Address by Minister Cannon to the Chambre de Commerce de Québec

No. 2010/10 - City of Québec, Quebec - March 19, 2010

Check Against Delivery

It is always a pleasure for me to return to my native city, and I wish to thank the Chambre de Commerce de Québec [City of Québec Chamber of Commerce] for inviting me.

Your city—our city—has had memorable years recently, thanks to some high-profile international events, as well as two major anniversaries: its 375th in 1983 and its 400th in 2008, both of which attracted tens of thousands of visitors.

Indeed, the city of Québec has twice hosted the Francophonie Summit—in 1987 and 2008—as well as the Summit of the Americas in 2001.

During all those events—and many others—the people of the city of Québec have reinforced their reputation for hospitality, efficiency and pride.

As I reflect with you on Canada’s heavy international agenda for the coming months, and more specifically the upcoming G8 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, I can tell you that I often look to the city of Québec as a model for the preparation of our major international meetings.

For Canada, the year 2010 began with a flourish, thanks to the remarkable success of our athletes at the Vancouver Games.

I hope one day I can share a similar experience with my fellow citizens of the city of Québec.

In the coming months, the eyes of the world will remain on our country, which will host the G8, G20 and North American Leaders summits.

But before them, on March 29 and 30, I myself will be welcoming to Gatineau the foreign ministers of the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, Japan, Germany, France, Italy and the European Union.

The meeting’s main topic will be global security.

More specifically, I intend to advance three key priorities:

  • first, to prepare the Global Nuclear Security Summit and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, and, more specifically, a discussion of the latest developments in Iran and North Korea, two countries with very worrisome nuclear ambitions;
  • I also want to help Pakistan and Afghanistan to advance their dialogue on border issues; and
  • finally, we will look at how we can better help vulnerable states and regions reinforce their security.

I am well aware that for many Canadians, these issues and regions may appear very far away.

But in reality, nowadays, our interests are closely linked to those of other nations around the world.

The current financial crisis is clear evidence of this.

The economic crisis started in August 2007 in the United States, triggered by sub-prime mortgages and by mismanagement in a few large Wall Street firms. It now affects the entire world.

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 not unnoticed in the international community.

For example: according to Statistics Canada, our economy grew five percent in the fourth quarter of 2009.

That is the most significant growth in nearly a decade, and well over market forecasts.

In addition, the International Monetary Fund estimates that next year, Canada will lead the major G7 industrialized countries in growth.

But we have to remain vigilant and competitive.

The worst may be behind us, but the situation is still critical in many countries.

As you know, Canada’s economic well-being, as well as the creation and preservation of jobs in this country, are largely dependent on our ability to export goods and services.

While the bulk of our exports go to the United States, our main trading partner, we are, more and more, increasing our access to markets all over the world, for example:

  • our government has opened six trade offices in China, and three in India;
  • we have negotiated free trade agreements with countries including Colombia, Peru, Jordan and Panama; and
  • we are negotiating several other such accords, as well as many other trade agreements with other countries.

But sustainable trade can only take place in a secure environment.

And this is another area where what happens elsewhere can affect us here.

For example, the failed December 25 attack on a U.S. airliner was a stark reminder that terrorism originating in a country far away—this time, from Yemen—and aimed at a location close to us—this time, the city of Detroit—is a very real threat to us here at home.

And we know that Canada is on the list of countries terrorist groups could target.

Naturally, we must protect our territory, but we must also keep the world a safe and secure place for Canadians to travel, live and do business.

And Canadians do travel a lot.

In 2007 alone, Canadians made almost 50million visits abroad, and 2.5million citizens lived abroad.

Wide-ranging terrorism is a relatively new phenomenon.

But we must face it at the same time that we continue our struggle against an older, but just as terrifying, threat: nuclear proliferation.

Iran, in particular—a country with absolutely no regard for world opinion—continues to secretly develop its nuclear capability.

This is a grave threat to the region and to the whole world.

And North Korea, a country that cannot even feed its own people, pursues its nuclear development program and also conducts missile testing—as does Iran.

We support the peaceful use of nuclear energy, but we believe that it comes with a requirement to be transparent and to have international verification.

We submit ourselves to those requirements, as do almost all other countries.

Therefore, we remain committed to the principle that all countries, without exception, must accept them.

Afghanistan and Pakistan

My second priority in Gatineau will be security in Afghanistan and Pakistan, two countries that are directly and dangerously faced with Al Qaida terrorism.

Canada and our G8 partners have invested heavily in helping Afghanistan build a peaceful, stable and democratic state.

Of our brave soldiers, 140 have paid the ultimate price in defending our values and our interests in that region. We owe it to their memory to spare no effort in achieving our objectives before our troops withdraw next year.

In late January, President Karzai made the commitments necessary for the Government of Afghanistan to combat corruption and increasingly assume responsibility for security, basic services and democratic governance across Afghanistan.

It is critical that he deliver on those promises.

We will also discuss Pakistan, which is taking measures to root out violent extremists, but which faces its own political, economic and social challenges.

Over the past three years, Canada has helped to bring Afghan and Pakistani border officials together to talk about practical steps to address the challenges in that border region.

We want to build on this effort, and are working with our G8 partners to see how we can help increase trade between the two countries.

Vulnerable regions

We must also recognize that many countries are simply not able to deal with their own security challenges.

The problem isn’t the money we devote to assisting these countries. It is the coordination of our efforts.

All our G8 partners have different programs to help build up the security institutions in many countries around the world.

These programs range from peacekeeping operations training to counter-terrorism, counter-crime or counter-piracy programs.

However, these programs are often developed on separate tracks.

The programs do not necessarily “talk” to each other, yet they all aim to help strengthen the same set of institutions.

So I want to build on Canada’s experience with our G8 partners to see how we can better organize our efforts to create stronger security systems in vulnerable countries.

In particular, I want to talk about how we can help countries—like Yemen or the countries of the Sahel or Afghanistan or Haiti or other countries in the Americas—build the institutions they need to prevent conflict and fight terrorism, nuclear proliferation, crime and illicit drug trafficking.

Our meeting in Gatineau, like all meetings that take place on our soil, will also be an excellent opportunity to highlight our nation’s unique personality.

This is one of the reasons why I wanted to hold this event on the Quebec side of the Ottawa River.

We Canadians are, more and more, citizens of the world.

There probably never would have been a Canada without the enlightened cooperation demonstrated more than 140 years ago by our anglophone and francophone communities.

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, which he announced before this chamber of commerce a few years ago, Prime Minister Stephen 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.

And I already know that our example will continue to impress other countries all over the world.

Why am I so sure?

It’s simple: because the city of Québec has already proved it.

Thank you.