Canada will attempt to balance its approach to an “increasingly disruptive” China by investing billions of dollars toward economic opportunities in the Indo-Pacific region while strengthening its security and intelligence networks, a long-awaited strategy released Sunday says.
The federal Indo-Pacific Strategy seeks to take advantage of the economic growth in the region — estimated to be home to over half the global economy by 2040 — while also pursuing Canadian priorities in climate change prevention, rights for women and girls and Indigenous reconciliation.
Yet the threat posed by China looms large over the plan, which aims to maintain diplomatic ties and find common ground where possible while also defending Canada’s interests and security.
Pointing to China’s gradual bending of international norms for its own purposes and its buildup of military forces, Joly said the superpower’s aggressive moves underline “why we need to step up our game.”
“We need to invest more in this part of the world because it is extremely important for our own sovereignty and also our own peace and stability,” she said.
The strategy includes the deployment of additional military assets to the region, including frigates tasked with not only ensuring security in Chinese airspace and waters but also the continued implementation of sanctions on North Korea.
There will also be further investment in domestic and regional cybersecurity infrastructure — as well as in the RCMP, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, and other security and border agencies — to protect Canada from cyberattacks and foreign interference.
Human rights supports will be strengthened under the plan, including for women and girls, LGBTQ2+ people, and religious minorities like Uyghurs and the Rohingya.
The plan includes building a cooperative climate change strategy that focuses on promoting Canadian clean technology in the region and helping countries shift away from coal, as well as protecting fish stocks from illegal fishing.
Joly says the overall goal is to grow Canada’s influence in the Indo-Pacific by recognizing its status as a Pacific nation, while helping lead efforts to ensure peace and security in the region.
“This is a whole of society approach and I think it’s a good plan, an ambitious plan, and I really hope that we can work all together as Canadians to raise the flag and be present in the region,” she said.