reminded us that things that happen half a world away can have a very profound impact on us here. And I’m hoping that in the international development context, what that allows us to feel in a more tangible way is that the fortunes of others in other countries, even if we’ll never meet them, has an impact on us here in Canada, and that we have a stake in the development of other countries, and that we have a responsibility, and even a self-interest in being committed to the Sustainable Development Goals.

Annamie Paul (04:27): And maybe segueing into your next question, it’s really worth emphasizing-and I don’t have to tell you that Barbara-that those Sustainable Development Goals are under threat. There was already a very great risk that we weren’t going to achieve them within the time delays that we had set for ourselves, the time targets. But now with the pandemic, we know that many, many years of progress towards meeting those SDGs has been rolled back, has been compromised, particularly with respect to women, and that if we don’t take decisive action in a very short period of time, that there’s the risk that these losses will become structural, and we might’ve lost a decade of progress. So Canada has a-if it so chooses-has an opportunity to be a real leader, you know, to join together in coalition with other countries that don’t want to see that progress eroded. And that’s going to require real, tangible things. You know, real financial support, real exchange of knowledge. And so Canada needs to commit to that now in a very explicit, intentional way.

Barbara Grantham (05:36): Given your such extensive experience overseas, what are the risks or the consequences for Canada if we don’t undertake that?

Annamie Paul (05:45): Well, I mean, where to begin? You know, I shudder to contemplate it. I guess that, you know, this, again we can take all the examples we need from this moment. When we look at, for instance, the distribution of vaccines, it seems like on the face of it, perhaps that it makes sense to ensure that everyone in our country is vaccinated before anyone gets vaccinated abroad, you know, via the vaccines that we control. But, you know, that may feel good initially, if we think about it for just a second, we know that first we will not be able to defeat COVID until those all around the world, including in developing countries, are vaccinated. And so, you know, whether most importantly, you look at this from an ethical perspective, or whether you look at it from a very pragmatic self-interested perspective, Canada has a very important stake in international development, there’s absolutely no question about it.

Barbara Grantham (06:47): What can we do uniquely from a Canadian perspective that would help in that larger global context, along the road to that recovery that we all seek? What can Canada offer up?

Annamie Paul (06:58): There’s a lot we can offer up. You know, we’re not unique per se. I think that we can almost certainly identify at least one country anywhere, you know around the world that shares at least one characteristic with us with respect to international development. But there are some things that we have historically been known for and roles that we, if we chose to reclaim them now, could make a big difference. Canada is a country that had historically been known, you know, in the days when I was working as a diplomat, and prior to that, as a convener, as someone, as a mediator, as a country that was able to bring together international partners and allies around what seemed to be intractable questions or issues, and actually forge solutions and to facilitate the creation of innovative solutions. And so certainly as we’re trying to figure out how do we approach this hopefully last wave of pandemic, how do we plan for the post-pandemic recovery?

Annamie Paul (07:59): How do we make sure again, that these regressions in international development-progress toward development-don’t get, don’t become structural? Canada should, should absolutely resume that role. I think though that one of the things that we’ll need to do, if we want to resume that role of convener and facilitator, is of course, you need to show leadership and you need to do, we need to do that by making sure that we are proving in tangible ways that we are extremely committed to supporting the work toward SDGs abroad and supporting that with financial and human resources and knowledge exchange, everything that we have at our disposal. And Canada is a very diverse country. One of the things that does perhaps set us apart from many countries is our diversity of our population. We have people in our country that come from all over the world and bring that perspective with them as well. And so if we can tap into that, as we develop our policy approach towards international development, that would be something that could develop really positive, sustainable public policy approaches.

Barbara Grantham (09:09): You know, government is obviously looking at all of the investments that they’ll be making both domestic and international. What will your party be suggesting that Canada should be doing from an overseas development investment perspective? What will the Greens be encouraging Canadians and policy makers to be thinking about?

Annamie Paul (09:34): We need to be committing to increasing our investment. I know that there’s still, you know, an open debate in the development community about overseas development assistance in terms of that particular instrument. I was actually on a call today with a high commissioner from a developing country who said in no uncertain terms that ODA needed to be-Overseas Development Assistance-needed to go the way of the, and I quote “the Dodo bird,” because it wasn’t driven enough or directed enough by the recipients. And it still wasn’t, it wasn’t unleashing the full potential potential that she envisaged through other kinds of cooperation. But that being said, Canada still has not, and has never contributed its fair share to overseas development. As I said, it’s very hard to be a leader if you’re not contributing your fair share. You know, this may be, this is practical and symbolic, but I come back again to the vaccine distribution and the vaccine nationalism that we’re seeing here in Canada, that is something tangible that at this moment in time, in terms of this budget, we could do. We could commit to send over our, a portion of our vaccine supplies to the COVAX facility or directly, you know, bilaterally, to countries who haven’t received any or very little in recognition that that’s one of the very best things that we can do to prevent further erosion of development in the next couple of years.

Annamie Paul (11:15): And then I know there are movements amongst certain of our international partners to talk about how, if we do end up in this situation again, and we certainly will end up in this situation again, that we have done the work collectively at a multilateral level in advance to prepare. And so there’s talk of a pandemic treaty for instance. But I can’t ever forget the climate. And we know that the climate is the biggest threat multiplier that the world faces. We know that the climate, and our warming climate, is going to put development and our progress toward the SDGs at greatest risk and provoke all kinds of terrible consequences, some of which have already been unleashed. It’s really one of the greatest threats to development. And so Canada needs to do its fair share, domestically, and we need to assume a leadership role in supporting countries financially and otherwise in the developing world that are seeking support to progress toward development while at the same time growing their economies in a sustainable way.

Barbara Grantham (12:27): Let me finish with maybe a little bit of a different question, what are tangible actions that individual citizens, individual Canadians, can be taking today and in the days to come to bring about this better world that all of us see?

Annamie Paul (12:40): This is an election year Barbara, and I have to say the best thing that they can do this year is to vote, and to become actively involved in the next election, because we really are at a crossroads. We didn’t expect to be here and it has changed so many things, and we have so many important decisions to make. You know, in the case of Canada, are we going to be good, strong neighbours within the international community and, you know, concretely, are we going to support our neighbours in their quest toward development, towards sustainable development? Are we going to redouble our efforts, given how much ground has been lost during the pandemic and that needs to be regained quickly if it’s not going to be a permanent state of affairs. Are we going to support women around the world who are undoubtedly the leaders in development within their countries? Those are the kind of questions that we are going to be asking and answering within the course of just the next few months.

Annamie Paul (13:49): And so if we want the answer to be a strong one, if we want Canada to assume that leadership role internationally, if we want to be proud of what Canada has done, and will do in the future in terms of supporting development internationally, then we need to be supporting politicians from all parties who believe in that and who are committed to that, and who have been asked that question and given the right answers to that question. Because it is always possible even for a country like Canada to retreat within itself and to imagine that it’s able to focus inwardly as opposed to assume a truly international multilateral approach to the world.

Barbara Grantham (14:33): I want to thank you so much, Ms. Paul for taking the time to talk with me and with CARE today and for this great discussion.

Annamie Paul (14:40): It was a real pleasure. Thank you for asking such thoughtful questions. And it’s daunting to think about these things until I think about the international development community and how much work, how much good work, is going on, even in the midst of all of these challenges. And I know that we have everything that we need here in Canada to do, you know, to lead and to do a really our fair share.

Barbara Grantham (15:05): Thank you again for joining us today. And many thanks to you, all of our wonderful listeners. And as always, you can find all of the episodes of 15 Minutes to Change the World on Spotify, iTunes and care.ca/podcast. Thank you for listening.