Farewell Address by the Honourable Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Foreign Affairs

No. 2011/17 - Ottawa, Ontario - May 9, 2011

Check Against Delivery

My first—the first of the last—words are to thank you all from the bottom of my heart for the dedication, loyalty and professionalism you have so generously given to me over the last two and a half years.

With your help, I was able to focus on our government’s foreign policy priorities: the United States, the Americas, global economic opportunities and Afghanistan.

We also paid special attention to the Arctic.

Our overriding goal, of course, was to protect and advance the prosperity and security of Canada and Canadians and to promote freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law around the world.

That is a difficult—sometimes even dangerous—mission, but it is a noble and important one.

I was honoured to do my part.

In about 30 months, I made 38 official trips, visiting 44 countries, not counting multiple visits to some countries, in particular to the U.S., where I went 19 times.

I have learned much during my time here.

For example, briefings are rarely brief and “secret intelligence” is often neither.

Also, I never imagined that I could be so often “deeply troubled” or “deeply concerned.”

I also know very well that objects in overhead bins can shift during flight. I don’t need to be reminded ever again.

I have no doubt that my successor will want to stay the course where these priorities are concerned, and that you will support him or her with the same loyalty, the same sense of duty, the same patriotism that you have always shown toward me.

As you know, one of our primary concerns has always been to support democracy around the world.

Our position in this regard remains clear and strong.

To the best of our abilities and with the help of our allies, we can help to defeat dictatorships and support the march of oppressed peoples toward freedom.

Tremendous progress has recently been made, and we must continue to support and encourage it.

Democracy’s powerful instincts can surprise us at times. This was the case in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Syria—and I am almost tempted to add Pontiac.

But I don’t think anybody ever thought of me as the “Maniwaki Qadhafi.”

We cannot export democracy or equality the way we export wheat or lumber.

In contributing to the worldwide progress of democracy, the most powerful tool at our disposal remains the example that we ourselves set for others.

From its very beginnings, Canada has been a shining beacon for the world, because our own federation is firmly rooted in the principles of equality and justice.

As a nation and a society, we have learned to establish a balance between the diversity that naturally exists among various groups and the objectives that all have in common.

There lie the strength and the value of Canadian federalism.

With our thriving economy, our geographic position and our bilingual and multilingual character, we also play a unique role in the international community.

For example, we are the only country in the world that belongs to the G‑8, La Francophonie, the Commonwealth, APEC, the Americas and NATO.

Our country is not perfect.

For example, only a few kilometres from here, in the riding that I have proudly represented for five years, there are pockets of poverty, and health care facilities are shamefully lacking.

No country is perfect.

But, during my term as minister of foreign affairs, I have been able to see for myself, as most of you have done, how much the whole world respects and admires Canada.

The value of Canadian citizenship lies in the fact that it is not merely a privilege we inherit when we are born or arrive in this country.

We must never forget that tens of thousands of Canadians gave their lives to defend freedom.

Even today, in Afghanistan, our troops are exposed to the gravest of dangers because, for nearly a decade, our country has remained on the front lines of the war against terrorism.

I must admit that one of my regrets, on leaving this post, is that I will not be able to welcome home the last combat troops to serve in Afghanistan, at the end of this year.

They are heroes for all time.

But I leave here with a great sense of satisfaction and gratitude.

You are truly an elite group within government.

I will never forget, for example, the awesome sight of this department united, from top to bottom, to respond to a humanitarian emergency, such as the earthquake in Haiti, the evacuations in North Africa and the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

You can be very proud of what you accomplished then.

I know I feel proud to have been associated with you in these times, as I was throughout my mandate as your minister.

I want to assure all of you that I will never forget you and this institution. I take my memories of you with me.

I would also like to thank my office staff. They too were honoured, briefly, to be a part of the extended family that is Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada.

Thank you.