The Viceregal Lion
  1. The Governor General of Canada
  2. Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette
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Keynote Address at the Pontificia Universidade Catolica do Rio de Janeiro (PUC) – “Canada in the 21st Century: A Trusted Partner for Brazil”

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, April 25, 2012


It is a pleasure to be here in Brazil and to join you at the Pontifícia Universidade Católica to discuss the strong relationship Brazil and Canada share.

Let me first take you back to February 2010. Canada was proud to welcome the world to Vancouver for the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games. It was a culmination of years of planning and work, involving thousands of dedicated staff and volunteers. The athletic displays, the valiant stories, the dreams realized—that was our Olympic experience.

In the end, we were able to showcase Canada to the world, and we were brought closer together as a nation.

In 2016, Brazil will have its own opportunity to display its talents and skill when it hosts the Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games. And between now and then, in 2014, the World Cup will come to Brazil for the first time since 1950.

That Brazil will host these events speaks to its transformation on the world stage, as well as to the respect it holds among other nations.

I understand that planning is already underway for both events and that Canada will be sharing its expertise with you. It is gratifying that as we prepare for such monumental tasks, we can reach out to friends for support.

The agreement to share information and experiences is not only a step forward in our already strong ties, but also a prime example of the diplomacy of knowledge in action.

Permit me to explain. I am a big believer in collaboration. As such, I define the diplomacy of knowledge as our ability and willingness to work together and to share our learning across disciplines and borders. When people achieve the right mixture of creativity, communication and co-operation, remarkable things can happen.

Collaboration between Canada and Brazil is flourishing, sparked by the changes brought about by an increasingly globalized world. It should be no surprise—given the similarities that exist between our countries and our histories—that we should gravitate towards one another as natural partners.

We both have proud Aboriginal peoples and vibrant multicultural societies—such diversity presents challenges, but strengthens our societies overall. I said yesterday the world needs Brazil to be successful. The world needs Canada to be successful.

We are resource rich and vast countries with populations centered in clusters: yours on the coast, ours along our southern border. And we share a similar history of colonial settlement: ours from France and England, yours from Portugal.

Like Brazil, Canada has also been expanding its presence on the world stage, in such areas as international security and business.

We have been involved in NATO-led missions around the world, including recently in Afghanistan and Libya, and have assisted in humanitarian crises, such as the earthquake in Haiti. Of course, Brazil is leading for NATO.

And Canadian companies are looking farther afield, testing new markets and bringing new ideas to countries the world over.

In fact, a recent study by Statistics Canada found that those companies that entered new markets, that went beyond their comfortable niche and expanded to other communities, cities and nations, tended to improve their productivity. In other words, innovative approaches yielded significant gains. 

Even in trade, Canada, like Brazil, is making an impact based on our abundant resources and the ingenuity of our people. 

In the last five years, the trade between our two countries has increased by more than 40%, a remarkable sign of our enduring economic bond. But I am equally impressed by our commitment to strengthen the bonds of sharing.

I don’t have to look much farther than this very university, which has agreements with both Carleton University and the University of Victoria. Brazilians and Canadians both benefit from this relationship.

This type of partnership—one between universities—is not at all uncommon. In my travels to Asia and Qatar, and during my time as principal and vice-chancellor of McGill University and as president of the University of Waterloo, I have seen the diplomacy of knowledge at work. Universities, academics, researchers and students are ideal ambassadors for our countries. The exchanges of people and of knowledge have led to amazing experiences and innovations.

As much as diplomacy happens between governments, it happens equally between peoples. We should not lose sight of this.

We know that is the impetus behind Brazil’s ambitious Science without Borders program, that will send over 100,000 Brazilian students abroad to study at the best universities in the world.  And it is why I was so pleased to announce in Brasilia earlier this week that Canada will accept 12 000 Brazilian students to study at our universities and colleges and do internships in our private sector in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math.

I am excited at this prospect. International students bring fresh ideas, new ways of thinking and the richness of their heritage with them wherever they go. I myself was an international student, studying in the United States and England, and I will never forget my experiences. My five daughters have studied or done internships or taught in ten different countries.

It wouldn’t surprise me if one of my grandchildren chose Brazil a few years from now.

I hope that we can also encourage more young Canadians to come to Brazil to study. One of the reasons for my visit to this country is to attend the Conference of the Americas on International Education. I will address the conference tomorrow and will stress the importance of international education and the great schools and learning experiences that Canada has to offer.

In supporting initiatives like Science Without Borders, we must remember that we are forging ties through our students and through our future leaders. They will lead the Brazil and Canada of tomorrow and will, I hope, do so with an eye towards collaboration.

It is no coincidence that Canadian schools and businesses want to increase our ties with Brazil. Both of our countries are committed to encouraging education and innovation.

The evolution of Brazil’s education system is fascinating. In the last 15 years or so, you have not only identified the problems facing education, but have also actively worked to bring changes that benefit this country’s youth in substantial ways.

The state of Ceará is a prime example. Only a decade ago, this state suffered from serious weaknesses in its education system, including low attendance. Brazilians have worked hard to address these challenges with innovative programs and initiatives. Two of these programs have received global accolades: Bolsa Familia, a conditional cash transfer program that includes a minimum attendance requirement for school-age children, and Brazil’s school meal program, which feeds an incredible 47 million children every day. 

The effectiveness of these programs is undeniable. Today, Ceará has risen from the lowest-ranked state out of 27 to 14th overall.

As with so much that is learning- and knowledge-related, one aspect of our success is tied to another. Ceará understands the value of “seeing things whole” in crafting a broad strategy for education.

Our challenge is simply this: to seek out and develop those networks of people within our schools, our communities, our countries and beyond who together can help make this a smarter and wiser world.

What I was excited to see, however, was some of the ways Brazil has accomplished this. You were innovative. You were tenacious. You did not give up. And now, children have a much brighter future. And so, too, does Brazil.

Perhaps most impressive was how you used the sharing of knowledge to improve Caerá’s fortunes.

The schools that have managed to set new standards, those that have reached and surpassed the goals set out by the Ministry of Education, act as mentors to those schools that are struggling. Teachers share their techniques, and successful students share what they have learned. In this way, schools in the state were made better.

Much work remains to be done, not only in your country, but in our own as well. Both of our countries have a responsibility to our peoples to provide not simply an education, but a quality education. We have a responsibility to our children to make sure that they can succeed in their community, their country and the world.

Knowledge is not something to protect. Not between nations, not between people. A strong, vibrant, successful Brazil is good for Canada and the world, just as Canada’s success will improve Brazil.

As Michael Fullan, who was one of the architects of the rise in the Province of Ontario’s high school graduation rates, has pointed out, “Every country that gets better educationally becomes a better neighbour. The moral imperative in education is about the whole world advancing.”

All of you here understand this, which is why Brazil has such high expectations for its education system. I would encourage Canadian students to study here and to discover this dedication themselves. 

As I mentioned earlier, I am also an admirer of Brazil’s use of innovation in its education system. Both Canada and Brazil know how important this is.

Canada is home to many innovators. Some have already discovered Brazil and are investing in the future of this country. Others have just begun to branch out. Many of us are working together.

Take, for example, the Canadian Digital Media Network, which over the last few days hosted the Canada 3.0 Conference in Stratford, Ontario. Using the latest technologies, I was able to address the conference virtually from right here in Brazil, as was Minister Goodyear, Minister of State (Science and Technology).

The Network involves many partners and supports the idea that in a country such as Canada, it is vital that we connect, that we create possibilities for creative thinking and new forms of communication. The conference participants, who came from all over the world, discussed how we can do this together.

The next 3.0 Conference will happen here in Brazil because, as we know, communicating globally is just as important as communicating locally.

Brazil knows that the future of its country rests on its ability to be innovative in education, in science and in other areas of its society. Here in Rio de Janeiro, we see how successful innovation can be. So many major companies have invested heavily in the area because they see the potential being realized here every day.

I understand that innovative approaches are being taken to everyday municipal tasks as well, that the mayor of Rio de Janeiro has introduced new technologies to work smarter and to better the lives of its citizens. This type of original thinking is typical of Brazil and one of the reasons why Canada is so keen on strengthening our ties.

It is because of our mutual respect that I believe that the recently created Canada-Brazil Joint Committee for Cooperation on Science, Technology and Innovation will discover new ways that we can work together. The members of this committee represent the very best of both our countries. It is hard to imagine anything but a constructive outcome.

The diplomacy of knowledge works better when we are fully committed to the ideals of a better world, a smarter world, a more caring world.

Brazil and Canada share one more similarity. We are both relatively young countries. In 2017, Canada will mark its 150th anniversary, while in 2022, Brazil will mark its 200th anniversary. Between now and then, in the next five to 10 years, what can we do to improve our nations together? How can we work in concert to deliver on our education and innovation goals? What will be our gift to the world during that time?

The work begins with the diplomacy of knowledge that we are practising every day. But underlying that is the respect that Brazil and Canada have for one another.

You have worked tirelessly in recent times to show the world what you can do, and other countries have taken notice. The attention of the world is on Brazil and will be increasingly so as more countries realize how much value your society brings economically, scientifically and socially.

When Brazil won the bid to host the 2016 Olympics, then-president Luis Inácio Lula de Silva said “Today is the day that Brazil gained its international citizenship . . . . Today we earned respect. The world finally recognized that this is Brazil’s time. We’ve proven to the world that we are citizens, too.”

There is no doubt in my mind that Brazil will be ready to welcome the world to its shores by 2016, and I am proud that Canada will be able to assist you by sharing all that we have learned.

Canadians have always respected the dedication of Brazilians, and we admire your commitment to education, science and innovation.

I hope that Canada and Brazil will continue to grow our ties, as trusted partners. The next decade will surely bring more challenges and greater opportunities. Let us meet them head on, together.