Address by Minister of State Ablonczy at 2nd Brazil-Canada Forum of Technical and Professional Education

No. 2011/38 - Montreal, Quebec - November 14, 2011

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I would like to begin by thanking the Association of Canadian Community Colleges [ACCC] for inviting me to speak to you here today, at the 2nd Brazil-Canada Forum of Technical and Professional Education. As minister of state of foreign affairs, with responsibility for the Americas and consular affairs, I know well the importance of the relationship between Canada and Brazil, and specifically the tremendous opportunities we have to expand our relations in the area of higher education.

As you know, fostering closer political and economic ties throughout our own hemisphere has been a priority for our government. Our engagement in the Americas is based on promoting and enhancing security, prosperity and democratic governance.

Canada considers Brazil an important partner, both bilaterally and in the region, not to mention globally. Our two nations collaborate in a variety of areas, from human rights to health, from science and technology to agriculture.

Canada and Brazil work collectively in Haiti. Together we are committed to maintaining stability, strengthening democratic institutions and contributing to long-term development. And together we support Haiti through the United Nations stabilization mission in that country, with Brazil providing military leadership and Canada providing police leadership.

Over the years, Canada and Brazil have signed a number of agreements, treaties and memorandums of understanding. These provide opportunities for bilateral cooperation in fields of common interest. For example, during Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s visit to Brazil in August 2011, Canada and Brazil signed an air transport agreement. This is an open-skies deal that will allow more flights to and from each country, facilitating trade, tourism and, of special note for us here today, educational exchanges.

Brazil is an important science, technology and innovation partner for Canada. This is because of Brazil’s strong science base and its potential for innovation-based growth, and also because the country is one of the most active countries in science outside the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Brazil also has the most sophisticated and diversified science, technology and innovation system in Latin America. It is the only country in the southern hemisphere to develop space technology, including satellites, launching vehicles and launching platforms.

Canadian researchers have collaborated with Brazilians at the grassroots level for some time. In the last decade, the federal government has played an active role in several major partnering activities in areas such as biotechnology, aquaculture, renewable energy, geomatics, ocean technology and venture capital.

Seizing on the growing opportunities, Brazil and Canada signed a science and technology cooperation agreement in 2008. This serves as a framework under which Canadian and Brazilian partners from industry, academia and government can collaborate on joint research and development projects.

Working groups in four sectors—ocean technology, life sciences, information and communications technology, and clean energy/green technologies—have been created. These working groups will develop and implement a Canada-Brazil science and technology action plan as announced by Prime Minister Harper during his visit to Brazil.

The action plan will leverage key Canadian and Brazilian strengths to pursue opportunities of mutual benefit. The objective is to improve prospects to jointly commercialize technology.

The Brazil-Canada science and technology relationship is further enhanced by Canada’s International Science and Technology Partnerships Program. This is a relatively new program, which was announced in 2005 and renewed in 2010. It is designed to advance Canadian industrial productivity and competitiveness through the commercialization of technology resulting from market-oriented international partnerships. Funding earmarked for Brazil is $5 million over five years (2010-15).

Supporting academic institutions and researchers is key to successful innovation and features prominently in the science and technology agendas of both Canada and Brazil.  

And education is a growing part of the thriving bilateral relationship between Brazil and Canada. Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff has affirmed that education is a core element in her plan to support employment, growth and prosperity. Brazil is entering a significant new stage in its development, one that depends on building the capacity of its people. Academic excellence and quality education are essential to keep pace with this development.

Canada is in complete agreement with this approach. We believe firmly in the integral role that education plays in realizing a safer, more democratic, more prosperous hemisphere. As former U.S. President James Garfield once noted, without education “neither freedom nor justice can be permanently maintained.”

Similarly, there cannot be prosperity without security, or without the freedoms and legal protections that come with democratic governance. In the same way, democratic governance cannot take hold in a climate of persistent poverty and social exclusion, or when personal security is threatened by crime and violence.

That is why our two governments are building on our existing cooperation in education, particularly higher education.

Prime Minister Harper launched Canada’s engagement strategy in the Americas in 2007. Among its objectives in the area of international education was to introduce a conference platform for the region to discuss education-related issues, and to launch a major scholarship program for the Americas.

Canada introduced a permanent meeting platform for education institutions through the Conference of the Americas on International Education; the first conference was held in Calgary in October 2010. This key forum was intended to strengthen cooperation and foster innovation in the field of education. We all believe that this conference platform will create long-term benefits for our hemisphere. The inaugural conference was a major success, and an exciting milestone in the Brazil-Canada partnership.

During his visit to Brazil in August 2011, Prime Minister Harper announced that Governor General David Johnston—a distinguished academic in his own right—will lead a delegation of more than 30 Canadian university presidents to the second Conference of the Americas on International Education, when Brazil hosts it next spring in Rio de Janeiro.

In 2009, Canada launched a major scholarship program, the Emerging Leaders in the Americas Program, also known as ELAP. Brazil is the largest beneficiary of this program with approximately 380 awards in the last three years.

Programs such as ELAP foster a new generation of leaders in the Americas. They strengthen links between post-secondary institutions in Canada and the region, and they provide young people with the chance to develop and maintain bonds of friendship and even business partnerships with Canadians.

As part of ELAP, an annual collaboration mission of institutional champions from the Latin American region tours areas of Canada to establish partnerships with Canadian counterparts. And these missions are creating successful new ties. This year’s mission is travelling to the city of Québec, Montreal and the Mauricie region. It will then attend the Canadian Bureau for International Education’s annual conference in Ottawa—another great networking opportunity.

The Canada-Brazil Awards for Joint Research Projects is the first initiative as part of the Brazil-Canada Memorandum of Understanding concerning academic mobility and scientific cooperation. The awards support team-oriented research projects between higher-education institutions in Canada and Brazil in key areas of mutual cooperation. A unique feature of this program is its reciprocity; both Brazilian and Canadian doctoral students are conducting research in each other’s country.

International education also fosters economic prosperity. According to a 2009 study on the economic impact of international education, the sector is worth $6.5 billion and employs 83,000 people. An update of the study is currently being finalized and will show that international education provides even more economic benefits today.

As you know, on June 6, 2011, the federal budget announced a commitment of $10 million over two years to develop and implement an international education strategy that will reinforce Canada as a country of choice to study and conduct world-class research. A six-member advisory panel has been created to help chart the best possible course for Canada. One of the panel members is none other than Jacynthe Côté, President and CEO, Rio Tinto Alcan. I see on the agenda that Rio Tinto Alcan will be presenting later today and is also sponsoring the opening reception. I am excited to see the important partnerships between post-secondary institutions and the private sector. Such partnerships are a key component to prosperity in Canada and help buttress our international partnerships, including with Brazil.

Recently, President Rousseff announced the creation of Brazil’s Science Without Borders program. This visionary program entails approximately 75,000 scholarships for Brazilian students to study abroad, with a focus on engineering, science and technology. Canada applauds the Brazilian Science Without Borders scholarships program and is pursuing ways to engage with Brazil in this regard.

Canada’s strong vocational sector is proving very attractive to Brazil. I understand that the Brazilian Ministry of Education has approached the Association of Canadian Community Colleges about welcoming Brazilian students who have scholarships for technical training. This is a testament to the excellent relationship and collaboration established through the Mulheres Mil (1,000 women) project that ACCC has spearheaded in Northern Brazil through Canadian International Development Agency funding.

Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada is very pleased that the ACCC is engaging with Brazil in the context of this new and exciting awards program. The association’s experience and expertise in the region will be of tremendous assistance in facilitating the implementation of these scholarships.

Today, Canada is the first choice for Brazilian technical and vocational education students. Canada is also the number one destination for Brazilians wanting to study English or French as a second language. In 2010 alone, more than 15,000 Brazilian students studied in Canada for up to six months.

We are pleased that Brazilian students are coming to Canada and taking advantage of our quality education and research.

Canada, in turn, would like to see more Canadian students taking advantage of opportunities to study in Brazil. Indeed, there is a big growth opportunity for our young people seeking training and exchange experiences abroad, including in Brazil.

Complementary to student exchanges, Brazil and Canada are currently exploring the possibilities of establishing a bilateral youth mobility agreement. Such an agreement would make it easier for young Brazilian and Canadian citizens to travel and work in each other’s country. Very importantly, this would strengthen the people-to-people ties between the two nations.

My wish is that this conference will establish personal relationships and friendships that will result in increased good will and cooperation between our two wonderful countries.

Thank you.