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Rewind: Canada’s Decision Not to Support the 2003 US Invasion of Iraq

December 9, 2020 @ 4:00 pm - 5:15 pm EST

CIC Waterloo – Exclusively for Members

C A N A D I A N   I N T E R N A T I O N A L   C O U N C I L   E V E N T

U N I Q U E   T W O – P A R T   O P P O R T U N I T Y   


“Rewind: Canada’s Decision Not to Support the 2003 US Invasion of Iraq”

December 9 (Wednesday) from 4:00 to 5:15 pm (Eastern Time)

Based on Prior Independent Viewing of

“High Wire:  Canadian Diplomacy and the 2003 Iraq War”

A Masterful New NFB Documentary by Claude Guilman

In March 2003, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien resisted pressure from the United States and Britain – Canada’s closest allies – to back the US-led invasion of Iraq.  The PM made Canadian support conditional on United Nations endorsement, something which did not materialize.  The decision was a bold one – an expression of independent Canadian foreign and defence policy judgement and a notable challenge to the Canada-US bilateral relationship less than two years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The Canadian International Council’s Waterloo Branch is offering a special two-part event:

  • First, view an insightful and dramatic new National Film Board of Canada documentary by Claude Guilmain – “High Wire: Canadian Diplomacy and the 2003 Iraq War” – online when you want (at https://www.nfb.ca/film/high-wire/)
  • Then, join a live virtual panel, “Rewind: Canada’s Decision Not to Support the 2003 US Invasion of Iraq,” on December 9 from 4:00 to 5:15 pm (EST) and engage with the distinguished speakers.

The NFB Documentary: The film explores the diplomatic and political maneuverings leading up to the Prime Minister Chrétien’s crucial and controversial decision.  One-hour-and-twenty minutes in length, the documentary features candid interviews and footage with the principals, including the Prime Minister; the PM’s Chief of Staff, Eddie Goldenberg; Canada’s Ambassador to the UN, Paul Heinbecker; and the PM’s Foreign Policy Advisor, Claude Laverdure, accompanied by insights from noted journalistic and academic observers.

The Panel Discussion:  On December 9, Ambassador Paul Heinbecker will be a featured participant in the CIC panel.  Considerations and questions to be explored by the panel will include how Canada played its diplomatic hand, what lay behind the apparent determination of the US President George W. Bush to bring down Saddam Hussein, the complexity and big power politics of United Nations decision processes, Canada’s reportedly different intelligence assessments of the Iraqi threat, whether Canada’s military commitment in Afghanistan at the time took the sting out of its “no” to the US’s Iraq adventure, the extent to which domestic Canadian political considerations may have been an influence, and the extent to which Canada’s refusal to support its neighbour may have tainted the bilateral relationship in the near and longer-terms.

The panelists for the Canadian International Council (CIC) virtual event, “Rewind:  Canada’s Decision Not to Support the 2003 US Invasion of Iraq”, will be:

  • Paul Heinbecker, Canadian Ambassador to the UN (2000-2003) and Germany (1992-1996);
  • Louise Frechette, the first Deputy Secretary-General of the UN (1998-2006), Canadian Ambassador to the UN (1992-1994), and Deputy Minister of National Defence (1995-1998);
  • Christopher Sands, Director, Canada Institute, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Washington D.C.; and
  • Mokhtar Lamani, former Ambassador of the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation to the United Nations (1998 to 2004) and Ambassador Special Representative of the Arab League in Iraq, appointed by the Arab Summit in 2006.

The Moderator will be Margaret Huber, Canadian Ambassador to Jordan and Iraq (2007-2010).

(Note:  The NFB film cannot be accessed by individuals outside of Canada.)



About the Speakers

Paul Heinbecker

Paul Heinbecker was Prime Minister Mulroney’s chief foreign policy advisor and speech writer from 1989 to 1992 advising on Canadian policy decisions on apartheid, German unification and the Gulf War. From 1992 to 1996 as Canadian Ambassador in Germany he led campaigns to protect Canadian forestry and fisheries interests. Subsequently, as Assistant Deputy Minister for international security he was an architect of Canada’s Human Security agenda, which put the protection of people at the heart of Canadian policy. He coordinated the formulation of a multinational force to Zaire in 1996 to protect Rwandan refugees, and in 1999  he helped negotiate the end of the Kosovo conflict.  He also led Canadian negotiators of the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change.

In 2001, Ambassador Heinbecker rallied other UN members against the Bush administration’s attempt to permanently exempt the U.S. from the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, preserving the mandate of the court to prosecute major breeches of international criminal law. He also represented Canada at the 2001 Durban human rights conference.  In 2003, he led a coalition seeking a compromise to avert the catastrophic war in Iraq, and, when that failed, advised Prime Minister Chretien to keep Canada out of the war. In his memoirs, the former Prime Minister characterized his decision to do so in the face of American (and British) pressure as “one of the most important moments in [Canadian] history.”

After retiring in 2003, he became the inaugural director of the Centre for Global Relations at Wilfrid Laurier University, a Distinguished Fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation and a Fellow of the Balsillie School of International Affairs.  He has honorary doctorates from Laurier and St. Thomas universities. He was named an Alumnus of Achievement on Laurier’s 100th anniversary and was also selected one of the 50 top student athlete success stories of the first 50 years of Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS).


Louise Frechette

Louise Fréchette was the Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations from 1998 to 2006. Prior to this, she pursued a career in the Public Service of Canada, serving notably as Ambassador to Argentina and Uruguay (1985-1988), Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations (1992-1994), Associate Deputy Minister of Finance (1995) and Deputy Minister of National Defence (1995-1998).

After leaving the UN, Madame Fréchette collaborated with various universities and research institutes and served on a number of Boards, both in Canada and abroad. Notably, she was a member of the Board of Essilor International and chaired its Corporate Social Responsibility committee from 2012 to 2020. In June 2019, Madame Fréchette completed a 3-year mandate as Chair of the Supervisory Board and of the Council of CARE International after serving as Chair of CARE Canada for several years. She is a currently a Board member of the Global Leadership Foundation.

Madame Fréchette has a degree in History from the University of Montreal and a Certificate in Economy from the College of Europe in Bruges, Belgium. She was awarded many honorary degrees by universities in Canada and abroad. She is an Officer of the Order of Canada.

Mokhtar Lamani

Mr. Mokhtar Lamani is currently a member of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, a Senior Fellow at the Bill Graham Center for Contemporary International History at the University of Toronto and a distinguished fellow of the Canadian International Council. He was the Head of the Office of the UN-League of Arab States Joint Special Representative for Syria in Damascus, September 2012 to May 2014. Before his appointment in OJSRS-D, Mr. Lamani was the senior visiting fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) in Waterloo.

Previously, he served as Ambassador Special Representative of the Arab League in Iraq, appointed by the Arab Summit in 2006. On behalf of the Arab League, he worked to reconcile fractious parties and sectarian groups in Iraq while building peaceful relations between Iraq and neighboring countries.

Prior to his position as Special Representative, Mr. Lamani served as Ambassador of the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation to the United Nations in New York from 1998 to 2004.

His distinguished career in international diplomacy includes a number of positions with the General Secretariat of the Arab League, including Deputy Permanent Observer to the UN, Officer in Charge of Iraq-Kuwait dispute, Coordinator of Secretariat Reform, Coordinator of the Euro-Arab Dialogue and Afro-Arab Cooperation, as well as responsibility for European relations.

Christopher Sands

Christopher Sands is director of the Canada Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and a professor of Canadian Studies at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, both in Washington, DC. At the time of the Iraq War he was director of Canada Projects at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and subsequently, as director for Strategic Planning and Program Evaluation for the International Republican Institute, he visited Iraq on five separate occasions to plan and evaluate democracy assistance programs funded by the U.S. Department of State and the National Endowment for Democracy.



Margaret Huber

Community leader, former diplomat, mentor.  Director (and past president) of the Canadian International Council’s National Capital Branch and Harvard Club of Ottawa. On the board of Pharos Global Health Advisors. Former Ambassador in Europe, Asia and the Middle East (including Iraq, 2007-10).  During extensive diplomatic career, worked closely with international organizations including the United Nations, the European Union, the International Olympic Committee, the Asian Development Bank, and the International Committee of the Red Cross. Strong believer in life-long learning (graduate McGill University, uOttawa, Harvard Business School’s Advanced Management Program, Institute of Corporate Directors, and Fellow of Harvard’s Advanced Leadership Initiative).


About the Canadian International Council

The CIC is Canada’s national non-partisan not-for-profit international affairs forum whose programs, activities and resources engage Canadians in exploring and defining the country’s role in the world and areas of international engagement (https://thecic.org/en/).  CIC and its predecessor organization have a rich, active and influential 90-year history.  With over 1,200 members nationally, its 16 Branches serve as CIC’s backbone and prime originators of programming.  Join the Canadian International Council today and affiliate with your local Branch to have full access to Member-Only events, information and commentary (https://thecic.org/become-a-member/).


December 9, 2020
4:00 pm - 5:15 pm EST
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