Notes for an Address by the Honourable Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Foreign Affairs, to Heads of African Missions to Canada

No. 2009/4 - Ottawa, Ontario - January 20, 2009

Check Against Delivery

Welcome, and thank you for coming. I am here to listen to your concerns and suggestions. Before I do so, I would like to share my perspectives on the present situation on the African continent.

Africa in Canada’s foreign policy

Canada has three main foreign policy priorities: the Americas, Afghanistan and emerging markets.

It may be difficult to see many of your countries reflected in our geographic priorities, but you may recall that Canada’s foreign policy is also anchored in our respect for the values of freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

Our policies on Africa are anchored in them too.

Canadian engagement

Our approach focuses on engagement and partnership with progressive African leaders and governments committed to political and economic reform. And we are encouraged by the great strides that have been made, notably with the most recent elections in Ghana, the continent’s reduced number of armed conflicts and its steady economic growth.

The Maghreb countries and Egypt are good examples of this trend: many countries have produced important reforms, often in the face of difficult challenges, including terrorism.

Canadian engagement: trade and resource investment

These positive trends in Africa are reflected in our own trade and investment.

Over the past five years our merchandise trade with Africa has more than doubled. Canada has also been the second-largest investor in mining in sub-Saharan Africa for the last five years, with over 100 companies active in 37 countries.

Canada is concerned about the role of natural resources in fuelling armed conflict in some African countries and is actively contributing to good governance of Africa’s natural resources, for example through the Kimberley Process and the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.

Canadian engagement: development

In addition to our economic relations with African countries, Canada has been, and will continue to be, an active development partner.

The Government of Canada is meeting its G8 commitment to double aid to Africa, and we remain strongly committed to the G8-Africa partnership. We support the institutional development of the African Union [AU], which has made impressive gains in its short history.

Canada was an early supporter of the African Peer Review Mechanism. Our assistance in the areas of health, education, and governance is making a difference. We are also helping vulnerable people through the provision of our humanitarian assistance.

Canadian engagement: peace and security

Canada has strongly engaged in Africa on peace and security.

In Sudan, we have taken a leadership role in helping achieve sustainable peace by supporting efforts to implement the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. Canada supports this fragile agreement through critical projects that strengthen the rule of law, security-sector reform and good governance. Since 2006, Canada has contributed over $514 million for peace and basic human needs in Sudan.

We also provide significant support toward resolving the conflict in Darfur. This year, we are providing up to $40 million in equipment and training support to African countries that are contributing troops and police to the joint UN-AU peacekeeping mission in Darfur.

We also participate in the UN mission in the DRC [Democratic Republic of the Congo], and contribute to the development of a modern, professional military doctrine for the country’s new armed forces, to ensure that its population is protected.

Canada remains committed to the northern Uganda peace process, despite recent setbacks there.

The Canadian government has announced an additional $10.3 million for police and peacekeeper training in Africa, which will also assist centres of excellence in Accra [Ghana], Bamako [Mali] and Abuja [Nigeria].

Canada provides training, technical assistance and equipment to help combat terrorism, and we will increase our funding commitments and our cooperation with you.

Canada is a member of the UN Peacebuilding Commission, where we are working to support post-conflict peacebuilding in countries such as Sierra Leone and Burundi. To that end, we have provided over $20 million to the Peacebuilding Fund.

Canada is also quick to respond to immediate crises. In 2008, a Canadian Navy frigate escorted World Food Programme ships going to Somalia, aiding the delivery of enough supplies to feed about 400,000 people for six months.

Crises: Somalia, Sudan, the DRC and Zimbabwe

Unfortunately, there remain too many crises in Africa. Somalia, Sudan, the DRC and Zimbabwe immediately come to mind.

The humanitarian crisis in Somalia is caused largely by the lack of basic security resulting from the inability of the parties involved to find common ground and rebuild their country.

Canada continues to urge all parties to the Darfur conflict to put an immediate stop to the violence, to respect human rights and international humanitarian law, and to end impunity. We also urge the Sudanese government and the Darfur rebels to embrace the peace process led by the UN and the AU.

We reiterate our call to the Government of Sudan to facilitate the deployment of UNAMID [the AU-UN hybrid mission in Darfur] to ensure the protection of civilians.

We remain concerned about last fall’s renewed political and humanitarian crisis in eastern Congo, and in particular the related persistent violence against women.

We believe that the economic, political and humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe is caused by the fundamentally poor governance of a regime with little regard for the welfare or human rights of its people. The deaths of more than 2,000 people from cholera, a preventable disease, are evidence of that.

Canada has asked for UN Security Council engagement on the crisis in Zimbabwe.

United Nations Security Council

As you know, we are pursuing an elected seat on the Security Council for a two-year term starting in 2011.

Canada is a major contributor to all of the UN’s key areas of activity.

With a seat on the Council in 2011 and 2012, we would continue our tradition of pursuing an active agenda for the United Nations in such areas as peacebuilding, conflict prevention and conflict resolution.

We would promote greater effectiveness, accountability, and transparency on the part of the Security Council.

People-to-people connections

The engagement between Canada and African countries continues to grow and prosper.

There are thousands of African students in Canada acquiring specialized skills vital to Africa’s development. African immigrants have contributed significantly to Canada’s diversity, its success and its competitiveness in the world economy. We can expect ties between our countries to continue to grow.

The Government of Canada will stand with you as Africa works toward its goals of peace and prosperity.

Thank you.