State Luncheon in Honour of His Excellency Hu Jintao, President of the People’s Republic of China
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State Luncheon in Honour of His Excellency Hu Jintao,
President of the People’s Republic of China
Rideau Hall, Thursday, June 24, 2010
Excellency, distinguished members of the Chinese delegation, it is a great honour and a real joy to welcome you to Rideau Hall, especially this memorable year, as Canada and the People’s Republic of China celebrate forty years of diplomatic relations.
In fact, we are delighted to have been, on October 13, 1970, one of the first Western democracies to establish ties with your great country though diplomatic channels, ties that our populations have continued to strengthen ever since.
Canada considers China a friend and an important partner. Since the 1970s, we have been committed to recognizing and promoting the significant role that China plays on the international stage, notably by supporting your request to join the United Nations.
What we have accomplished in forty years is remarkable and a source of pride for Canadians.
Of course, our two countries had ties before 1970, and two examples of solidarity that took place in the last century and are very dear to our people come to mind.
During the perilous Long March, Norman Bethune—the Canadian surgeon that President Mao made a hero—strove to bring medical care to a number of injured people.
And in 1961, in the midst of the Cold War, Canada sent grain to the Chinese population, which had been hit by a devastating famine.
It is through actions such as these that our people have built the foundations of a cherished, prolific friendship over time.
Today, China is our second-largest trading partner and the third-largest recipient of Canadian exportations.
As the world recovers from a serious financial recession, it is vital—as you said in your New Year’s message, Excellency—that we “further strengthen the vigour and vitality of economic growth,” while “maintaining social harmony and stability.”
Of course, that is the great challenge we are all facing, one that Canada takes very seriously when consulting with its international partners.
In this difficult context, Canada is impressed with China’s remarkable ability to recover, thanks to the people of China’s relentless work, determination and ingenuity.
There are other collaborations between our countries that are becoming increasingly close, and high-level dialogues have begun in a number of industries that are key for the future of our societies, including trade and investment, the environment, health, multilateral cooperation, peace and security, and cultural exchange.
I would also add that China has helped build today’s Canada, a Canada we consider inclusive, a Canada we are very proud of.
Chinese immigrants worked extremely hard, under conditions that were often difficult—unacceptable, even—taking part in the construction of the railway line that connected Canada from east to west so that we could conquer the vast geography of our country.
Our gratitude to our fellow citizens of Chinese origin is profound, and their numerous contributions to the development of the Canada we love affect every aspect of our joint success.
My predecessor, the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, was the first Canadian of Chinese origin to assume the role of Governor General of Canada.
Today, there are over one million Canadians of Chinese origin. They make up the largest non-European ethnic group in Canada and are concentrated mostly in Ontario and British Columbia, especially in the cities of Toronto and Vancouver.
After the spectacular Beijing Olympic and Paralympic Summer Games—which preceded the Vancouver Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games that took place this past February—China is once again being thrust into the zenith of international meetings this year by hosting Expo 2010 Shanghai, in which Canada in honoured to take part.
Just like Montreal in 1967—a city I lived in for many years and one of Shanghai’s sister cities—we are certain that you will stage a moment of great global solidarity and reaffirm our joint membership in a world we must protect and celebrate together, in all its diversity, its wealth and its beauty.
It is incredible that this opportunity to strengthen our ties of solidarity and our unique contributions to the heritage of humanity will take place with Expo 2010 Shanghai in the Middle Kingdom, one of the oldest and most illustrious civilizations the world has ever known.
Excellency, please allow me to recount a fanciful geography lesson that captured my imagination and the imaginations of countless Canadian elementary school students who were asked to look carefully at a map of the world displayed on the chalkboard.
We were told that if we were to dig a hole, anywhere in Canada, we would arrive in China.
And in my child’s mind, filled with wonder, I deduced that we were antipodal neighbours.
And so, Excellency, when I visit your country at the end of the month, accompanied by my husband Jean-Daniel Lafond, our daughter Marie-Éden, and a dynamic delegation, at the request of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, I will feel like I have arrived in a neighbouring country, among friends, as you are among us.
And I will happily remember that beautiful and profound expression of Chinese wisdom: “the heart is deeper than a journey to the centre of the earth.”
Thank you for your attention and I wish you a productive and agreeable stay in Canada.
Long live the friendship between Canada and the People’s Republic of China!
(For Chinese version of text, please click here)