Address by Minister Cannon to the Diplomatic Forum

No. 2009/57 - Whistler, British Columbia - October 9, 2009

Check Against Delivery

It is a pleasure to be with you today at this 12th annual Diplomatic Forum.

The Forum has become a welcome tradition among members of Ottawa’s diplomatic community. It is an opportunity at the beginning of the fall season—and for many of you, at the beginning of your assignments here—to get to know each other better.

Simply by your presence here, you convey the importance to both Canada and your countries of deepening mutual understanding and of seeking avenues to cooperate on common interests.

In that spirit, I would like to discuss with you what is on the top of my mind and our government’s international agenda in the months ahead: our G8 presidency, our hosting of the June G20 summit, the Arctic, the Americas and our United Nations Security Council campaign.

In doing so, I wish to draw some of the links between Canada’s domestic agenda—for which you have front-row seats—and opportunities for Canada to offer international leadership during the coming year on these and related issues.

Global economic and financial crisis

Some of Canada’s priorities are so because of the tumultuous year the world has passed through. It is just more than a year since the sub-prime crisis became a global financial and economic crisis.

The ongoing global economic crisis is of historic proportions, and it has shifted our understanding of the depth and reach of globalization, and our interdependency, to a new level. So dealing with the economy is our first priority at this time.

But that does not mean we will stop dealing with other important issues and objectives. Many of these remain priorities in spite of the economic crisis.

Priorities such as international peace and security, Canada’s Arctic interests and climate change all speak to the enduring interests and values of Canadian citizens everywhere. They matter as much, if not more, during crises as during good times.

International peace and security and the UN Security Council campaign

Recently, I had the opportunity to speak before the United Nations General Assembly about Canada’s responsibility to the international community. In doing so, I made it clear that our government understands well that our national responsibility in promoting the security and prosperity of Canadians is inseparable from our willingness to lead on the international stage.

In fact, Canadians have long accepted this equation. We are prepared to take risks and accept sacrifice for causes that are just, to defend our freedom and to support our allies.

Canada is in Afghanistan with over 60 other nations and international organizations, at the request of the democratically elected Afghan government and as part of a UN-mandated, NATO-led mission, to help Afghans rebuild their country into a stable, democratic and self-sufficient society.

There is no question that the United Nations will continue to play a central role, across diverse challenges, to our collective security, whether within the context of the UN Compact and NATO’s partnership with the Government of Afghanistan, in a country where our soldiers, diplomats, police, aid workers and citizens are working with so many of yours; or on the high seas in the Gulf of Aden, where states struggle to manage the new threats presented by non-state actors, threats such as piracy, for which we don’t yet have the all the necessary legal instruments and multilateral mechanisms—but we’re working on it; or in the context of hard, long-term engagements both large and small, from Haiti to Sudan, where our police invest in the capacity of local authorities to provide security and, thus, prosperity.

As you know, Canada is campaigning for a seat on the UN Security Council in 2011-2012.

To those of you whose governments have already confirmed support, we are sincerely grateful. To those who have yet to make a decision, we would be sincerely honoured to receive your government’s support.

And we look forward to further discussions of Canada’s candidacy, and our common priorities.

But Canada’s national interest regarding the UN does not boil down to seats and membership for their own sakes.

Should Canada be offered an opportunity to contribute to the Security Council, I will ensure that my government demonstrates strong and constructive leadership.

Canada has long supported efforts to make the Security Council more responsive to today’s security challenges and more representative of the world’s regions, particularly Africa, which has been historically under-represented.

Any real reform must lead to increased transparency and accountability.

This will not be achieved by extending the privileges of a few to a few more, but by more democratically elected access to the Security Council, by more consultation and by more openness to the wider UN membership.

In much the same spirit, now that we are an observer at the Human Rights Council, Canada will work as hard as we did when we were a member to strengthen the UN’s human rights machinery.

It is perhaps commonplace to observe that the effectiveness of a nation’s leadership globally depends on the integrity and stability of its governance domestically.

Canada has worked hard to create a diverse society in which security derives from the values of respect for freedom and democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

Canada’s domestic experience and strengths have allowed us to contribute in our own way and with others to international security as well as to the promotion of human rights and freedoms.

G8, G20 and Canada’s prosperity agenda

We come to the current global economic crisis from a position of domestic strength and financial-sector prudence.

In that respect, 2010 will also be a year of opportunity and Canadian leadership.

Canada looks forward to co-chairing, with the Republic of Korea, the next G20 leaders’ summit in Canada in June 2010.

The G20 process has proven critical to our collective response to the global financial and economic crisis.

As host of the first 2010 G20 summit, we intend to build on the progress of previous G20 summits to ensure that there is a sustainable economic recovery and that we have in place policies for future growth that benefits everyone.

Canada will also host the G8 summit in Muskoka [Ont.]. This will be distinct and separate from the G20 summit, but we will look for complementary areas between their agendas, namely the economic issues. I would like to stress as well that the G8 remains an important force in the multilateral system. G8 countries have helped establish key initiatives to address global challenges on health, the environment, and peace and security, and they have often put up the lion’s share of resources to meet these challenges. The G8 retains its value and can demonstrate leadership on a broad spectrum of global issues. So we feel that both the G20 and G8 summit processes are important, and we intend to demonstrate that both of them can contribute to international governance.

In these and other forums, Canada continues to be among the pack leaders, pushing for enhanced facilitation of international trade against the easier reflex of protectionism. Our efforts speak for themselves in this respect: from our constructive dialogue on “Buy American” measures in the context of the world’s largest two-way trading relationship to our partnership with the European Union toward a free trade agreement to our attention to free trade agreements with Panama and other countries in our hemisphere.

The priority Canada places on facilitating freer and fairer flows of global trade and investment is a long-standing and enduring one.

But it remains a priority in spite of the economic crisis. And it becomes all the more urgent because of current global economic conditions.

Our government’s Global Commerce Strategy steps up Canada’s capacity and applies targeted resources to advance this agenda.

National interest dictates that Canada focus its bilateral efforts in this regard, with particular attention to the United States, the Western hemisphere and key emerging markets.

But national interest also compels us to push forward with an agenda toward new foreign trade and investment protection and facilitation agreements, in countries including those in the Middle East and Southeast Asia.

The Americas

Canada’s strong involvement in a number of international and regional organizations strengthens prosperity, peace and security in the Americas.

Canada has long-standing, rich and diverse connections to the countries of the hemisphere.

We are a country of the Americas, and we have made the region a key governmental priority. Canada has both the opportunity and responsibility to be active on hemispheric issues of critical importance to all countries in the region.

Our Americas engagement is focusing Canada’s efforts on three interrelated and mutually reinforcing objectives:

  1. enhancing the prosperity of citizens in the region;
  2. strengthening and reinforcing support for democratic governance throughout the Americas; and
  3. building a safe and secure hemisphere.

Canada’s Arctic interests

Canada is an Arctic nation, an Arctic power.

As an Arctic power, the Canadian government has recognized that Canada’s capacity to offer leadership in managing international interests in the Arctic depends on our willingness to invest domestically.

This investment was stepped up in recent months both in economic development within and in the exercise of our sovereignty throughout this vast part of our country.

The Arctic is of central importance to Canada, and it is a personal priority of mine as foreign minister.

I was recently in Iqaluit with Prime Minister [Stephen] Harper and my Cabinet colleagues, and incidentally, the Prime Minister announced an important new economic development agency for our North.

When you know the North and the Arctic represent 40 percent of Canada’s land and territory, you would agree that our government is getting it right and understand why we are investing for the future of our North.

I am committed to ensuring that the international spotlight stays focused on the Arctic region and its communities.

By making clear choices now, we ensure Canada’s national capacity. We also demonstrate leadership and international partnership with, of course, members of the Arctic Council, but also with other nations with interests in the Arctic.

We contribute to the joint stewardship of a promising North and a pristine Northern environment, which we will protect.

In organizations such as the Arctic Council, Canada will continue to show strong, proactive leadership on Arctic issues, such as shipping, oil and gas, contaminants, biodiversity and climate change.

Climate change

Of course, one of the reasons behind growing recognition of the strategic value of the Arctic is the rapid effect climate change exerts on the Arctic’s environment.

Canada remains committed to an ambitious post-2012 global climate change agreement that supports sustainable, low-carbon global growth.

We will focus on the development of an effective international climate change agreement that:

  • balances environmental protection and economic prosperity;
  • has a long-term focus;
  • supports the development and deployment of clean technologies;
  • supports constructive and ambitious global action; and
  • includes commitments from all major economies.

An energy producer and exporter, Canada is already investing in sustainability as a world leader in the development of clean technologies to fight climate change, including carbon capture and storage.

We are seeking to enhance global cooperation to advance the development and deployment of these technologies.

As you will soon witness spectacularly right here in Whistler, Canada also leads the world in our love of winter and winter sports! I hope you will be back in a few months to join us in the warm spirit of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games.

Holding this year’s forum in Vancouver and Whistler has put an advance spotlight on the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games.

This region reflects the diverse Canadian population and the country’s ties to other nations around the world.

Through its network of missions abroad, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada will continue to leverage the profile of the 2010 Winter Games through highly targeted activities to raise awareness about Canada and to showcase our expertise to key markets abroad.

I invite you to take part in those activities around the world and here in Canada.

I hope the Forum has been a chance for all of you to share perspectives on issues of importance to Canada and our international partners.

Thank you.