Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute

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Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute
Abbreviation CDFAI
Formation 2001
Type Think tank on Canadian Defence and Foreign Policy issues
Purpose To be a catalyst for innovative Canadian global engagement
Headquarters Suite 1600, 530 8th Ave. SW

The Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute (CDFAI) is an independent, non-partisan research institute based in Calgary with offices in Ottawa. Incorporated as a charitable organization in 2001, the institute pursues new ideas to focus the national debate and understanding of Canada’s international policies with the ultimate aim of ensuring a more globally engaged Canada. CDFAI believes that doing so enhances Canadian security and prosperity. CDFAI is dedicated to educating Canadians, and particularly those who have leadership roles in shaping Canadian foreign policy, about the importance of Canada being proactive in world affairs with tangible diplomatic, military and aid assets.

CDFAI's Fellows program brings together talented and experienced academics and practitioners with backgrounds in the defence, diplomacy and development. The Fellows support the institute by authoring research papers and responding to media queries. CDFAI also runs conferences and courses, initiates polling, and develops outreach and education projects.


CDFAI was established to provide informative and accessible analysis of Canada’s international activities. CDFAI's stated belief is that an understanding of Canada’s foreign policy needs to go far beyond a view of trade and markets. The institute believes that Canada’s international engagement is essential in helping to maintain a world that is friendly to the free flow of goods, services, people and ideas across borders, and the promotion of Capitalism. As such, part of institute’s efforts has been to highlight to connection between a prosperous and free Canada and a world of globalization and liberal internationalism. The result of Canada being a trading nation is that its prosperity is directly connected to international trade, particularly with the United States.

Canada has a significant role to play in a world that is changing quickly and not necessarily for the better. As such, CDFAI’s goal as an independent organization drawing on the best talent, from both academia and the 'real' world, is to provide rigorous analysis of, and workable ideas for, Canada’s international involvement.


In producing its research, CDFAI works on the foundation of certain assumptions. Principally, CDFAI focus on conducting authoritative research in the field of Canadian international affairs as its core area of expertise. When suitable, CDFAI collaborates with other organizations in order to provide the highest possible quality of analysis. CDFAI ensures that the research it produces, either in partnership or independently, meets the highest level of objectivity and credibility. Ultimately it is the belief that CDFAI can make a real difference in informing Canadians about Canada’s global engagement.

Values & Beliefs[edit]

Research that is produced by CDFAI is based on certain values and beliefs.

  • A nation’s international influence governs its ability to defend and advance its national interests, be they cultural, economic, social, or political.
  • International status is determined by a combination of cultural influence, diplomatic leadership, economic power, military power or moral authority. Canada maintains its place in the world through a judicious balancing of these five factors.
  • Canada’s quality of life and standard of living depends on international trade and the free flow of people and ideas across international boundaries. Therefore, Canada has a vested interest in a peaceful, democratic world, wherein human rights and freedoms are given the utmost importance.
  • Canada’s global responsibilities ought to determine its spending on defence, security, foreign affairs and international aid.
  • Canada is well positioned to make significant contribution to international peace and security as a result of its economic prosperity and political and social values.
  • If Canada participated in international affairs, at or near its potential, the world would be a more stable and secure place.
  • Understanding Canada’s international interests and the role it can play in the world, in combination with the application of Canadian values, is a prerequisite to acting responsibly as a nation.
  • Authoritative analysis and research is necessary to develop logical arguments and create innovative ideas that persuade Canadians to support an active global presence.


The Dispatch[edit]

CDFAI produces a quarterly newsletter called The Dispatch. The Dispatch brings together CDFAI fellows to provide critical insight on international issues important to Canada in the world.

Papers and Research[edit]

The research that is undertaken by CDFAI through its Fellow program, composed of a strong cadre of former practitioners and academics, is designed to raise the level of knowledge and appreciation about issues of Canadian defence, foreign policy, development and international aid. The institute produces Research Papers, Policy Papers, Policy Updates, Country Studies, a Monthly Column by Jack Granatstein and the Primer Series written by CDFAI Vice-President Colin Robertson which is meant to give an introductory "need to know" overview, from a Canadian perspective, of important world events.

Strategic Studies Working Group[edit]

The Strategic Studies Working Group (SSWG) is a partnership between the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute and the Canadian International Council (CIC), which incorporates the former Canadian Institute of Strategic Studies. The SSWG is administered by CDFAI which also conducts research and produces publications on security and defence issues on behalf of the partnership. All projects undertaken by the SSWG are first approved by CIC and are co-published or co e-published according to CIC standards.

The SSWG has begun to host E-Conferences on issues related to defence and security. The e-conferences are structured to take place over a number of weeks, with each week having a specific topic. The e-conferences include regular commentaries by academics and practitioners, Twitter Q&A's, live chats and major articles placed in national media.

  • The Future of Fighting conference focused on the what the Canadian Forces might look like in the coming decade to reflect the changing funding and combat environment.
  • The Drone Week conference was focused on understanding some of the practical, legal and moral questions surrounding the current use of drones and what future lies ahead for the use of unmanned aerial vehicles.

The SSWG produces Research Papers which keep in line with the partnership's purpose of focusing on defence and security topips. The Strategic Profile Canada is a project which provides a comprehensive overview of Canada's demographic, economic and military information.[1]

3Ds Blog[edit]

The 3Ds Blog is a site managed by CDFAI and provides defence and security news from Canada and around the world. Blog updates are made by CDFAI fellows, the majority coming from Mark Collins.

Speakers Series[edit]

CDFAI organizes a speakers series which is annually themed on a specific topic of importance to Canadian defence and foreign affairs issues. The speaking events are held quarterly in Calgary and brings together business people, academics, and praticioners to listen to some of Canada's mosat important and influential thinkers. Former speakers include Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence; Michael Bell, former diplomat; and Yuen Pau Woo, president and CEO of the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada among others.[2]


From 2002 to 2010 CDFAI hosted annual conferences in Ottawa around critical issues in Canadian defence and foreign policy. These conferences attracted high-calibre speakers, key policy makers, prominent academics, and a large number of the interested public.

Past Conferences:

Ross Munro Award[edit]

The Ross Munro Media Award was initiated, in 2002, by the Conference of Defence Associations, in concert with the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute. Its purpose is to recognize, annually, one Canadian journalist who has made a significant and outstanding contribution to the understanding, by the general public, of Canada’s defence and security issues. Submissions can be made in either of Canada’s official languages.

Previous Ross Munro Award Recipients[3][4]

  • Mr. Adam Day (2012) - Legion Magazine
  • Ms. Rosie DiManno (2011) - Toronto Star
  • Mr. Murray Brewster (2010) - The Canadian Press
  • Mr. Brian Stewart (2009)
  • Mr. Alec Castonguay (2008) - Le Devoir & L’actualité
  • Mr. Matthew Fisher (2007) – Canwest
  • Ms. Christie Blatchford (2006) - The Globe and Mail
  • Mr. Bruce Campion-Smith (2005) - Toronto Star
  • Ms. Sharon Hobson (2004) - Jane’s Defence Weekly
  • Mr. Garth Pritchard (2003)
  • Mr. Stephen Thorne (2002) - The Canadian Press

Military Journalism Course[edit]

The Military Journalism Course was started in 2002 as a nine-day course which introduces university students to military journalism and the Canadian Armed Forces. The course is run in partnership with the Centre for Military and Strategic Studies at the University of Calgary and includes a combination of media-military theory in a classroom setting, coupled with field visits to Armed Forces regular and reserve units. The stated goal of the program is to enhance the military education of future Canadian journalists who will report on Canadian military activities domestically and abroad. In 2007, the program introduced its first Francophone Military Journalism course held at the Université de Montréal and Canadian Forces Base Valcartier, near Québec City.[5]

Corporate Structure[edit]

Board of directors[edit]

Eight directors focus on governance, stewardship and external relations.

Advisory Council[edit]

Fourteen advisors provide feedback on current and future programs.


Distinguished Alumni[edit]


With some of Canada’s leading experts on the Arctic, Military history, the Middle East, US-Canada Relations, Military Security and International Relations, the research conducted by CDFAI is helping to shape Canada’s global engagement. CDFAI Fellows regularly provide expert commentary and analysis of ongoing international events in TV and print new media.[6]

CDFAI Vice-President Colin Robertson was named in Embassy Magazine 2012 edition of the “Top 80 Influencing Canada Foreign Policy”.[7]

The University of Pennsylvania ranked CDFAI 4th in its list of Top Think Tanks in Canada in their 2012 "Global Go-To Think Tank" Rankings.[8]


External links[edit]