Address by Minister Cannon to Diplomatic Forum

No. 2010/78 - Ottawa, Ontario - October 6, 2010

Check Against Delivery

I regret very much that I could not join you in Charlottetown. I am honoured, however, to welcome you to the Lester B. Pearson Building, home to Canada’s foreign affairs and international trade department.

Canada’s international year

When I spoke to you one year ago in Vancouver, we were preparing for Canada’s international year. This has certainly been a busy year for Canadians and for the Canadian government. We hosted a succession of important and successful gatherings, most notably the Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games in Vancouver, the G-8 Summit in Muskoka and the G-20 Summit in Toronto.

I need not recite to you the significant accomplishments resulting from these meetings, and the valuable contributions the meetings made to goodwill among nations and to the well-being of the global community. I believe these achievements attest to Canada’s place in the world and its willingness and capacity to provide constructive leadership on major issues and challenges.

Canada and the UN Security Council

Of course, the success of these high-level events demonstrates not only Canada’s commitment and sense of responsibility in international affairs, but also its qualification for membership in the United Nations Security Council.

As an active member of the UN General Assembly, a supporter of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals and an active first responder to humanitarian disasters, Canada is engaged in finding solutions to the most pressing peace and security issues confronting the United Nations.

In addition, during Canada’s G-8 presidency in 2010, Prime Minister [Stephen] Harper has championed the Muskoka Initiative, which aims to save the lives of mothers, newborns and children. He also introduced the G-8 Accountability Report to ensure that all countries deliver on their commitments to promote global development.

We are extensively engaged in support of key UN mandates and operations in places such as Afghanistan, Haiti and Sudan. If elected to the Security Council, Canada would continue to use its practical experience in fragile states around the globe and knowledge gained through previous terms to ensure that the Security Council responds to emerging threats in an effective and accountable way.

Regardless of the result of Canada’s bid to the UNSC [United Nations Security Council], our foreign policy, our economic leadership and helping those in developing countries that are most in need—Canada will continue to shine.

One of the few persons who believe that Canada should not sit on the Security Council unfortunately is the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. [Michael] Ignatieff, who has shown himself to be unable to put the interests of his country above the interests of his party.

We also recognize that the Security Council cannot act alone, and that it needs to work with the rest of the UN membership and with regional organizations such as the African Union, the Organization of American States, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, La Francophonie and the Commonwealth to ensure an appropriate response to conflict situations. Regional and sub-regional organizations play a key role in these situations. They understand local context, possess valuable political leverage and are prepared to act.

Encouraging greater collaboration between the United Nations and key regional groups fits well with Canada’s vision for the entire organization, including the Security Council.

Canada will continue to work toward a Security Council that is more representative of today’s global political realities. We especially believe that under-represented regions deserve better access to the Security Council. And we believe that within our own western group, a balanced range of voices needs to be heard.

If elected, Canada will encourage greater transparency and accountability, and will maintain our long-held practice of consulting extensively with all UN members on practical and sustainable solutions to security vulnerabilities. This consultative approach will increase should Canada be elected to serve on the Security Council.

Security and human rights

Working with the United Nations, Canada remains committed to its pragmatic, results-oriented approach, which has become its trademark.

Canada continues to be active in responding to actions that threaten peace and security by states such as North Korea, against which Canada has taken steps to impose additional sanctions following the sinking of the Republic of Korea’s navy ship, Cheonan.

We have consistently voiced our concern over the concealment of Iran’s nuclear capabilities by Iranian authorities, as well as their abuse of human rights. Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s comments on the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the United States during the UN General Assembly just two weeks ago were as unacceptable as his past denials of the Holocaust and his unjust condemnation of Israel. Iran’s behaviour at the UN violates the organization’s very spirit.

Canada notes that Iran has not taken any steps to fulfill its obligations since the May 2010 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review in New York City and the June G-8 Summit in Canada. Iran has shown continued deception toward its commitments. Questions about possible military links to Iran’s nuclear program remain completely unresolved.

The right to peaceful use of nuclear energy comes with the responsibility to comply with international obligations, but Iran has made no attempt to live up to the minimum standard of compliance, preferring instead to continue its deception.

Canada is also deeply concerned about the ongoing deterioration of the human rights situation in Iran and urges the Iranian authorities to free all citizens unjustly detained there, including dual nationals.

Canada also continues to strongly support freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law in Burma. Canada has consistently called upon the Burmese regime to respect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all people in Burma, and we have imposed the toughest sanctions in the world against the regime.

Canada’s Arctic foreign policy

During Canada’s international year, I also met with my counterparts from the four other Arctic Ocean coastal states. As I stated in late March when we met, the five states have unique responsibilities with respect to sovereignty and stewardship, as well as opportunities. Our meetings were characterized by practical and meaningful steps to develop and to safeguard a vital yet fragile region.

As well, Canada has been and continues to be a strong supporter of the unique role of Permanent Participant organizations in the Arctic Council. We remain committed to a very close working relationship with the Permanent Participants in the Arctic Council.

As you know, the Arctic is a priority for this government in national and in international affairs, and our aims and commitments are clearly articulated in Canada’s Northern Strategy. Our approach stresses sovereignty, with clearly defined boundaries in the Arctic; economic and social development for prosperity and well-being; protection of the Arctic environment through Canadian initiatives and key partnerships; and improved and devolved governance so that Northerners have a greater say on the decisions that help to shape their destinies.

In August, I released our government’s Statement on Canada’s Arctic Foreign Policy, which demonstrates how our international policies and actions will play an important part in upholding those four pillars of Canada’s Northern Strategy and in meeting the Strategy’s objectives. The Statement clearly identifies sovereignty as Canada’s number-one Arctic foreign-policy priority.

Canada and the Americas

The Americas are also a key foreign-policy priority for the Government of Canada. Our economic prosperity, the solidity of our democracy and the security of our citizens are linked with those of our neighbours. Our vision for the region is based on three connected and mutually reinforcing pillars: building a safe and secure hemisphere, enhancing the prosperity of citizens, and strengthening and reinforcing support for democratic governance.

It is a fact that there cannot be prosperity without security and without the freedoms and legal protections that result from democratic governance. In the same way, democratic governance cannot be consolidated when there is persistent poverty and social exclusion or when personal security is threatened by crime and violence. Canada looks forward to continuing to work with our partners throughout the hemisphere who share our values and want to work toward the same goals.

A key element of our deepening engagement in the Americas is emphasizing effective, results-based multilateralism. In this vein, Canada is proud that 2010 marks its 20th anniversary of full membership in the Organization of American States [OAS]. Canada views the OAS as a critical venue for cooperation with hemispheric partners on priority issues, such as democratic governance, human rights, security and development, and will continue to work to ensure that the Organization remains capable of responding effectively to the needs of member states.

Middle East policy

Canada’s Middle East policy remains unchanged. Canada supports the creation of an independent Palestinian state as part of a negotiated two-state solution with Israel, and we support Israel’s right to live in peace with its neighbours within secure boundaries.

Canada regrets Israel’s decision not to extend its 10-month partial suspension of settlement activities in the West Bank, as this would have been a significant confidence-building gesture.

Canada considers settlements contrary to international law and settlement expansion unhelpful to peace efforts.

Unilateral action by Israelis or Palestinians prejudges the outcome of peace negotiations. Neither Canada nor the international community will recognize such actions.

Our government believes the continuous threat of terrorism and the failure of some to recognize Israel’s right to exist and defend itself are obstacles to a lasting peace.

We encourage the parties to take the steps necessary to achieve a comprehensive peace settlement, no matter how difficult these steps may be.

Canada stands ready to assist the parties in any way they would find helpful.


Our government is honouring its commitments in Africa and expanding its presence on the continent.

Last month, at the United Nations General Assembly, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced Canada’s three-year, $540-million commitment to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which brought our total contribution to over $1.5 billion—the largest ever made by Canada to an international health institution.

In September 2009, we also announced that we were increasing our involvement in the African Development Bank, expanding its lending capacity by around $2.6 billion.

Our relations with the African states go far beyond simply providing aid. We are helping to stimulate the expansion of Canadian trade and investment in Africa, fostering job creation and sustainable development there.

We also lead the way in cooperating with African states and regional organizations on peace and security.

Helping friends in need: Canada’s response to natural disasters

Canadians, individually, through charitable organizations and through their government, have always responded to those affected by natural disasters. Unlike meetings scheduled on the international agenda, there is no timetable or predetermined location for natural disasters.

Thus far this year, we have witnessed major calamities such as the earthquakes in Haiti and Chile, and the flooding in Pakistan.

Global prosperity

When we met one year ago, the global economic and financial crisis justifiably dominated the horizon and our agenda. As the recovery remains fragile, we must stay the course toward achieving balanced and sustained growth. Today, the economy continues to be the number one priority of Canadians and of our government.

The Canadian government is determined to continue the responsible leadership that has played a vital part in the exemplary performance of the Canadian economy in difficult circumstances. As we move forward, we will build upon what has worked so well in the past and what has contributed so effectively to Canada’s prosperity, particularly the negotiation and signature of free trade agreements with more economic partners, as well as collaboration with other nations and international institutions to eliminate barriers to the free flow of goods, services and investment worldwide.

The greatest benefit to all in the international community and the foremost assurance of sustained recovery come from concerted policies and collaborative action, not from retreat into national or regional enclaves.

We believe firmly in an approach that effectively and positively combines the protection and furtherance of national interests with global responsibilities—an approach Prime Minister Harper calls “enlightened sovereignty.”

It is in this spirit, as Canada’s foreign minister, that I want to work with all of you to fulfill our shared purposes in world affairs.

Thank you.