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February 13, 2014

Globe and Mail

After years of sitting on the sidelines, Canada finally seems to be taking digital diplomacy seriously. Foreign Minister John Baird delivered a speech on Friday – appropriately in Silicon Valley, the world’s capital of technological innovation – calling on Canadian diplomats to make greater use of Twitter, Facebook and other social media in their work. “The closed world of démarches, summits, and diplomatic dinners,” he said, “is no longer sufficient to project our values and interests.”

In a report last year, I documented how far Canada’s foreign ministry had fallen behind its closest allies in the use of social media tools. The United States and Britain recognized the importance of digital diplomacy years ago and began encouraging their ambassadors and missions to engage directly with the public and policy leaders of other countries through social media. Both countries saw that online discussions were now driving real-world events and that these forums had become cru...

July 15, 2013

I am pleased that Deepak Ohbrai, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, has responded to my recent writing on Canada’s lackluster approach to digital diplomacy. He highlights Ottawa’s support for the Global Dialogue on the Future of Iran as “a perfect example of our government’s commitment to using social media as a means of speaking directly with people around the world.”

I agree with him—but only to a point. In my report, “The Digital Diplomacy Revolution,” I acknowledged that the Global Dialogue is “an important and innovative step forward,” but I also noted that it is an exception. To date, Canada has been digital diplomacy laggard. Our closest allies, the United States and Britain, use these tools extensively, whereas Canada has largely sat on the sidelines of the digital diplomacy revolution.

Mr. Ohbrai seems to be unaware of how far Canada is lagging behind. Because our embassies and ambassadors have a minimal presence in social media networks, Canada’s vo...

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Roland Paris
Graduate School of Public and International Affairs

University of Ottawa

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