Address by Minister Cannon to the Canada-United Kingdom Chamber of Commerce

No. 2010/3 - London, United Kingdom - January 27, 2010

Check Against Delivery

Canada and the World in 2010: Setting the Stage for the Next Decade

When this organization was established in 1921, the British Foreign Office still defined foreign policy for the Empire and British diplomats in foreign capitals still acted for the dominions. 

But Canada was coming of age, with the blessing of the British Parliament. In 1931, the Statute of Westminster established legislative equality between the six self-governing dominions and the United Kingdom.

In our evolution from colony to independent nation, Canada has remained a steadfast partner of the United Kingdom. This partnership is not simply a historical fact, it is sustained by shared interests and values. In a world of insecurity, political instability and economic strife, Canada and the U.K. share a common vision for a safe, secure and prosperous future—worldwide.

Together with our allies, we have the strength to ensure that freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law prevail around the world.

The United Kingdom is the second-most important market for Canadian exports, after the United States, and the second‑greatest source of foreign direct investment in Canada.

We can all be proud of our common history and our current partnership.

Both our countries must now deal with global responsibilities and challenges.

As Prime Minister [Stephen] Harper noted a few weeks ago, 2010 will be Canada’s international year: we will be particularly active hosts of international meetings in 2010.

We have just hosted an international ministerial conference on Haiti in Montreal, which took place last Monday.

We will be hosting the Winter Olympic Games in February and the Paralympic Games in March, the G8 finance ministers, the G8 foreign ministers later in March, the G8 Summit and the G20 Summit in late June, and the North American Leaders’ Summit later in the year.

We are guided in hosting these international gatherings by the values Canadians hold dear, values which Canadians have fought and died for: freedom and democracy, human rights and the rule of law. 

Today, I propose to speak to you about some of Canada’s foreign priorities.

Canadians are justifiably proud of their country’s economic performance in these turbulent times, particularly the effective combination of targeted stimulus measures through Canada’s economic action plan, and the remarkable strength and stability of our carefully regulated financial institutions.

Canada’s economy has been growing since last June, but recovery is still fragile, and our work is not finished. It remains the government’s top priority.

In difficult times, the danger of protectionism grows. Canada believes that free trade is the way to go—in good and bad times. As host of the G20, we will be advancing this position. Canada’s Prime Minister is attending the World Economic Forum in Davos in the coming days and will carry that message to other nations.

In Canada, for example, we reached a comprehensive air transport agreement with the European Union in December 2008. That accord facilitated the development of new markets, new services and greater competition. We expect this pact will lead to a broader and deeper trading relationship with the European Union, as we have entered into negotiations for a comprehensive economic and trade agreement.

The meeting of G8 foreign ministers will take place against the backdrop of an especially dynamic international environment. We continue to face serious threats to global security and stability, including nuclear proliferation, terrorism, crime and conflict. And many of those threats have been exacerbated by the economic crisis.

When I meet with my colleagues in March, in addition to discussing security situations of pressing concern, I propose to advance three key themes for 2010.

First, we will address nuclear proliferation. In this respect, I fully expect that we will want to take into account developments regarding Iran and North Korea.

Second, I wish to advance our ongoing efforts in Afghanistan and Pakistan, with a focus on the border region. Here in London, at the invitation of Prime Minister [Gordon] Brown, we have gathered to consider the way forward following the Afghan presidential elections last summer. 

Major challenges remain in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, and G8 countries are heavily engaged in helping the Afghan and Pakistani authorities to address the continuing violence, as well as the economic challenges, they face.

Finally, I want to discuss with my colleagues how we might improve the coherence and effectiveness of our efforts in helping vulnerable countries and regions build their capacity to address their security situations.

Yemen will be discussed here in London, and I intend to look at how the G8 can help strengthen Yemen’s ability to resist terrorism and to prevent Yemen from being a safe haven for Al Qaeda.

The lack of the most basic services can lead to dire consequences, especially for the world’s most vulnerable populations. As Prime Minister Harper said, it is unacceptable that 500,000 women die each year during pregnancy and childbirth, and 9 million children die before their fifth birthday.

Afghanistan

In Afghanistan the U.K., Canada and our allies are once more fighting side by side to enhance global security and to improve the lives of others, in this case the Afghan people. Canada will collaborate with its international partners to continue to help Afghans rebuild their country as a stable, democratic and self-sufficient society, especially with regard to security.

Of course, our engagement in Afghanistan involves much more than military intervention. We have six targeted priorities and three signature projects to help Afghanistan, in association with our international partners and in cooperation with the Government of Afghanistan.

Our priorities are building the capacity of the Afghan National Security Forces in Kandahar, strengthening the ability of the Government of Afghanistan to provide core services and to promote economic growth, and providing humanitarian assistance to the country’s most vulnerable populations.

We are also working on enhancing border security, with facilitation of bilateral dialogue between Afghan and Pakistani authorities; facilitating Afghan-led efforts toward national political reconciliation and reintegration; and advancing Afghanistan’s capacity for democratic governance with more accountable public institutions and electoral processes.

Our signature projects include water irrigation—the Dalha Dam project—education, and polio eradication.

As you know, in accordance with the parliamentary motion we reached in March 2008, Canada’s military mission will end in 2011.

Canadian and British armed forces have made tremendous sacrifices since we arrived in Afghanistan in 2001, and I am cognizant of the fact that 2009 was an especially difficult year for the United Kingdom.

Human rights

One of our most valuable and cherished inheritances from our British and European political tradition is our deep and abiding commitment to democratic governance and political liberty. We have demonstrated in word and deed a determination to defend and advance human rights around the world. That robust approach has been evident not only in our commitment to Afghanistan, but also in our vigorous responses to the situations in Burma, Iran, Zimbabwe, Guinea and elsewhere.

In close association with allies such as the United Kingdom and the United States, we will take an equally strong stance in 2010.

The Arctic

Canada is an Arctic nation. The Arctic and the North are part of our national identity. They make up over 40 percent of our land mass.

To meet the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century, the Canadian government has created a comprehensive Northern Strategy, which is based on:

  • exercising our Arctic sovereignty,
  • protecting our environmental heritage,
  • promoting social and economic development, and
  • improving and devolving Northern governance.

Canada is an Arctic power and will continue to manage the North and the Arctic responsibly.

Haiti

When together we survey the world’s landscape, we are of course immediately struck by the devastation recently visited upon Haiti. The disaster has claimed over 150,000 lives—including many Canadian—and has destroyed more then 90 percent of Haiti’s schools.

As you know, Canada is home to more then 125,000 Haitian-Canadians, most of whom live in Montreal. Haiti is a neighbour and a friend to Canada. Before the earthquake struck, Canada was already the world’s leading per‑capita donor to Haiti, and we are a long‑standing member of the informal Friends of Haiti group.

A few days after the earthquake, I convened a teleconference with the Prime Minister of Haiti, Jean-Max Bellerive, and our key partners in the international community.

We supported the commitment of the Government of Haiti “to move beyond reconstruction to build a new Haiti,” and we extended an invitation to the Friends of Haiti and key regional and multilateral players, including the United Nations, to meet in Montreal to begin planning for reconstruction.

We have set out key principles such as Haitian ownership and sovereignty, as well as coordination, sustainability and accountability, and a vision for the difficult task of reconstruction to come.

Above all, our government called on the international community to confirm a long‑term engagement in Haiti. Our prime minister, Stephen Harper, said 10 years or more may be required to rebuild a new Haiti.

We must realize now that what happened in a few devastating minutes will take many years to repair.

I am pleased to report to you that planning is now underway for a major conference on the reconstruction of Haiti, which will take place in March in New York City.

Our purpose now will be to translate the generous and heartfelt humanitarian response from around the world to this tragedy into an opportunity to rebuild a country whose people have suffered so much for so long.

Conclusion

We expect to be judged by what we do, not by what we say.

In 2010, we will welcome the world to Canada.

In doing so, what guides all of our policies and actions is the quest for a safer, more democratic and more prosperous world, which we believe is in all of our interests. 

Thank you.