Address by Minister Cannon at Carleton University

No. 2009/55 - Ottawa, Ontario - February 23, 2009

Check Against Delivery

For over 70 years, Carleton [University] has been at the forefront of international studies in Canada, and it is an honour to be here.

Our meeting also takes place at a special moment in the history of Canada’s foreign affairs department. This year, our department is embarking on its second century of existence, at a time when the world around us is going through a period of profound and rapid change.

The global economy is in turmoil. Danger signs are flashing in the security environment. And many of today’s challenges—peace and security, human rights, political freedom, economic development, climate change—cannot be tackled by countries on their own.

Having strong foreign policy leadership, therefore, has rarely been more important.

Like Derek Burney, who has had a remarkable career in foreign affairs, and in more political functions, and who now teaches here at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs of Carleton University, said recently, “Having a clear agenda and a sense of priorities in government can be as powerful as a good idea.”

Under the leadership of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the Canadian government now has a clear agenda and a sense of priorities.

Today, I would like to say a few words about our foreign-policy priorities. These are not all of our priorities, but the ones that I will focus on today. They are:

  • strengthening our relations with our largest trading partner, the United States;
  • securing economic opportunities in emerging markets such as Asia;
  • the Americas;
  • Afghanistan; and
  • the Arctic.

But as [Her Excellency the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean,] the Governor General, said in the Speech from the Throne, “The first order of business must be to put the international financial system on a sounder footing.”

We need to re-examine the rules and institutions that underpin the global financial system.

A few months ago, in Washington, [D.C.,] Prime Minister Harper told his G20 colleagues that our approach to economic policy will be based on what he called “sound foundations and open doors.”

The Prime Minister also noted, “Given that our closest neighbour and largest trading partner is the epicentre of the financial earthquake and global slowdown, the effects are real and the impetus for immediate action has been particularly great.”

The United States is our closest neighbour, ally and trading partner. Canada and the U.S. have the largest two-way trade relationship in the world. Two-way trade in goods crosses the Canada-U.S. border at the rate of $1.7 billion per day—well over a million dollars per minute. More than 7 million U.S. jobs are supported by trade with Canada. The security and prosperity of our two countries are inseparable.

As you are all well aware, U.S. president Barack Obama was in Ottawa last Thursday for a working visit with the Prime Minister. The visit, which underscore the importance of the Canada-U.S. relationship, provided an important opportunity for the leaders to explore ways in which Canada and the U.S. can work together more closely to advance our shared bilateral and international objectives.

The visit was also an important occasion to set a positive and forward-looking tone for our relations with the new U.S. administration. The leaders agreed on the need for a joint effort on North American economic recovery and established the U.S.-Canada Clean Energy Dialogue. They also discussed North American security, including the management of the Canada-U.S. border, environmental protection, and international security priorities such as Afghanistan and the upcoming NATO Summit.

There is no question that the continued good health of this relationship is vital to our prosperity. Both Prime Minister Harper and President Obama have recognized that now is not the time for protectionism—a short-term temptation that leads to long-term damage, as seen in the Great Depression period of the late ’20s and ’30s.

Like us, our American neighbours also know that a secure and efficient border must be a central priority to ensure the steady movement of goods, services and people and the deterrence of terrorists. That is key to our shared prosperity.

The Americas

Another key priority for our government is the Americas, an area of very dynamic economic growth in Canada’s backyard.

We are the world’s third-largest direct investor in the Americas. We have signed free trade agreements with Colombia and Peru, negotiations with Panama are progressing well, and we would like to move forward with other regional partners to create new economic opportunities for Canadians.

These agreements contribute to our support for prosperity, democracy and security in the region.

But, if the United States is our closest neighbour, it is not the entirety of our neighbourhood. Beyond the U.S. lie the rest of the hemisphere—the Americas—also in Canada’s backyard and an area of dynamic economic growth.

Engagement in the Americas is a critical priority for our government, a fact that is underlined by the appointment of the Canadian government’s first minister of state of foreign affairs (Americas), my colleague Peter Kent.

Canada is the third-largest investor in the Americas, with a particular strength in the mining sector.

We want to see the region make progress to entrench democracy, address security threats such as drugs, crime and disease, and promote prosperity through trade, investment and innovation.

By forging closer ties within the Americas, the government will continue to advance Canada’s trade agenda, building on the free trade agreements signed with Colombia and Peru.

We will open new avenues for strengthening democratic institutions, supporting good governance, promoting respect for democracy and human rights, and building capacity in the areas of public security and disaster relief assistance.

We will also promote education and training in this region by enhancing scholarship and youth mobility programs.

We will be pleased to be able to play an active role during the Summit of the Americas, which will take place next year, and to host the 2009 Canada-CARICOM Summit.

Emerging markets

During the current difficult period for the global economy, Canada is also working with its partners, including those in Asia, to ensure that markets remain open and that the gains from globalization are not reversed.

Our government is investing $50 million a year to advance Canada’s Global Commerce Strategy, a central feature of our international trade policy. It focuses not just on trade but also on two-way investment, particularly in areas of economic opportunity, such as growing and emerging markets the world over.

We will be paying special attention to Asia’s emerging markets. Asia has emerged as a major, driving force in the global economy, producing a significant and increasing share of the world’s goods and services. As I said earlier today, we will be increasing our presence in Asia. We have been able to secure $2 billion in terms of making sure that the Asia-Pacific gateway is opening up the doors to new trade with China and with all of Asia.

In China, we will soon open six new trade offices so that Canadian companies can benefit from the enormous commercial opportunities in that country.

Next month, I will travel to India, with which we have long-standing bilateral ties built upon shared values of democracy, pluralism and the rule of law, and strong people-to-people links.


Our multilateral engagement is about more than just trade; it is also about people and values.

The values we share have taken us to the far corners of the earth, where Canada has been doing some of the heavy lifting in promoting freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law, thereby contributing to international security.

Delivering on our commitment to making international assistance more focused, more effective and more accountable, the Government of Canada has announced that it is moving forward on another element of its aid effectiveness agenda. It will focus its efforts in 20 countries by concentrating resources, focusing programming and improving coordination.

Canada is meeting its G8 commitment to double aid in Africa, and we have shown leadership in working toward peace in Sudan and providing for human needs in Sudan’s Darfur region, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zimbabwe.

Afghanistan is perhaps our most visible foreign-policy commitment. It is also the focus of our largest foreign-aid program.

The rationale for Canada’s commitment to Afghanistan has been consistent: to prevent the country from lapsing into a failed state that cannot provide for the well-being of its people and that provides a safe haven for terrorists.

We have made great sacrifices in Afghanistan. But there is a lot of work left to do, and we will stay the course and see this mission through.

Our government has set six clear priorities in Afghanistan:

  1. Canada is helping the Government of Afghanistan to maintain a more secure environment and establish law and order by building the capacity of the Afghan National Army and Police, and supporting complementary efforts in the areas of justice and corrections.
  2. Canada is helping the Afghan government to provide jobs, education, and essential services, such as water.
  3. We are assisting the Government of Afghanistan in providing humanitarian assistance to people in need, including refugees.
  4. Canada is also helping to enhance the management and security of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.
  5. We are helping to build Afghan institutions that support democratic processes, such as elections.
  6. We are contributing to Afghan-led political reconciliation efforts aimed at weakening the insurgency and fostering a sustainable peace.

We are presently transforming the nature of our engagement in Afghanistan to focus on governance and democratic reform, reconstruction and development, and to prepare for the end of our current combat military mission in 2011.

We will continue to work toward the goal we share with the Afghan government, our NATO allies and our partners within the International Security Assistance Force.

The Arctic

Our government is also committed to exercising our sovereignty in the Arctic. The Arctic is not only an integral part of Canada as a territorial fact, but it is also central to our identity as a northern country.

As a practical matter, the region is growing increasingly important. Other countries are showing a growing interest in the region, its resource potential and the opening of the polar waters.

At the end of the day, Canada is an Arctic power. Canada’s agenda is one of leadership, with the intention of creating a pragmatic and productive dialogue to address the issues, challenges and opportunities that are unfolding in the Arctic.

I will be meeting with the Arctic Council members in the months ahead to relay this and to discuss future collaboration.

We have already announced a number of initiatives in the Canadian North and the Arctic, such as:

  • the creation of a world-class Arctic research station;
  • the construction of ice-capable naval vessels;
  • increased patrolling;
  • the mapping of the extended continental shelf, which will allow Canada to present its submission to the UN in accordance with the Convention on the Law of the Sea;
  • the extension of the application of the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act to 200 nautical miles from the baselines of Canada’s territorial seas north of 60 degrees latitude, which will allow us to extend our environmental reach; and
  • the implementation of mandatory reporting to NORDREG [Northern Canada Regulation System], the Arctic marine-traffic system, for all ships destined for Canada’s Arctic waters.

Our government has developed an integrated Northern strategy that focuses on four priorities:

  1. exercising Canada’s Arctic sovereignty;
  2. protecting our environmental heritage;
  3. promoting economic and social development; and
  4. improving and devolving domestic northern governance.

We will continue to work bilaterally and multilaterally through organizations including La Francophonie, APEC, the Organization of American States, the Commonwealth and the United Nations, to extend good governance principles and capacity building.

We will use Canada’s role as the host of the 2010 meeting of the G8 to shape international action on our priority issues.

And we are aggressively pursuing a seat on the United Nations Security Council for 2011-2012 to promote our issues on the world stage.


Canadians want to play a significant role—a clear, confident and influential role in the world. As proud citizens, they do not want a Canada that just goes along; they want a Canada that leads. They want a Canada that does not just criticize, but one that can contribute. They want a Canada that reflects their values and interests, and that punches above its weight.

I believe the priorities I have just summarized will allow Canada to come out of these challenging times for Canada, North America and the global community even stronger and better positioned to succeed on the world stage.

Thank you.