Canadian Identity Found in Its Actions

Canadian Speeches, March-April 2003 | Go to article overview

Canadian Identity Found in Its Actions


Canada is a prosperous nation, both economically and socially. To maintain this, we must continue to build an independent, humane and strong democratic Canada; strengthen the pillars of economic performance, social and environmental progress, stability and freedom at home; and remain committed to national and international security, and human rights. This is Canada's true identity. Speech to the Canadian Club of Kingston Luncheon, Kingston, Ontario, January 9, 2003.

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It is a privilege to be your first invited speaker for 2003; it is always a special joy for me to share thoughts and ideas in Canada's first capital, and the home where my wife was born and educated, where our daughter, Jacqueline graduated from Winston Churchill Public School and KCVI, and where Donna and I have been, for over a decade, most fortunate to make our home. As I began courting Donna when her parents, Donald and Jacqueline Armstrong lived on the corner of College and Johnston, and as we will be celebrating our 27th year of marriage this coming spring, and, as she will firmly attest, I did not succeed in convincing her to marry me right off the bat, we have been knocking around this great city one way or another for over three decades. And, I have grown to love it, respect its unique and important history. I think the very nature of Kingston with its special mix of students and retirees, government, small business, military and higher education, with large companies manufacturing for and serving wo rld markets, makes it a strong lens through which to assess and understand the economic and social priorities confronting Canada and Canadians.

It is in that vein that I want to share with you some thoughts on how we as Canadians can make genuine progress together within the economic, political and social contexts that now define us. What are those contexts? What is the progress we need to make? Our proximity to the United States is both our greatest advantage in economic and strategic terms and our greatest challenge in social and political terms.

This is not new. This is our history. It has been our past. It is our present. It will be our future. And, while the narrow nationalists on the far left lament the burden, I can think of no country in the world that would not eagerly trade their circumstance for that very same burden at the drop of a hat! I have always suspected that the multilateralism of Canadian foreign policy, while certainly an expression of Lester Pearson's belief in multilateral bodies like the United Nations, was also very much a clear effort by successive governments to mitigate the Canada-U.S. relationship through different and other affiliations around the world. So, as inveterate joiners and members of every international club going (APEC, QAS, Commonwealth, La Francophonie, NATO, Circumpolar Conference, NAFO, G8, to name just a few) Canadian governments are busy going to many meetings a year, and staffing all these organizational requirements, and summits, not only for their intrinsic value, which varies by organization, but for the balancing effect hoped for relative to the United States. This, surely was what encouraged Mr. Trudeau to attempt to build a third option with the European community during the middle of his fifteen years or so in office.

Some here at lunch today may have noticed that just before Christmas, Prime Minister Chretien and European Community Chair Protti concluded an agreement about pursuing further agreements. And, I suspect that much of what has driven our present government to push through Kyoto ratification relatively quickly in Parliament was the clear and precise reality that America has neither agreed to the accord or appears interested in doing so.

Our economic context is one of growing penetration of the U.S. market, to the benefit of Canadians, Canadian companies, jobs and tax revenues. Not only is America our key export market, but 38 American states list Canada as their primary foreign export market. …

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