Creating space for transformative conversations
One of the sites of the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympic Games.

Canada's World: Historic Timeline (1984-1993)


To fulfill the project’s goal to create a new story for Canada’s role in the world that reflected historical experiences, Canada’s World included an historic timeline exercise in many of its dialogue events, including the national dialogue. This exercise invited participants to document moments in Canada’s history that have contributed to the story of its role in the world.

Below are some major initiatives and events that participants included in their timeline activities that have affected Canadian foreign policy and Canada's role in the world from 1931 to 2009.

Browse the timeline by historical period:

You can also contribute to the Canada’s World citizens’ timeline here.

Historic Timeline:


June 1984

  • Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau steps down and John Turner becomes Prime Minister. Subsequent elections in September are won by the Progressive Conservatives under Brian Mulroney. Mulroney realigns foreign policy towards Europe and the U.S.


  • External affairs minister Joe Clark is the first foreign affairs minister to land in previously isolated Ethiopia to lead the Western response to the 1984-1985 famine.

March 1985

  • "The Shamrock Summit" is held in Quebec City, bringing together Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and President Ronald Reagan. This event is seen as a key turning point in the warming of USA-Canada relations following the Trudeau years. The two leaders commit their countries to pursuing trade liberalization and issue a Canada-U.S. Declaration on Goods and Services. The summit is often remembered for the memorable TV image of the Prime Minister and President singing a duet of  "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling".
  • Brian Mulroney's "Competitiveness and Security" priorities:
  1. Unity
  2. Sovereignty and Independence
  3. Justice and Democracy
  4. Peace and Security
  5. Economic Prosperity
  6. Integrity of the Natural Environment

June 1985

  • 329 people, including 280 Canadians, are killed when a bomb detonates on an Air India jet traveling between Montreal and London.

August 1985

  • Responding directly to the voyage of the U.S. icebreaker Polar Sea, which traversed the Northwest Passage without Canadian permission, Canada announced its decision to exercise full sovereignty in and over the waters of the Arctic Archipelago.

September 1985

  • Canada warns that it is prepared to cut all economic and diplomatic ties with South Africa as a consequence of the apartheid policy.








February 17-19, 1986

  • First Francophone Summit held in Versailles, France. Québec and New Brunswick receive the status of "participating governments", thus making three Canadian representatives in attendance.

May 2 - October 13, 1986 

  • World Exposition on Transportation and Communication (Expo '86) is held in Vancouver, British Columbia. Fifty-four countries participated.

May 27 - June 1, 1986

  • UN General Assembly convenes a special session: Canada announces it is ready to invoke total sanctions against South Africa, including cessation of diplomatic relations, due to the latter's policy of apartheid.


  • Partnership Africa Canada (PAC) was created with the support of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and Canadian and African non-governmental organizations. Its purpose is to help build sustainable human development in Africa by funding projects and ideas.
  • The World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED), producer of the final report Our Common Future, convenes a special meeting in Ottawa. The idea of a "world conservation bank" is forwarded. Canadians Maurice Strong and Jim MacNeil serve as commissioners.
  • Canada adopts strong stand against the U.S. intervention in Nicaragua under Reagan, and accepts refugees from El Salvador, Guatemala.

September 2-4, 1987

  • Canada hosts the IIe Sommet de la Francophonie in Quebec with 41 governments in attendance (including Quebec and New Brunswick). Canada announces debt forgiveness of $325 million owed by seven African nations, plus a $17 million aid package to African members.

September 16, 1987

  • The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer is adopted at the Headquarters of the International Civil Aviation Organization in Montreal. It is designed to protect the ozone layer by phasing out the production of a number of substances believed to be responsible for ozone depletion. The Protocol comes into force on January 1, 1989.









January 2, 1988

  • The Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (CUFTA) is signed by both governments. The agreement removes several trade restrictions in stages over a 10-year period and results in a great increase in cross-border trade. This agreement is later superceded by the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994.

January 11, 1988

  • Canada and the U.S. come to an agreement on "Arctic Cooperation". In part, the agreement stipulates that voyages of American icebreakers into the Canadian Arctic be “undertaken with the consent of the Government of Canada".

February 13-28, 1988 

  • Calgary, Alberta hosts the Winter Olympic Games, with a record (at that time) 57 countries participating. Canada fails to win a gold medal.

September 22, 1988

  • The Mulroney government formally apologizes to the families of the 22,000 Japanese-Canadians who had been stripped of their property and interned during the Second World War. The government also provides monetary compensation to surviving internees and their families.

October 1988 

  • Canada is elected to a two-year term at the UN Security Council.







November 6-7, 1989

  • Canada becomes a founding member of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) — a forum for facilitating economic growth, cooperation, trade, and investment in the Asia-Pacific region.

December 1989

  • Canada "regrets" but does not "condemn" the U.S.-led invasion of Panama.

December 1989

  • The United Nations asks Canada to join a verification mission in Angola (UNAVEM). Canada declines, but subsequently joins the mission in May 1991.


January 1990

  • Canada signs the Charter of the OAS and becomes a full member of the Organization of American States, but does not ratify the American Convention on Human Rights.

August 1990 – February 1991 

  • Following the Iraq invasion of Kuwait on August 2, 1990, Canada condemns the invasion, imposes sanctions on Iraq, and freezes Iraqi assets in Canada. Canada joins a coalition of 34 countries to remove Iraq from Kuwait. In all, more than 4,500 Canadian Forces personnel are deployed at various times. Canada undertakes both naval and air operations, the latter at times in a direct combat role. Canada suffers no casualties in the conflict.

September 29-30, 1990

  • Canada co-sponsors the United Nations World Summit for Children, held at UN headquarters.

October 17-20, 1990 

  • Manitoba hosts the World Environmental Energy and Economic Conference (WEEC), furthering sustainable development principles and agendas. Over 3,000 international delegates attend.





  • Canada applauds the commencement of constitutional talks for an egalitarian South Africa.

March 1991

  • The Canada-U.S. Agreement on Air Quality is signed in an attempt to harmonize approaches and policies related to acid rain.  The agreement commits both countries to reduce their sulphur dioxide emission levels in half by the year 2000. 

June 1991

  • The Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy is launched to bring Arctic nations together in their efforts to protect the northern ecosystem.  The strategy demonstrates the importance of collective action and responsibility for environmental protection and sustainability. 


  • Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Canada establishes diplomatic relations with several former Soviet republics, including Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.

April 7, 1992

  • Canada recognizes the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and announces that it will contribute troops to subsequent UN peacekeeping operations. Canada opens an embassy in Sarajevo in April 1996.

June 3-14, 1992

  • Canada plays influential role at the Rio Earth Summit, with Canadian Marcel Strong as the Summit's Secretary-General. Canada initiates the creation of The Earth Council and the drafting of the global Earth Charter.

December 4, 1992

  • Canada ratifies the Convention on Biological Diversity, the objective of which is to develop national strategies for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity. It is often seen as the key document regarding sustainable development.

December 11, 1992

  • Canada reviews its peacekeeping commitments in Cyprus, which results in the withdrawal of 575 blue-helmets from the country. The Mulroney Government announces that Canada will completely withdraw from the peacekeeping mission in Cyprus by June 1993.

December 15, 1992

  • An advance party of Canadian Airborne peacekeepers arrives at Baledogle, Somalia, as part of the UNOSOM mission.


  • In 1992, Canada undertakes Operation Deliverance in Somalia, part of the American-initiated Operation Restore Hope supported by the United Nations. Its goal is to deliver humanitarian aid and restore order to the African nation of Somalia which was suffering from a severe famine, general anarchy, and domination by warlords following the collapse of the government. In 1993, Canadian soldiers are implicated in the 1993 beating death of a Somali teenager. The crime, documented by photos, shocks the Canadian public and brings to light internal problems in the Canadian Airborne Regiment that went beyond the two soldiers directly involved.

    The affair led to the disbanding of Canada's elite Canadian Airborne Regiment, greatly damaging the morale of the Canadian Forces, and damaging both the domestic and international reputation of Canadian soldiers.

December 17, 1992

  • The signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) by Canada, the United States, and Mexico, signals the beginning of a new phase in hemispheric trade relations. NAFTA ultimately takes effect in 1994.














  • The Department of External Affairs and International Trade is renamed the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT).
  • Canada participates in the multilateral process of the Middle East Peace Talks, chairing the Refugee Working Group and participating in the other working groups, including those on water resources and the environment.

January 1993

  • After playing a leading role in the negotiations, Canada signs the international Chemical Weapons Convention, an arms control agreement which outlaws the production, stockpiling, and use of chemical weapons. It ratifies the convention on September 26, 1993.

June 1993

  • After nine years in office, Brian Mulroney steps down and is replaced by Kim Campbell, the first woman Prime Minister in Canadian history. Subsequent elections in November defeat the Progressive Conservative Party, and Jean Chretien of the Liberals becomes Prime Minister.

September 1993

  • Remaining Canadian sanctions on South Africa are lifted.

« Previous (1969-1983)                                              Next (1994-2000) »

news media coverage