Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy


Political Science


Professor Donald Abelson


The 2001 United Nations World Conference against Racism (WCAR) was one of the most controversial United Nations events of the post-Cold War era. Major issues on the agenda included the Middle East, the question of reparations for the transatlantic slave trade and colonialism, and the rights of indigenous peoples. Utilizing interviews with government and non-governmental actors as well as archival material, this dissertation examines Canada’s preparations for, and participation at, the WCAR as a case study to explore key theoretical debates about the Canadian foreign policy-making process. At the international level, Canada was an active participant during the multilateral negotiations in advance of the conference and at the conference itself. Drawing on the literature examining Canada as either a middle power, a satellite state or a principal power, this dissertation suggests that Canadian diplomacy did not fit easily into any one framework. On some occasions, Canada embraced middle power diplomacy; on other occasions, it embraced the positions advanced by the United States and other Western countries. At the domestic level, Canada established a consultation process involving many Canadian stakeholders intended to help shape the government’s position on key issues. Drawing on the literature examining the Canadian state as either pluralist, Marxian or statist, this dissertation suggests that the Canadian state wielded considerable autonomy from domestic actors and generally sought to define and advance its own interest, as expected by the statist view.