Presentation of Credentials (Sri Lanka, Poland, Italy, Macedonia)

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Presentation of Credentials
(Sri Lanka, Poland, Italy, Macedonia)

Rideau Hall, Friday, January 29, 2010

Tragedy had to once again strike our sisters and brothers in Haiti for a movement of almost-unheard-of solidarity to start up all across Canada and around the world.

It is this ideal of friendship, sharing and peace that the entire world will carry like a torch as we light the sacred flame of Olympism here in Canada.

In a few days, the 21st Olympic Winter Games will open in Vancouver, British Columbia, followed one month later by the 10th Paralympic Winter Games.

And we sincerely hope that you will join us in making these Games not only an opportunity for the athletes to shine, but also a celebration of good will between peoples and an expression of solidarity with the most disadvantaged people in the world.

Madam High Commissioner Wagiswara, Canada and Sri Lanka have forged a solid relationship based on our joint participation in the Commonwealth, development aid, and the existence of a dynamic community of Canadians of Sri Lankan origin. I am told it is the largest Sri Lankan community outside your country: over 200,000 Canadians are of Sri Lankan origin.

After the devastating 2004 tsunami, Canada and its people provided unprecedented assistance to help reconstruct Sri Lanka.

Canada is concerned about the situation in Sri Lanka and the well being of its people. We sincerely hope that the aspirations of all Sri Lankans are taken into account as your country prepares to enter power-sharing agreements. Canada encourages a national reconciliation process in Sri Lanka now that the hostilities which have caused untold suffering in your country have ceased.

Madam High Commissioner, I understand you have an advantage over the rest of your colleagues here today, as this is the second time you will be living here in Canada. Welcome back.

Ambassador Kosiniak-Kamysz, we are also delighted to welcome you, especially after we heard of your interest in winter and downhill skiing, an interest that will surely be kindled by the athletes gathering in Canada for the Vancouver Games.

Two days ago, we commemorated the 65th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz extermination camp, marking the end of a cycle of horror that was especially difficult in Poland.

A number of Polish citizens also fled to Canada during the Second World War and joined an already well-established community here. They built bridges between our countries and helped strengthen our ties, which are now quite close.

These ties are characterized by growing trade and investment opportunities, cooperation in terms of security—in Afghanistan especially, where our soldiers are working together—and various programs that promote exchange between Canadians and Poles.

In this spirit, we are delighted that Canada and Poland have implemented two major agreements in recent years: one on social security and the other on youth mobility.

Ambassador Meloni, four years ago, Torino, Italy, hosted the Winter Olympics and Paralympics and I know that Canada applied much of your experience in planning the Vancouver Games.

I have treasured memories of my experience there. It was one of my first visits abroad as Governor General, but it was certainly not the first time I set foot on Italian soil, as I was very lucky to receive three bursaries that allowed me to study at three Italian universities, in Perugia, Florence and Udine.

The ties between Canada and Italy are fraternal, as there are so many exchanges between us and we share the same position on so many key global and national issues.

We are also partners in a number of multilateral institutions, including the UN, the G8 and NATO. Our two governments have also announced their plan to work closely together on UN reform, climate change and Afghanistan. And we are very grateful to Italy for supporting the Economic Partnership Agreement between Canada and the European Union.

Canada and Italy are united by ties of cooperation and solidarity that have been strengthened over the years by the thousands of Italians who have settled in Canada. They have invested in all sectors of society and their contribution is largely recognized.

Excellency, I am told you have a keen interest in history, that you are a Dante expert and that you are an experienced fencer. I wholeheartedly share your passion for history and Dante, but I know very little about fencing—except that I will try my best not to cross you!

Ambassador Tevdovski, we are very pleased that the relationship between Canada and Macedonia is continuing to develop in several areas of shared interest.

Since the beginning of the 1990s, after the disintegration of Yugoslavia, Macedonia has undertaken a democratization process and initiated sweeping reforms to its economy.

Canada supports your country’s efforts to open itself further to the world and to integrate into Euro-Atlantic institutions, including NATO.

It gives us great pleasure to work with you within La Francophonie and as part of the efforts being made in Afghanistan.

I have learned, Excellency, that while studying for your master’s degree, you were very interested in cultural diplomacy.

I share your conviction that in this era of remarkable openness, we must look to arts and culture more than ever to help redefine the ties that unite us.

That is why, during each State visit I make abroad, culture is one of the mediums through which I like to go meet the civil society.

Rest assured that Canada is committed to working with all of you to forge partnerships that will bring prosperity to our respective populations.

And, in keeping with Olympic ideals, my wish is for universally shared values to triumph, for the well-being of all of humanity.

Thank you.