Address by Minister Cannon to the Economic Club of Canada Concerning the G8 Foreign Ministers Meeting

No. 2010/11 - Toronto, Canada - March 22, 2010

Check Against Delivery

In just a few days, on March 29 and 30, I will welcome the foreign ministers from the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, Japan, Germany, France, Italy and the European Union to Gatineau, Quebec.

Keeping the world safe matters a lot to Canadians, whether they are at home or travelling abroad.

And it matters for Canada’s economy.

Living as we do on an enormous and wonderful continent, with the world’s most powerful nation as our southern neighbour, and seas on three coasts to buffer us from the rest of the world, it is easy to feel snug—and even a little smug—and secure.

But today, our national interests are inextricably interconnected with those of states around the globe. John Donne [the 17th century British poet] wrote that “no man is an island.” In our globalized world, this is true of states as well. The attacks of 9/11 were clear evidence of this, as is the recent financial crisis.

As you know, in June, Canada will also host the G20 summit in Toronto. The G20 is the premier forum for international economic cooperation, and it has already played a pivotal role in dealing with the most severe financial and economic crisis facing the world since the Great Depression.

The G20 will be judged, however, not only by its ability to respond to the crisis, but also by its capacity to help lead the world through recovery and beyond, and to achieve long-term growth that is balanced and sustainable. In Toronto, under our theme of Recovery and New Beginnings, Canada will seek to ensure that the G20 maintains its commitments, and makes further progress on policies such as:

  • effective and sustainable monetary and fiscal measures;
  • sound and well-regulated financial institutions; and
  • open and competitive trade flows.

Our government will pursue policies that are anchored in Canadian values, and at the same time reflect the reality of our global interconnectedness and the need to work together for global prosperity and security.

Canada’s economic well being—and that means jobs—depends heavily on our ability to export our goods and services.

While the majority of our exports go to the United States, we are steadily increasing our access to markets around the world.

Since coming to office:

  • our government has opened an additional six trade offices in China and three in India;
  • we have already concluded free trade agreements with countries like Colombia, Peru and Panama and the European Free Trade Association, and are negotiating several others; and
  • we are pursuing several other bilateral agreements, including foreign investment promotion and air agreements that will expand Canadian access to global markets.

Furthermore, our 2010 federal budget eliminated all remaining tariffs on manufacturing inputs and machinery and equipment. This will make Canada a tariff-free zone for manufacturers.

But you can only trade successfully in a secure environment.

The December 25 attempted attack on a U.S. airliner in Detroit was a stark reminder that terrorism emanating from a country far away—this time Yemen—remains a very real threat to us here at home.

While globalization has many benefits, it also has meant that Canada can no longer count on our geography to protect us.

So our security and our economy both depend on our ability to address threats from conflict, terrorism, nuclear proliferation, organized crime and illicit trafficking in drugs and people.

Our goal is to keep those threats from reaching our shores, and also to keep the world a safe and secure place for Canadians to travel, live and do business.

So that is why I will address three key issues with my colleagues when we meet in Gatineau:

  • nuclear proliferation;
  • assistance to Afghanistan and Pakistan; and
  • security vulnerabilities from conflict, terrorism, crime and trafficking.

Nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament

Iran continues to take steps closer to being able to build a nuclear weapon. This is a grave threat to the region, and to the world.

North Korea continues to develop its nuclear and missile programs. It has broken off the Six-Party Talks intended to find a way to eliminate nuclear weapons from the Korean Peninsula.

North Korea’s continued provocative actions represent a major threat to peace and security, both regionally and globally.

Both states are in contravention of their international obligations.

They are a threat to the world and to their own people, who are deprived of their fundamental rights through intimidation and violence.

These regimes deny due process of law, including access to fair and public hearings; use torture and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment or punishment; and persecute citizens based on their political or religious beliefs.

Their irresponsible actions further erode the world’s trust regarding their intentions.

We support the peaceful use of nuclear energy, but this right comes with a requirement to be transparent and to allow the international community to verify that nuclear programs are strictly for peaceful purposes.

We submit ourselves to those requirements, as do almost all other countries. Iran should be no different.

And our government is prepared to put more pressure on Iran to stop its nuclearenrichment activities.

For decades now, we have had an international bargain enshrined in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty [NPT]. It says that states will not seek to acquire nuclear weapons if those who have them agree to get rid of them, and that peaceful uses of nuclear energy will be supported.

Since the end of the Cold War, nuclear arsenals around the world have been reduced by more than 80percent, and the Russians and Americans are negotiating to reduce theirs even more.

But the “grand bargain” in the NPT is now under pressure, from countries like Iran and North Korea, and other countries with potential nuclear aspirations.

It is also under pressure from countries that feel they are entitled to nuclear energy for peaceful uses, but do not have access.

We owe it to future generations to stay the course toward a world without nuclear weapons.

Afghanistan and Pakistan

My second priority in Gatineau will be security in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Canada and its G8 partners have all invested heavily in helping Afghanistan build a peaceful and stable state, one that will never again become a haven for terrorists.

At the London Conference on Afghanistan on January 28, President [Hamid] 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.

While some progress has been made, such as the President’s announcement that a tribal council, or Peace Jirga, will take place in April, the Afghan government needs to accomplish a great deal over the coming months.

For example, at the London meeting, the Afghan government committed to important reforms in advance of parliamentary elections scheduled for September 2010 to build on lessons learned from the 2009 elections.

I am deeply concerned that reforms will be undermined if they are not done transparently, and if the independence of key electoral institutions, such as the Electoral Complaints Commission, is not maintained.

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

We will talk about how we can continue to help Pakistan address its challenges.

We will also talk about opportunities for progress in the border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

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.

Security vulnerabilities

As I said at the outset, global stability and security are affected by conflict, terrorism, crime, and trafficking in illicit drugs and people.

These are challenges with a global reach.

It affects how the Government of Canada prepares to assist Canadians abroad. More and more Canadians are in need of consular assistance.

Over the last five years, the demand for consular services has increased 32percent.

In 2007, Canadians made almost 50million visits abroad and another 2.5million citizens resided abroad.

In 2008, more than 1.3million Canadians received consular services in some 150 countries.

Also, rising insecurity in the Americas, often linked to transnational crime and drug trafficking, has direct consequences for Canada, G8 countries and beyond.

Latin American drug networks are also expanding their reach into new territories.

Western Africa is increasingly being used as a transhipment point for drugs headed to Europe.

But many countries are simply not able to deal with the security challenges they face.

They lack the effective institutions—police, courts, corrections, border controls—that are essential to maintain security and respect for human rights.

The challenge for G8 countries is not 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 these security institutions in many countries around the world.

These programs range from peacekeeping operations training to counterterrorism, 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.

Canada has a long history of doing this sort of work.

In Kosovo, Canadian experts were among the first to start building a correctional service in the post-conflict environment.

In Haiti, Canadian police have been engaged for decades in helping to train and mentor local police.

In Africa, we have provided extensive support to the African Union Peace and Security agenda, and helped to build up a network of centres offering peacekeeping training to soldiers and police in both French and English.

Additionally, we have fully equipped police units from Uganda, Senegal and Burkina Faso in order to bring upgraded African contingents into the increasingly effective peacekeeping mission in Darfur.

We also have specific counterterrorism and anti-crime programs to help vulnerable countries manage these insidious and pervasive threats.

I want to build on Canada’s experience with our G8 partners to see how we can all better align the building blocks needed to create more effective security systems in vulnerable countries.

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, proliferation, crime and illicit trafficking.

Not only do we need to get those programs right, but we also need better coordination to maximize their impact and ensure we have enough trained civilian experts to implement our programs overseas.

Coordination will be fundamental to a coherent reconstruction effort in Haiti, to help it rebuild its infrastructure and its spirit after the terrible tragedy of the earthquake in January.

This was a key principle that we set out in the Montreal meeting in January, and which we must follow in the international conference on Haiti in New York on March 31, just a day after the Gatineau G8 meeting.

Our meeting in Gatineau provides an excellentopportunity to consult among G8 partners before the meeting in New York, to ensure that our contributions are effective and targeted, andaligned with the priorities of theGovernment of Haiti.


The Gatineau meeting is an opportunity for a frank discussion on these challenges, and to make real headway.

It is also an important step on the way to the G8 Muskoka Summit in June, as is the development ministers’ meeting which Minister [of International Cooperation Beverley J.] Oda will host in April in Halifax.

We will both be working to support a strong agenda in Muskoka that addresses key development, and peace and security issues.

I will be hosting a meeting of foreign ministers of the five Arctic Ocean coastal states in Chelsea, Quebec, just prior to the start of the G8 meeting of foreign ministers on March 29. Public safety, including search and rescue, is an important component of security and one of the emerging issues in the Arctic Ocean region. I look forward to sharing perspectives on this at the Chelsea meeting.

This government is dedicated to fulfilling the North’s true potential as a healthy, prosperous and secure region within a strong and sovereign Canada. We take our responsibility for the future of the region seriously.

In the Gatineau G8 meeting, in the Arctic ministerial meeting, and in the meeting in New York on Haiti, my overriding focus as minister of foreign affairs for Canada, will be to work toward a safer, more secure and more prosperous world that will also mean a safer, more secure and more prosperous Canada.

Thank you.