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Introduction and Opening Speech

The 2016 Halifax International Security Forum kicked off with remarks by Peter Van Praagh, President of the Halifax International Security Forum, and The Hon. Harjit Sajjan, Canadian Minister of Defence, welcoming participants to Halifax and to the 2016 Forum.

2016 Halifax International Security Forum Opening Video

Opening Session | “The West Block” Hosted by Tom Clark

The opening panel discussion on Day 1 of the Forum was produced as part of Global News’ “The West Block,” hosted by Tom Clark. This session addressed the future of democracy, peace and conflict in an increasingly changing global political environment. The panelists focused on the importance of multilateralism, the dangers of viewing problems in isolation and the necessity of developing conflict prevention strategies before problems materialize. There was broad consensus among the panel of the imperative nature of this conversation in lieu of the recent US presidential election. Speakers weighed the wider implications of this shifting political environment on U.S.-Canadian relations, North-Atlantic cooperation, the West’s relationship with Russia, as well as the NATO alliance. The session concluded by considering the opportunity for constructive engagement and collaboration with Russia in Syria and in the Arctic.


“We have to send a strong message to Russia that destabilizing is unacceptable” – The Hon. Harjit Singh Sajjan

“Multilateralism is a matter of necessity, it’s not just ideology” – General Jonathan Vance

“The United States must lead in the global order, so we’re not leaving a vacuum where others can create mischief” – Ambassador Paula Dobriansky

“The peacekeeping of the past is not the peacekeeping of today” – The Hon. Harjit Singh Sajjan

Britain’s Place in the World

Sir Michael Fallon reflected on the Week of Remembrance, beginning his address with praise for Canada’s courage to fight for democratic values amidst the threats it faces from global extremism, Russian aggression, and rogue nations. In his call to make democracy great again, he argued that the strength of democracy lies in the will of the people. Affirming the importance of strengthening democracy, Defence Secretary Fallon noted that NATO also has a role to play, especially when it comes to ensuring that all members uphold their common commitment to defending democratic systems. In conclusion, Defence Secretary Fallon stated that Britain has a clear view of its place when it comes to standing up for democracy. As the world grows more complex and dangerous, Britain is ready to uphold its commitment by employing hard, soft, and smart power in order to maintain a safe and prosperous future for all. 


Plenary One | Make Democracy Great Again

The moderator, Jonathan Tepperman, framed the first plenary by asking whether 2016 can be considered as a year of democracy’s vindication or defeat. Speakers responded that the answer is much more complex. The viability of the Western democratic model is being challenged, but the feeling of disenfranchisement among segments of the population is part of a broader trend of alienation from liberalism – in both ideology and practice. The discussion that followed stressed the importance of politics transcending political parties and institutions in order to get closer to addressing the needs of the people. 


“We are moving toward Twitter democracy” – Dr. Shlomo Avineri

“We are being out-gunned by the scale and speed of Russian propaganda and interference.” – Sir Michael Fallon

“People are not reacting against democracy; they are reacting against the party system” – The Hon. Ömer Çelik

“Mass democracy can become an alienating phenomenon” – Professor Walter Russell Mead

“We have to understand that the difference between political science and public opinion polls is the difference between astronomy and astrology. You look at the same stars, but the methodology is slightly different” – Dr. Shlomo Avineri

Plenary One: Make Democracy Great Again Introductory Video

In Pictures


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