Media Releases

National effort needed to build Canada’s ‘Asia competence,’ says APF Canada, Munk School Task Force Report

November 5, 2013

Van­cou­ver, B.C. – A task force report released today by the Asia Pacif­ic Foun­da­tion of Cana­da (APF Cana­da) and the Munk School of Glob­al Affairs calls for Cana­da to take a whole-of-coun­try approach to ensur­ing that more Cana­di­ans gain expo­sure to, expe­ri­ence in and exper­tise on Asia. “We are very encour­aged by the rec­om­men­da­tions com­ing out of this task force,” said Jan­ice Stein, Direc­tor of the Munk School. Yuen Pau Woo, Pres­i­dent and CEO of APF Cana­da, added, “Cana­di­an ambi­tions for deep­er and stronger eco­nom­ic ties across the Pacif­ic will not be real­ized unless there is an invest­ment in Asia skills across the coun­try.”

The report, Canada’s Asia Chal­lenge: Cre­at­ing Com­pe­tence for the Next Gen­er­a­tion of Cana­di­ans, looks at what Cana­da is doing, where it is falling short and how it can draw lessons from oth­er coun­tries’ expe­ri­ences. It makes spe­cif­ic rec­om­men­da­tions on strength­en­ing these three pil­lars of ‘Asia com­pe­tence,’ and stress­es the urgency of gov­ern­ments, pri­vate sec­tor lead­ers and edu­ca­tors to do more to pre­pare young Cana­di­ans for an increas­ing­ly Asia-cen­tred world.

“While we iden­ti­fied some sig­nif­i­cant ‘islands of progress’ with­in Cana­da, we found that these efforts are too small-scale and ad hoc to have the kind of trans­for­ma­tive effect that Cana­da needs,” said David Mul­roney, Dis­tin­guished Fel­low with the Asia Pacif­ic Foun­da­tion of Cana­da and Senior Dis­tin­guished Fel­low at the Munk School of Glob­al Affairs.

The report also found that Cana­da is lag­ging behind oth­er coun­tries in pro­mot­ing Asia com­pe­tence.  For exam­ple, only 3% of Cana­di­an uni­ver­si­ty stu­dents par­tic­i­pate in study abroad pro­grams. In Aus­tralia, the par­tic­i­pa­tion rate is twice as high, and in Ger­many it reach­es 30%.

Both the Unit­ed States and Aus­tralia have launched high-lev­el ini­tia­tives to help their cit­i­zens gain expe­ri­ence in Asia: in 2009, U.S. Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma announced sup­port for the 100,000 Strong Ini­tia­tive to rapid­ly increase the num­ber of Amer­i­can stu­dents study­ing in Chi­na; and in 2012, the Aus­tralia in the Asian Cen­tu­ry White Paper pri­or­i­tized build­ing that country’s “Asia capa­bil­i­ties.”

In con­trast, a recent APF Cana­da poll showed that 60% of Canada’s Asia prac­ti­tion­ers have dif­fi­cul­ties find­ing Cana­di­ans with suf­fi­cient knowl­edge about that region.

The report’s key rec­om­men­da­tions include:

  • Estab­lish­ing an annu­al nation­al con­fer­ence to serve as a mech­a­nism for shar­ing best prac­tices. Alber­ta, as a province that has demon­strat­ed an impres­sive com­mit­ment to Asian lan­guage train­ing and intern­ships in Asia, would be an ide­al host of the first con­fer­ence in 2014.
  • Ensur­ing that Canada’s inter­na­tion­al edu­ca­tion strat­e­gy is a two-way effort. In recent years, both the fed­er­al and provin­cial gov­ern­ments have focused heav­i­ly on attract­ing stu­dents to Cana­da, with lit­tle high-lev­el lead­er­ship and endorse­ment to encour­age more Cana­di­ans to get expe­ri­ence over­seas.
  • Encour­ag­ing gov­ern­ments, as well as the pri­vate sec­tor in key eco­nom­ic sec­tors, to strength­en their Asian know-how by involv­ing Asia-expe­ri­enced Cana­di­ans in strate­gic advi­so­ry boards, indus­try asso­ci­a­tions and cor­po­rate boards.
  • Exam­in­ing ways to sup­port and repli­cate suc­cess­ful com­mu­ni­ty-led ini­tia­tives.

“Now is the time to build a nation­wide strat­e­gy to help Cana­di­ans gain the skills and knowl­edge that they will need to be com­pet­i­tive in the Asia cen­tu­ry,” said Janet De Sil­va, Dean of Ivey Asia and co-chair of the task force, “Cana­da is well-posi­tioned in terms of its econ­o­my and busi­ness rela­tions to see more suc­cess in Asia,” she added, “but to real­ize this suc­cess we have an urgent need to devel­op our human cap­i­tal and Asia know-how.”

The Task Force on Asia Com­pe­tence was cre­at­ed as part of APF Canada’s Nation­al Con­ver­sa­tion on Asia (NCA). The report was devel­oped through high-lev­el con­sul­ta­tions with dif­fer­ent sets of stake­hold­ers in the pub­lic, pri­vate and edu­ca­tion sec­tors in Coquit­lam (BC), Edmon­ton, Hal­i­fax, Ottawa, Toron­to and Van­cou­ver. The NCA is an ini­tia­tive aimed at get­ting Cana­di­ans think­ing and talk­ing about what Asia means to Cana­da.


About the Asia Pacif­ic Foun­da­tion of Cana­da

The Asia Pacif­ic Foun­da­tion of Cana­da is an inde­pen­dent resource for Cana­di­ans on con­tem­po­rary Asia and Cana­da-Asia rela­tions. As a nation­al not-for-prof­it orga­ni­za­tion estab­lished by an Act of the Fed­er­al Par­lia­ment in 1984, the Foun­da­tion brings togeth­er peo­ple and knowl­edge to pro­vide the most cur­rent and com­pre­hen­sive research, analy­sis and infor­ma­tion on Asia and on Canada’s transpa­cif­ic rela­tions. Vis­it APF Cana­da at

About the Munk School of Glob­al Affairs

The Munk School of Glob­al Affairs speaks to the diverse set of com­plex ideas and chal­lenges shap­ing the glob­al sys­tem. The new­ly strong pow­ers in Asia, a glob­al plat­form of inno­va­tion, glob­al cap­i­tal mar­kets, the chal­lenges of secu­ri­ty in cyber­space, the secu­ri­ty of the Arc­tic, and new con­cepts of glob­al jus­tice are all engaged by out­stand­ing fac­ul­ty and researchers drawn from across the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to, Canada’s pre­mier research uni­ver­si­ty. With excep­tion­al degree pro­grams and inno­v­a­tive research labs, the School attracts thought-lead­ers and stu­dents from around the world who are deeply engaged in glob­al affairs. It is home to the flag­ship Mas­ter of Glob­al Affairs and over forty research insti­tutes and pro­grams.

About the Nation­al Con­ver­sa­tion on Asia

The Nation­al Con­ver­sa­tion on Asia is a Cana­da-wide ini­tia­tive to get Cana­di­ans think­ing and talk­ing about what Asia means to Cana­da. It includes a pub­lic edu­ca­tion and pol­i­cy devel­op­ment focus. This ini­tia­tive is gen­er­ous­ly sup­port­ed in part by our Found­ing Part­ners: Teck, Shell Cana­da, Man­ulife Finan­cial and BMO Finan­cial Group; Found­ing Spon­sors: HSBC Bank Cana­da and Port Metro Van­cou­ver; and Found­ing Sup­port­ers: Port of Hal­i­fax, Fiera Cap­i­tal, Deloitte, Van­cou­ver Air­port Author­i­ty, Husky Ener­gy, Cana­di­an Pacif­ic, TELUS, Blakes, Came­co and SNC-Lavalin. For more infor­ma­tion about the Nation­al Con­ver­sa­tion on Asia, vis­it

To arrange inter­views or for more infor­ma­tion, please con­tact:

Jil­lian Oliv­er
Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Offi­cer
Asia Pacif­ic Foun­da­tion of Cana­da
Office: 604–630-1536

Sean Wil­lett
Chief of Com­mu­ni­ca­tions
Munk School of Glob­al Affairs,
Office: 416–946-8904
Mobile: 778–989-6471