Address by Minister Cannon at the National Press Theatre

No. 2010/14 - Ottawa, Ontario - March 26, 2010

Check Against Delivery

On Monday and Tuesday, I will welcome the foreign ministers from France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the High Representative for the European Union to Gatineau [Quebec] for the G8 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting.

At the G8 meeting, our focus will be on keeping the world safe for all.

On Monday, I will also be meeting with the foreign ministers of the other Arctic Ocean coastal states—Denmark, Norway, Russia and the United States—in Chelsea, Quebec.

The Arctic Ocean Foreign Ministers’ Meeting will look at emerging issues in the region.

Arctic Ocean Foreign Ministers’ Meeting

First, a few words about the Arctic Ocean Foreign Ministers’ Meeting.

Canada is an Arctic nation. The Arctic is a priority for the Canadian government, and our government is playing a leadership role on Arctic issues, both internationally and at home.

Canada’s Arctic sovereignty is long-standing, well-established and based on historical title.

Our government has made significant investments in exercising Canada’s Arctic sovereignty, and it 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. Our objective is responsible management of the Arctic Ocean.

The meeting in Chelsea will focus on issues of particular relevance to the Arctic coastal states, such as continental shelf delineation and potential public safety challenges. The Arctic Ocean is also beginning to experience significant change as a result of altering weather patterns and increasing access—and we will be discussing how this translates into opportunities and challenges for policy-making on which we will need to cooperate in the future.

We will have a constructive forward-looking discussion on issues that would benefit from greater collaboration between Arctic Ocean coastal states. The meeting represents an opportunity to show leadership on Arctic Ocean stewardship. It will also reinforce the ongoing collaboration in the region, including in the Arctic Council, which meets every two years at the ministerial level.

The Arctic Council, a Canadian initiative, is the leading international body through which we advance Canada’s foreign policy objectives in the North and promote Northern interests. To that end, the Arctic Council Chair, Denmark’s foreign minister, Lars Barfoed, will be briefing members of the Council on our discussions in Chelsea. 

We very much value the fundamental role that Northern governments, the international Arctic indigenous organizations known as Permanent Participants, and Northerners themselves play in shaping the Arctic region.

Leading up to the meeting, I took the opportunity this week to speak with Canada’s territorial premiers and the heads of the Canadian-based Permanent Participant organizations.

In summary, we are all committed to the safety, prosperity and well-being of Canada’s North. 

G8 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting

On Monday and Tuesday, I will welcome the G8 foreign ministers to Gatineau, Quebec, to talk about key issues of concern to global security, and to all of us.

I will raise the following key priorities with my colleagues at this meeting:

  1. Nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament;
  2. Afghanistan and Pakistan; and
  3. Security vulnerabilities—specifically, the threats from conflict, disaster, terrorism, crime and trafficking.

Nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament

First, let me say that Canada welcomes the new strategic arms reduction treaty announced this morning by U.S. president Barack Obama and Russian president Dmitry Medvedev, and to be officially signed in Prague in April.

This treaty represents a critical step in ensuring and enhancing global security and working toward a nuclear-free world.

Lowering the number of strategically deployed nuclear weapons and their delivery systems represents a vital advance for nuclear disarmament, which further fulfills international commitments in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

At the G8 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting next week, Iran will be an item of critical concern on the agenda. The actions of the Iranian government raise very serious doubts that the country’s nuclear program is peaceful.

I will discuss with my G8 colleagues what we can do to put additional pressure on Iran to persuade it to stop its nuclear enrichment activities and to convince the Iranian authorities to come back to the table.

Unfortunately, I believe we are left with little choice but to pursue additional sanctions against Iran, ideally through the UN Security Council. 

We need to let discussions play out in the UN; meanwhile, Canada is ready to do its part.

I will also raise the issue of North Korea, which has continued with its nuclear and missile programs despite being in contravention of its international commitments under the NPT [Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty] and numerous UN Security Council resolutions.

We will also talk about the upcoming 2010 NPT Review Conference that will take place in New York City in May.

For decades, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty has enshrined the international bargain that states will not seek to acquire nuclear weapons if those who have them agree to disarm, and that peaceful uses of nuclear energy will be supported.

For a number of reasons, that international bargain is now under pressure. These reasons include the perception that the nuclear weapons states have not disarmed—based on the actions of countries like Iran and North Korea—and that there is a lack of support for the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. 

This is why the Review Conference is so important.

For the sake of future generations, we must work to renew and expand the global consensus around the NPT and its goal of a world without nuclear weapons.

Afghanistan and Pakistan

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

In Gatineau, we will discuss how we can support the Afghan government to reach this goal.

When I was at the London Conference on Afghanistan at the end of January, President Karzai made commitments to combat corruption and to assume increasing responsibility for security, basic services and democratic governance.

We welcome his resolve, and believe it is critically important that he deliver on those commitments.

We will not only discuss the challenges in Afghanistan, but also the opportunities for progress. For example, well-managed borders are key to long-term economic development, as well as to long-term stability and security. Therefore, improving joint border management by Afghanistan and Pakistan will help to improve stability in both countries.

Over the past three years, Canada has facilitated a dialogue between Afghanistan and Pakistan—the Dubai Process—to bring border officials from these countries together to discuss practical steps to address the challenges along their shared border region.

We now want to build on this effort to see how we can help increase trade between the two countries. For its part, Pakistan is taking measures to root out extremists. But it faces its own political, economic and social challenges too, and we will want to talk about how we can continue to help Pakistan address these.

Terrorism: Yemen and parts of Africa

The attempted terrorist attack on a U.S. airliner on December 25 was a stark reminder that terrorism remains a serious threat to us here at home.

This attack can be traced back to Yemen. When I was in London recently, I attended a meeting on Yemen to discuss how we could help the Yemeni government deal with the growing terrorist presence there.

But Yemen isn’t alone. Terrorist groups are becoming more active in countries stretching across the Sahel, from Mauritania all the way to Somalia.

In Gatineau, I will want to talk with my colleagues about how we can help countries in this region build their capacity to combat terrorism.

Security vulnerabilities

Global stability and security are affected by conflict, disasters, terrorism, crime, and trafficking in illicit drugs and in people. Because of our interdependence, these problems affect us all.

But many countries are not able to deal with such security vulnerabilities. They lack the effective institutions—the police, correctional institutions, courts and border controls—that are essential to democratic governance, the rule of law and respect for human rights. We want to help countries strengthen the full range of security institutions they need. 

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—on March 31 in New York City, we will be engaged again in working with international partners to help Haiti recover and reconstruct after the devastating earthquake of January 12. In Africa, we have helped to build a network of centres offering peacekeeping training to soldiers and police. We also have specific counterterrorism and anti-crime programs that are global in reach.

But now, in Canada, we are doing something unique: we have brought these programs together into one group—a more holistic approach that will allow them to be connected. I want to share Canada’s experience with our G8 partners to see how we can all better align our programs to create more effective security systems in vulnerable countries.

There may be other specific issues that my colleagues will want to raise during our discussions as well—for example, the Middle East peace process.

Conclusion

The Arctic Ocean Foreign Ministers’ Meeting and the G8 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting are important milestones in the process of developing a more comprehensive approach to global issues, and I am very proud of the leadership role that Canada is playing in hosting each.

Together, we can—we will—make a difference.

Thank you.