Address by Parliamentary Secretary Lois Brown: Partnerships for Development - Canadian leadership and expertise is making a difference

February 7, 2014 - Montréal, Quebec

Check Against Delivery

Good morning everyone. Bonjour tout le monde, and thank you to McGill for hosting this event.

We are making a difference – this year's theme for International Development Week.

And I am pleased to be here with you to celebrate some of our successes and to explore new ways to go forward to impact our world.

The motivation behind International Development Week is to increase awareness of Canada's contributions to international development, to tell our story and to discover how we can further collaborate to increase our effectiveness.

Events have been organized by the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development and by our partners to inform Canadians of our investments in International Development and to encourage them to become involved.

This Monday, students at the University of Prince Edward Island held a panel discussion where UPEI students shared their experiences and taught their colleagues how to get involved in global development work.

In Nelson, British Columbia, our partners, The Nelson Global Awareness Network, with support from the BC Council for International Cooperation, will present a youth symposium for high school students to learn about critical global issues and tools for taking action.

As you can see, International Development week is a concerted effort taken on by many Canadians, from coast to coast to coast.

We are making a difference, and it is imperative that we share these stories with Canadians.

Stories, like my visit to Malawi, where I witnessed the impact of the Micronutrient Initiative.

Malawi – An African country with great potential, but for historical and political reasons, has concentrated its agricultural produce on raising corn.

Now we all know that children can`t survive on corn for their diet. It may fill tummies, but for many years, the impact of this diet resulted in children afflicted with stunting.

Not only do these little ones not grow, but their cognitive abilities are challenged and they are at risk of disease because they are so fragile. I saw how children who had not received the nutrients they needed in their first 1000 days of life, suffered the results of stunting – mental and physical impairment that robs them of the chance to thrive.

And, in steps the Micronutrient Initiative, an initiative that has become a Canadian brand.

Together with the Micronutrient Initiative, our government helped to found the Zinc Alliance for Child Health – a partnership between Canada, the Micronutrient Initiative and Teck Resources – a generous Canadian mining company that is one of the largest zinc producers in the world.

In 2012, support from this alliance made it possible for 5.2 million cases of childhood diarrhea, a leading killer of children, to be treated with zinc and dehydration solution.

I witnessed the profound difference these micronutrients were making.

In Malawi, at the hospital just outside of Lilongwe, those little packets – miracle packets – packets embossed with the red Maple Leaf – Canada's signature – were being administered to precious little ones – changing their health, changing their families, changing their futures.

I witnessed the impact of Micronutrients in Bangladesh where deaths from childhood diarrhea are commonplace. Children like Priyant, Mohana and Mehedi were facing gloomy statistics.

You've seen those faces – the big brown eyes – haunting when small ones are suffering.

But, my friends, a story with a happy ending, because Canada is there through Micronutrient Initiative!

And we have to tell the story.

Canadians are active and engaged global citizens and in telling these stories, Canadians become better connected and they willingly support our work to fight global poverty.

Canadians are compassionate and generous and they want to help. These are Canadian values. We`ve all seen the response!

And as Prime Minister Harper said: "When the need is great and the cause is just, Canadians are always there. And we will always be. Because that is what Canadians do."

When East Africa baked in a drought – Canadians responded.

When Haiti was jolted by an earthquake – Canadians responded.

When the Philippines were savaged by Typhoon Haiyan – Canadians responded and responded generously.

That's why our partnerships in international development are so critical because to make a profound difference, we accomplish more when we work together.

Combining the knowledge of experienced partners, we create the inventive and practical solutions to development challenges.

We will hear momentarily from - Canadian Executive Service Overseas – a story of collaboration with the MI in Senegal.

We have one expert who helped improve the functioning of salt iodization equipment and two others who helped the local salt products with business planning.

What a story!

Iodine – a mineral, needed by the body to make thyroid hormones that control metabolism.

In Canada, we take it for granted – iodized salt seems to have always been!

But in countries where iodine deficiency exists, severe health problems occur.

Ensemble, together, we have CESO and Micronutrient Initiative working together in Senegal to make a difference.

Around the world, millions of people do not get enough iron, iodine, vitamin A, folic acid, and zinc in their diets, and this leads to preventable illness, blindness, mental impairment and death.

The MI has already demonstrated success with collaborating with a variety of partners to extend their reach and effectiveness.

This year, in partnership with UNICEF and Helen Keller International, and supported by the Government of Canada, MI supplied more than 500 million doses of vitamin A to children around the world, knowing that two vitamin A doses per year give a child a better chance at life.

With support from our government, MI is also working with McGill to conduct research on the impact of iodized salt on cognitive development, and with the University of Toronto on fortifying salt with both iron and iodine, which has the potential to save many lives.

Because of efforts like these, Canada has been at the forefront of addressing under-nutrition by giving mothers and children in developing countries access to healthy, nutritious food and the much-needed nutritional supplements that reduce mortality and disease.

Your stories – our stories – Canadian stories – making a difference.

May I tell you another story?

May I tell you a story about a young man who grew up in Kumasi, Ghana?

  • A young man named Kofi Asante who came to Canada to study at Laurentian University.
  • Who fell in love with a Canadian girl named Shannon. Who finished his Phd. in electrical engineering.
  • Who has taken his expertise and his bride back to Ghana to help Ghana flourish.

So, I'll tell you why I am so passionate about development issues....I'll tell you why every one of those brown eyed babies look deep into my soul – Because Dr. Kofi Asante is my son-in-law and Africa is my family. That's my story.

Our story, my friends, our collective story, is worth telling – because we are making a difference.  

CESO and MI – congratulations on your most fruitful partnership. Thank you for making a difference.

We look forward to all the new opportunities that will grow out of Canadian expertise and collaboration.

And to all of you here – you who have dedicated your time and energy, your lives, to development projects, thank you!

You are making a difference and you make Canada proud!