On behalf of the Government of Canada, I would like to wish a very happy Canada Day to all Canadians and to friends of Canada here in Romania.
I would like to share with you some thoughts on the major global challenges facing us, reflect on Canada’s accomplishments over the past year, and highlight some of Canada’s priorities in the year ahead.
But first, it’s worthwhile recalling that we celebrated the 150th anniversary of Confederation last year. That was a tremendous milestone in our country’s history, and an opportunity for Canadians and all of our friends around the world to celebrate.
Prior to July 1, 1867, there was a Canada West and a Canada East. Before that there was an Upper Canada and a Lower Canada. So, there was always some form of division. But today, we celebrate the day, 151 years ago, when the people of our great land came together and forged one nation, one country.
From the outset, Canada was formed not in spite of our differences, but because of them. Thanks to the hard work and cooperation of many cultural, ethnic and religious communities, Canada has evolved into a diverse, inclusive and compassionate country.
We are not perfect. Our efforts toward reconciliation, particularly towards our Indigenous people, for example, reflect a deep Canadian belief that we must always strive to be better.
Better in terms of Canada’s own progress as a country.
And better in terms of how Canada can partner with others to build a more peaceful, secure and inclusive world.
Since the end of the Second World War, Canada has helped to build a system that promotes prosperity and prevents smaller conflicts from turning into wars; a system that champions freedom and democracy over authoritarianism and oppression.
Canada is determined to continue to defend a rules-based, progressive and inclusive international agenda. We are committed to playing a global leadership role not only to serve our own security and economic interests, but also to support our deeply held desire to contribute to a more peaceful world in which there is shared prosperity.
I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention that, as we celebrate 151 years since the Act of Confederation, Romania in 2018 marks 100 years since the Great Union and its own modern statehood.
As a civilization, you are of course much older than just one century – and as a result, you are more experienced at statecraft; perhaps a little wiser in the ways of the world than newfangled and ever-optimistic Canada. Yet as a democracy, you’re relatively young. More progress is yet to be made. This leads us to one simple conclusion about Canada-Romania relations, and that is: we have a lot to learn from one another.
The most important lesson I would like to share, based on 151 years of democratic development, is that democracy is hard work. The challenges to liberal democracy we face today, in North America and here in Europe, reminds us all that cultivating lasting respect for the rule of law in any country is a project that requires constant attention, political vision and compromise, careful reflection, and engagement with civil society.
As our Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau is fond of saying about our country: “Canada didn’t happen by accident, and it won’t continue without effort.”
In the building of any democracy, in the effort to entrench rule of law in any country – be it Canada or Romania, “better is always possible.” Complacency and cynicism are our common enemies.
As we continue to build and improve upon our respective democracies, Canadian and Romanians are blessed by the ties that bind our two countries together.
We are particularly proud to count as Canadian some 200,000 citizens who trace their descent here to Romania. Every day, these Canadians of Romanian origin – at work, and school, as community volunteers – contribute to making Canada a progressive and prosperous country. And for their historic and contemporary contributions, all Canadians are eternally grateful.
In fact, I would say that people-to-people ties between Canada and Romania are stronger today than they have ever been. Starting earlier this month, Air Canada Rouge now has direct flights between Bucharest and Toronto and Montreal. This is the only direct flight between Romania and North America, and the first such direct service offered in over 20 years.
For Romanian citizens, travel to Canada for tourism, to conduct business, to study for periods of up to six months, is now visa-free travel. And it has been since December of last year.
Canada will soon be present in Romania’s skies in other ways too. In September, for the third consecutive year, CF-18 Hornets from the Royal Canadian Airforce will return to Romania for a 4-month mission, under NATO auspices, to assist the Romanian Air Force in patrolling your airspace, and guarding against threats to the southeastern flank of our Alliance.
The security and defence relationship between our two countries is as strong and unbreakable as any other link in the chain of the North Atlantic Alliance. Canadians are proud to count Romania as a strong and dedicated Ally.
Looking Ahead, we have a robust and full agenda for the rest of this year as Canada continues with its G7 Presidency, and as Romania prepares for its historic Presidency of the Council of the European Union in 2019.
In addition to advancing the signature priorities arising from our G7 presidency, we will continue its active contributions to finding peaceful and durable diplomatic solutions to crises in Venezuela, Myanmar and Ukraine, as well as on the Korean Peninsula. We will also increase our support for least-developed and fragile states.
These dynamic international engagements will also support our ongoing campaign for a seat on the United Nations Security Council for the term beginning in 2021.
Built on the strong foundations of our new Free Trade Agreement with the European Union (CETA), we will seek to intensify and further diversify Canada’s trade worldwide while emphasizing respect for labour, gender, Indigenous rights and environmental protections.
Before I conclude, I would like to recognize the many friends of Canada who, through civil society organizations, cultural and academic exchanges, the private sector and other networks, have contributed to the development of the Canada-Romania relationship.