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  2. Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette
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Speech before the Legislative Assembly of Costa Rica

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Speech before the Legislative Assembly of Costa Rica

San José, Monday, December 14, 2009

Thank you very much for honouring me with the invitation to address the members of this Assembly.

On the map of the Americas, and especially in Central America, Costa Rica is considered one of the most productive and daring experiments.

This experiment is a challenge; one that means betting on peace in a highly militarized region, and inextricably linking this path towards peace to democratization and environmental protection.

In fact, when accepting his 1987 Nobel peace prize, President Oscar Arias Sánchez himself said that peace was “a process which never ends.”

Peace, he continued, “is an attitude, a way of life, a way of solving problems and of resolving conflicts.”

We share this same conviction, and a joint commitment to improve security, increase prosperity and promote democratic values across the entire hemisphere.

This commitment to the Americas is, in fact, one of the cornerstones of Canada’s foreign policy.

And we are delighted to have a partner like Costa Rica with whom to work tirelessly to attain those objectives, in the hope of achieving human-oriented, stable and peaceful development of these continents that we share from north to south.

Moreover, Costa Rica and Canada often work together on the international stage, and we applaud the determination with which Costa Rica defends human rights and fights for peace, security and justice in international forums.

In this regard, Costa Rica is a source of inspiration for all of humanity at a time when constant vigilance is required to resolve conflicts and fight barbarism.

I would also like to point out our bilateral co-operation within the Organization of American States to find a peaceful and viable solution to the conflict raging in Honduras.

This consensus of views makes us key partners, and our trading relationship will only continue to expand, thanks to the Canada-Costa Rica Free Trade Agreement that came into force in November 2002.

Moreover, I am proud to say before this distinguished Assembly that Costa Rica is continuing to win over the hearts of Canadians; over 10,000 Canadians live in Costa Rica and another 100,000 travel here every year.

There is a proven solidarity between us and a clear friendship.

And I believe it is in that same spirit that we should continue to work together to establish a common front against other global challenges, such as the deterioration of our ecosystems.

Costa Rica’s commitment in this regard is admirable, and we also believe it is essential to put a new world order in place that promotes the transfer of assistance, information and technologies to face the challenge of climate change together, as President Arias Sánchez himself said to the United Nations General Assembly in September.

This concern for the environment is not surprising—but no less admirable—from a country that contains close to five per cent of the world’s biodiversity, that has devoted twenty-five per cent of its territory to national parks and ecological reserves, and that has successfully implemented efforts to halt deforestation.

And just as we need to protect the territory of our Americas—which is extremely rich in resources of all kinds—we need to recognize and protect the diversity of cultures on our continents.

The history of these continents, we must remember, did not begin with the arrival of Christopher Columbus.

On the contrary, the First Nations—as we call them in Canada—are the keepers of great civilizations that have enriched humanity’s heritage and will continue to do so, if given the means.

These First Nations are our deepest roots in this continent.

It is also our responsibility to keep the memories alive—to remember that the Americas were built from the blood and sweat of our ancestors wrested out of Africa.

This is the history that we share in the Americas, the history that makes us what we are. It is the mix of distinct cultures that courses through my veins –the vital and vibrant fusion that I have witnessed with my own eyes during my visit yesterday to Puerto Limón, where I felt right at home.

As I said to UNESCO’s Executive Board in Paris, the time has come, dear friends, for us to break down the solitudes that remain between us, and to rally the people of our societies to form a new pact of solidarity and to herald the promises that it entails.

Our shared desire to make the Americas a place of peace, security and solidarity,  open to all promises requires an ethic of sharing that embraces the full extent of the human experience.

This is the only way to sow in our present lives the promises of a better future for all, without exception.

A bright future in which, in the beautiful words of the Costa Rican poet, Laureano Albán, new light covers the old.

Thank you very much for graciously offering me this opportunity to say a few words. I wish you all much happiness and prosperity.

Long live the friendship between Canada and Costa Rica!