Her Excellency the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean - Speech on the Occasion of a Dinner for the Delegates of the NATO Military Committee Conference

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Rideau Hall, Thursday, September 6, 2007

As governor general and commander-in-chief of the Canadian Forces, I would like to welcome you to Rideau Hall, which has been the official residence of every governor general since Confederation in 1867.

My husband, Jean-Daniel Lafond, and I are delighted to have you here.

It is with great pride that I have held this position and that we have lived here at Rideau Hall for nearly two years now.

In these trying times for our military and for the Canadian people, who are following their efforts with admiration, I feel it is important to highlight the exemplary work of the Canadian Forces and to recognize the role that they play both here and abroad.

And so, we are proud to welcome this prestigious Military Committee of national representatives to NATO to Canada for the first time since 1997.

I am thrilled that you will have the opportunity to experience the richness of Canada’s people and geography, as you will be travelling to the West Coast to attend your meetings in Victoria after this brief stay in our nation’s capital.

I am certain that you will appreciate the beautiful setting of Canada’s western-most city and of the province that is the ancestral land of a number of Aboriginal nations, as well as the point of arrival for immigrants from all over the world.

The issues that you will be discussing over the next few days are of critical importance to Canadians.

Canada wholeheartedly supports NATO’s objectives in terms of international security and countering the strategy of terror that unfortunately plagues some of the world’s trouble spots.

I believe that solidarity is vital to the success of NATO’s partners.

Our actions must reflect our common desire to work in the name of an ideal of justice and freedom, and to restore security and prosperity where oppression and misery afflict children, women and men.

This is particularly true in Afghanistan, where Canadians are currently focusing their attention.

On March 8, International Women’s Day, I took my first trip to Afghanistan to pay tribute to the courage of Afghan women.

I wanted to draw attention to the vital role they are playing, and that they must continue to play, in civil society’s reconstruction efforts.  I wanted them to know that they are not alone and that we are not indifferent. 

And wherever I went—during a private meeting with President Karzai and members of his Cabinet, at a training centre for women in one of the poorest parts of Kabul, at the Kandahar camp, during a meeting with the reconstruction team in Kandahar Province —I saw how important it was to restore a human dimension to the day-to-day efforts made by so many women and men, both civilian and military, in Afghanistan.

I saw members of the Canadian Forces, civilian police, government officials, diplomats and humanitarian workers from Canada working closely on the ground with their Afghan partners to help create a secure environment and to put favourable development conditions in place for the Afghan people.

There is no development without security, and no stability without education, infrastructure, improved living conditions or economic recovery.

That was the clear message I heard from the military and humanitarian workers in Afghanistan, and I told the Defence ministers of NATO member countries as much when I spoke to them in April.

And I repeat it here in Canada as often as I can.

The unwavering conviction of the women and men who are committed to establishing promising partnerships with a people emerging from decades of distress and despair is perhaps our best assurance of the future.

Let us not lose sight of the reason for our commitment to the Afghan people.

It is a simple one: to restore hope and stability, justice and prosperity, where for too long there has been only chaos, iniquity and ruin.

It is about giving them the means to take back their destiny with dignity and assurance, and enabling them to build a democracy from their own perspective.

We can only achieve this objective if our multilateral commitment is clear and strong.

I know you will keep this objective in mind during your deliberations here in Canada, a country that embodies the hope of a better world.

Enjoy your visit to Canada.