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Opening Remarks by Minister Garneau at the Launch of Declaration Against Arbitrary Detention in State-to-State Relations

February 15, 2021 - Ottawa, Ontario - Global Affairs Canada 

Check against delivery. This speech has been translated in accordance with the Government of Canada’s official languages policy and edited for posting and distribution in accordance with its communications policy.

Your Excellencies, distinguished guests, on behalf of the Government of Canada, it is my honour to welcome you to the launch of the Declaration Against Arbitrary Detention in State-to-State Relations.

We are joined today by Amal Clooney, Barrister at Doughty Street Chambers in London and Representative of the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute, and Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch.

Fifty-eight countries and the European Union have, to date, endorsed the Declaration Against Arbitrary Detention in State-to-State Relations.

And we are fortunate to have ministers representing over a dozen of those countries here with us.

We will also hear recorded statements of support from foreign ministers who were not able to join us live today.

Allow me to underscore the contribution of my predecessor, François-Philippe Champagne, now the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, and to thank him. It was he who conceived this declaration and who contacted many of our counterparts around the world to create this momentum for solidarity.

We are very grateful to him.

Minister, I am delighted that you are here with us today.

I am grateful and emboldened by the strong show of support here.
Today, countries from every continent stand together to tell people who are being arbitrarily detained abroad that they are not alone!

Using foreign nationals as bargaining chips to exercise leverage over another state is illegal, it is immoral, and it needs to stop.

I would like to take a moment to express my sincere appreciation to all the countries that have endorsed the declaration.

I think we all agree that this initiative is urgently needed.

The practice of arbitrary detention puts all our citizens at risk, especially those who travel, work or live abroad.

This includes dual nationals, who are vulnerable to arbitrary arrest, detention and sentencing by governments who intend to use them for diplomatic gain.

We must work together to show that we will not tolerate this practice.

Every person who has been arbitrarily detained must be freed immediately.

The arrest and detention of foreign nationals for political reasons:

This declaration is grounded in the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Canada has taken a principled stand against arbitrary detention for years. This is part of our broader commitment to human rights, the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary.

We believe that all states should strive to ensure fair and public hearings by competent, independent and impartial tribunals.

And as we see from today’s attendance, we are far from alone in our efforts. This is a multinational initiative, supported by 58 countries around the world, as well as the European Union.

The truth is that many countries who are endorsing and promoting the declaration do so because they recognize that their own citizens could be subjected to this type of treatment, and too many already are.

Thank you to all my colleagues around the world for your solidarity. Thanks for adopting this position of principle with Canada.

I am delighted that we have been joined today by human rights advocates and ministers from many countries who will speak about their own commitments on this question.

Alone, we can have a certain impact, but together, we can accomplish much more. 

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