L. Yves Fortier was born in Quebec City in 1935. He received his B.A. from the University of Montreal in 1955, his B.C.L. 0 from McGill University in 1958, and his B.Litt. from Oxford University in 1960. In 1961, he was called to the Bar of Quebec. During a distinguished legal career, Mr. Fortier has pleaded important cases before Canadian and international courts and arbitration panels. From 1984 to 1989, he was a member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague. He has represented Canada in maritime boundary disputes with the United States (1984) and with France (1991). As Canada’s Chief Negotiator, he has also dealt with fishery questions involving those two countries. He has been a Counsel to many Royal Commissions and Commissions of Inquiry in Canada, as well as a negotiator for the Government of Quebec with the Cree Nation.
From July 1988 to January 1992, Yves Fortier was Canada’s Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York. He was Canada’s principal delegate to four sessions of the General Assembly and Vice-President of one of those. For 1989 and 1990, he also served as Canada’s Representative to the Security Council of the United Nations. In October 1989, he was the President of the Security Council. Mr. Fortier’s professional accomplishments have been recognized by his appointment as a Queen’s Counsel (in 1976) and by his election as National President of the Canadian Bar Association (in 1982).
In addition to serving as a director of many Canadian corporations, Mr. Fortier has been active in voluntary work for charitable causes associated with his profession, his community, his country and the rest of the world. In December 1984, Yves Fortier was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada. In July 1991, he was elevated to a Companion, the highest rank in the Order. Mr. Fortier is the Chairman and a senior partner of Ogilvy Renault in Montreal.
Canada’s former Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Yves Fortier, gave the O.D. Skelton Memorial Lecture at McGill University in Montreal on March 6, 1996. As Fortier comments, the 50th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations in 1945 was “bittersweet”, given current dissatisfaction with the organization.
Many believe that the United Nations needs to be restructured and reenergized, while ignoring its achievements and the vital nature of its work. Fortier suggests that the UN is imperfect simply because it is a human institution. His speech reviews the past, present and future of the United Nations, while assessing its importance to Canada. Fortier highlights past failures and achievements of the UN. He explains how Canada has remained committed to the UN, despite its problems.
Active involvement in the UN, Fortier contends, has lessened Canada’s dependence on the United States in international affairs. According to Fortier, the UN has enhanced Canadian trade, the economy, participation in other international organizations and most of all, Canada’s power and influence in the world. At the same time, Canada’s contributions to the UN have helped to make it a more effective institution. In Fortier’s view, the UN must be sustained as no government has the capacity to manage the full range of problems in national and world affairs any longer.
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