Canadian Global Affairs Institute
The military identified the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute, now Canadian Global Affairs Institute (CGAI), under the rubric of “defence-related organization and defence and foreign policy think tanks.” CGAI claims to be the “only think tank focused on Canada’s international engagement in all its forms — diplomacy, the military, aid and trade security.”
The Calgary-based institute promoted aggressive foreign policy positions. It called for Ottawa to set up a foreign spy service — think CIA, M-16, Mossad etc. — and in the midst of a wave of criticism towards General Dynamics’s sale of Light Armoured Vehicles to Saudi Arabia, Institute fellow David Perry published a Globe and Mail opinion titled “Without foreign sales, Canada’s defence industry would not survive.” To disseminate its views the charitable organization publishes reports and books. Its spokespeople, including Tom Flanagan and Jack Granatstein, regularly write and comment for major news outlets.
Beyond the media work most think tanks pursue, the institute expends considerable effort influencing the media. Since 2002 the institute has operated an annual military journalism course run with the University of Calgary’s Centre for Military and Strategic Studies. A dozen Canadian journalism students receive scholarships to the 10-day program, which includes a media-military theory component and visits to armed forces units. The stated objective of the course is “to enhance the military education of future Canadian journalists who will report on Canadian military activities.” But that description obscures the political objective. In an article titled “A student’s look inside the military journalism course” Lola Fakinlede writes: “Between the excitement of shooting guns, driving in tanks, eating pre-packed lunches, investigating the insides of coyotes and leopards — armoured vehicles not animals — and visiting the messes, we were learning how the military operates. … Being able to see the human faces behind the uniform, being able to talk to them like regular people, being able to see them start losing the suspicion in their eyes and really start talking candidly to me — that was incredible.”
Captain David Williams was forthright concerning the broader political objective of the program. In 2010 he wrote, “the intent of this annual visit has always been to foster a familiarity and mutual understanding between the CF and the future media, two entities which require a symbiotic relationship in order to function.”
Along with the Conference of Defence Associations, the institute gives out the annual Ross Munro Media Award recognizing a “journalist who has made a significant contribution to understanding defence and security issues.” The winner receives a handsome statuette, a gala dinner attended by Ottawa VIPs and a $2,500 prize. The political objective of the award is to reinforce the militarist culture among reporters who cover the subject.
Journalist training, the Ross Munro award and institute reports/commentators are a positive way of shaping the discussion of military matters. But, the institute also employs a stick. In detailing an attack against colleague Lee Berthiaume, Ottawa Citizen military reporter David Pugliese pointed out that it’s “not uncommon for the site [CDFAI’s 3Ds Blog] to launch personal attacks on journalists covering defence issues. It seems some CDFAI ‘fellows’ don’t like journalists who ask the government or the Department of National Defence too many probing questions. … Last year I had one of the CDFAI ‘fellows’ write one of the editors at the Citizen to complain about my lack of professionalism on a particular issue. … the smear attempt was all done behind my back but I found out about it. That little stunt backfired big time when I showed the Citizen editor that the CDFAI ‘fellow’ had fabricated his claims about me.”
While it may not have succeeded in this instance, online criticism and complaints to journalists’ superiors do have an impact. If pursued consistently this type of ‘flack’ drives journalists to avoid topics or be more cautious when covering an issue.
While not forthcoming on its finances, the institute received some military backing. DND’s Security and Defence Forum provided funding to individuals who pursued a year-long internship with the institute. CGAI also held numerous joint symposiums with DND, NATO and NORAD.
The institute received financial support from large arms contractors such as General Dynamics and Lockheed Martin Canada, as well as Com Dev, ENMAX, SMART Technologies, the Defense News Media Group and Canadian Council of Chief Executives.
In 2015 CGAI’s eight directors included the CEO of IAMGOLD Steve Letwin, Royal Bank Financial Group executive Robert B. Hamilton, former Canadian Brigadier General Robert S. Millar, senior partner in the Calgary office of Bennett Jones LLP and ATCO director Bob Booth. Previous board members include Perrin Beatty, president of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, as well as former defence minister and head of CBC. Among the richest Canadians, Frederick Mannix, an Honorary Colonel of the Calgary Highlanders between 1980 and 1994, founded and remains CGAI's Honourary Director.