Address by Minister Cannon to Montreal Council on Foreign Relations

No. 2010/35 - Montréal, Quebec - May 20, 2010

Check Against Delivery

This is Canada’s “international year,” which gives us a special opportunity to extend our influence and values around the world.

In mid-February, the Vancouver Winter Games allowed our athletes to shine as never before within the large Olympic family.

Of course, no gold medal is awarded for diplomacy. But I’ve learned that the recipe for success in international affairs calls for the same ingredients as for sports: a clear goal, teamwork and good preparation.

In mid-March, Gatineau was the setting for a gathering I hosted that brought together the foreign ministers of the G8—which comprises France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States, in addition to Canada. Among other things, we worked together to set the stage for the summits of heads of state and government, soon to take place in Canada.

In a few weeks, in Muskoka [Ontario], Canada will greet the heads of state and government from the leading industrialized countries, the Council of Europe and the European Commission.

The G8 encompasses:

  • 13 percent of the world population, but
  • 61 percent of the world’s economy;
  • 70 percent of the United Nations’ budget;
  • 82 percent of government development assistance.

Immediately after the G8 Summit, leaders of the G20—Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Republic of Korea, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union—will descend on Toronto.

Malawi, representing the African Union, and Vietnam, representing the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, as well as Ethiopia, Spain and the Netherlands, will also participate in the G20 as special guests of the 2010 Summit.

I am well aware that, for many Canadians, these meetings and regions may seem very distant.

In fact, nowadays, our interests are closely linked to those of other nations, and decisions made several thousands of kilometres from home may directly and profoundly affect our daily lives.

The current economic crisis is the best evidence of this.

This economic crisis was triggered in August 2008 in the United States by sub-prime mortgages and by mismanagement in a few large Wall Street firms.

It now affects the entire world.

Other recent crises have highlighted our interdependence with the rest of the world to protect our security.

Last Christmas, for example, the attempted detonation of an explosive device by a Nigerian citizen radicalized in Yemen, on an airplane from Amsterdam bound for Detroit but in Canadian airspace, reminded us of the ongoing threat that international terrorism poses to Canadians.

G8 Summit in Muskoka

That is why the G8 Summit in Muskoka will concentrate on global peace and security, as well as on international development.

The G8’s work is based on agreement among members that security and prosperity are best sustained by democratic states that respect human rights and the rule of law.

Notably, we will try to remedy significant international vulnerabilities that could have a direct impact here in Canada.

In their discussions, the leaders will rely on the results of the G8 foreign ministers’ meeting I convened in Gatineau this March.

The meeting was focused on three major issues: nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the security vulnerabilities many countries are facing.

Unfortunately, the global threat posed by the potential use of nuclear weapons by state and non-state actors is very real.

We know that Al Qaeda tried to obtain nuclear weapons. Moreover, some states openly challenge the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

The Iranian regime, in particular, continues to ignore its international obligations with impunity. I do not need to tell you that the international community has serious doubts about the peaceful nature of its nuclear program.

On numerous occasions, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has expressed his hostile feelings toward Israel and his indifference toward the United Nations.

If Iran’s nuclear program is not contained, it could spark a Middle East arms race and undermine the global non-proliferation regime.

This situation could quickly turn into the most serious—most dangerous—situation our generation will have to face.

Iran is leaving us no other choice but to impose additional sanctions, ideally through the UN Security Council.

Unfortunately, President Ahmadinejad is not the only unpredictable, irresponsible head of state who wants to or has already gotten his hands on nuclear weapons.

North Korea’s Kim Jong-Il has also shown his complete disregard for nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament measures, going so far as to announce his withdrawal from the Non-Proliferation Treaty in 2003.

The G8 ministers have urged North Korea to return to the Six-Party Talks without preconditions and to meet its commitments, particularly with respect to complete and verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. But to no avail.

Last night, evidence was presented which points conclusively to a North Korean torpedo having been responsible for sinking the South Korean naval vessel Cheonan, resulting in the deaths of 46 sailors.

There is no other plausible explanation. Canada provided technical experts for the investigation.

Canada strongly condemns this violent act of aggression by the North Korean regime, which has once again demonstrated reckless and unacceptable behaviour.

Our government is fully supportive of South Korea, our democratic ally and friend.

We are closely consulting with South Korea and our allies, and we will continue to support South Korea on the best way to take North Korea to task.

We respect the nuclear non-proliferation agreement and are actively participating in the 2010 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, currently being held in New York.

The Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction, a 10-year program worth US$20 billion, was also launched, following Canada’s initiative, at the G8 Summit in Kananaskis, Alberta, in 2002.

Canada committed to contributing $1 billion over 10 years to the Global Partnership, and has given over $640 million so far.

The Partnership is also aimed at preventing terrorists and countries that welcome terrorists from purchasing or developing nuclear, chemical, radiological or biological weapons.

It has also allowed for the dismantlement of 184 nuclear-powered Russian submarines and contributed to the destruction of 18,000 tons of chemical weapon stocks in Russia.

Afghanistan and Pakistan

Afghanistan continues to be a top concern for Canada, as it is for most of our G8 partners.

Canada is engaged in Afghanistan with its allies from the international community with the aim of helping the Afghan people rebuild their country.

At the London Conference on Afghanistan at the end of January, President [Hamid] Karzai promised to take the necessary steps to ensure that his government assumes responsibility for security, basic services and democratic governance across Afghanistan.

We are also keeping a very watchful eye on the border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan, which is still the cradle of global terrorism.

The “Toronto 18 terror” plot [in 2006] and the 2006 conspiracy targeting transatlantic flights from the United Kingdom bound for Canada and the United States, for example, are linked to that border region.

Consequently, the fate of Afghanistan and Pakistan matters just as much for the security of Canadians and our allies as it does for the security of the citizens of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Over the past three years, Canada has been facilitating a process to bring together Afghan and Pakistani border officials so they can talk about practical steps for making the border area secure.

This Canadian initiative, known as the Dubai Process, has the support of our G8 partners.

Security vulnerabilities

The sad fact is that the list of security vulnerabilities—ranging from internal conflicts to transnational organized crime, drug and human trafficking, weapons proliferation and terrorism—is getting longer and longer.

I am particularly concerned about the extreme vulnerability of certain countries that lack efficient and accountable institutions to address these vulnerabilities.

As a result, the G8 members are investing in these countries to enhance the capabilities of their security institutions—that is, the army, the police, the legal system, border and customs services, correctional service and the coast guard—and to help them strengthen their civilian and parliamentary oversight mechanisms.

Canada has a long history of assisting nations in their efforts to develop security institutions. In Kosovo, for example, Canadian experts were among the first to start building a correctional service in the post-conflict environment.

In Haiti, Canadian police have for decades helped train and mentor local police.

In Africa, we have helped build up a network of centres offering peacekeeping training to soldiers and police.


While the G8 is still the most powerful tool for coordinating efforts among the major powers, the G20 has shown since its founding in 1999 that it can effectively mobilize key global economic players.

At the [September 2009] Pittsburgh Summit, the G20 emerged as the pre-eminent forum for international economic cooperation. The G20 was thereby given the mandate of continuing its work beyond the current economic crisis.

The unprecedented international economic cooperation within the G20 last year enabled us to avert what could have become a global depression.

Through the swift and vigorous action which our government took by implementing a new economic action plan, Canada has been one of the nations most successful in weathering this crisis and quickly coming out of it—a fact that has not gone unnoticed in the international community.

But we have to remain vigilant and competitive. The worst may be over, but the situation is still critical in many countries.

In our view, the fundamentals that have allowed Canada to achieve outstanding economic results in the difficult circumstances we are currently experiencing are crucial for promoting global economic growth that is both sustainable and balanced over the long term.

In Toronto, we plan with our partners to honour the promises that were made at the G20 Summit in Pittsburgh in order to ensure a complete economic recovery.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently wrote to his fellow G20 leaders to say that we “can confront our fiscal challenge with clear and realistic plans for fiscal consolidation, or we can wait for markets to dictate the terms for us.”

“As the recovery becomes entrenched and our stimulus plans expire,” said the Prime Minister, “we cannot afford to rest on our laurels. We must quickly turn our attention to the next major issue facing our countries and the G20 as a whole, that is, to the issue of restoring our public finances.”

Recent events in Greece and, to a lesser extent, in some other European countries, have clearly shown that managing the present economic crisis can be a tricky proposition.

That is why the G20 must absolutely produce credible plans to encourage long-term economic growth.

The G20 has shown its usefulness in helping to come up with solutions to the present economic crisis. It must continue to demonstrate its effectiveness and keep up its efforts to support the implementation of credible recovery plans and stimulate long-term economic growth.

We have identified the root causes of the problem and its effects.

Now we have to take the necessary corrective measures, chief among which is to drastically reduce the enormous deficits a number of countries have racked up to stimulate growth.

Also, we must be wary of quick fixes—for example, a bank tax that would penalize healthy financial institutions such as Canada’s, which have admirably weathered the crisis while many others have gone under elsewhere around the world.


The Toronto and Muskoka summits are also an opportunity for us to demonstrate the effectiveness of the Canadian federation.

In world history, there are very few examples of a country being born and having prospered through the shared will of different groups and through a peaceful and democratic process.

Our federation, based on respect for differences as well as shared values and common interests, is a model for the world. And our federation continues to evolve.

Acting on his policy of open federalism, Prime Minister Harper recognized that the people of Quebec form a nation within a united Canada.

Our government also took steps to ensure that Quebec can project its unique character on the UNESCO stage.

Above all, we want to respect and encourage provincial autonomy within a modern, efficient and prosperous federation.

That’s why I am certain that all Canadians will share a common pride over the coming weeks when the world comes to visit Canada.

Thank you.