State Dinner in Honour of President of the Republic of Colombia

Rideau Hall, Monday, October 30, 2017

President Santos, Ministers, Ambassador and members of the Colombian delegation,

In this historic room of the residence of the Governors General of Canada, on behalf of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Sophie Grégoire, my son Laurier and many parliamentarians, colleagues and friends gathered here, I am pleased to extend a warm welcome to you this evening.

Tonight, we have many reasons to come together to celebrate.

One of the many reasons we have to celebrate is that tonight marks President Santos’ first State visit to Canada. We are delighted with the opportunity to welcome you and your delegation. The presence of such eminent members of Colombia’s government and society attests to the depth of the discussion this visit will foster and the prospect of advancement it brings. 

The timing of your visit could not have been better, given that this year Canada is celebrating its 150th anniversary. And—it just so happens—just in time—your presence gives me the privilege of hosting my first State dinner at Rideau Hall since becoming governor general a few weeks ago.

Your visit also gives us the opportunity to recognize and celebrate a remarkable achievement. Just a year ago, President Santos was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in successfully ending the Western Hemisphere’s oldest armed conflict. On behalf of all Canadians, I offer Canada’s heartfelt congratulations, President Santos, for the leadership you have displayed in building a lasting peace in Colombia.

Your efforts in bringing an end to war non-violently, through negotiations, have inspired people around the world. Canada is proud to support you and the Colombian people in the continuation of this essential peace process. Last year alone, Canada gave $78 million to the peace-building efforts, including de-mining, economic development and access to education in rural areas.

Last but not least, we are here to celebrate what will soon be 65 years of solid Canada-Colombia bilateral relations, enhanced greatly in the commercial sector by our free trade agreement, in effect since 2011.

Yet some would say our two countries are worlds apart.

However, the truth is that our two countries have much more in common than not. We are like-minded countries who share fundamental values and the desire to advance our society and improve the social and economic situation, in our country and elsewhere, for the benefit of all.

Our ties run deep, with Colombians forming the second largest Latin American diaspora in Canada after Mexico. A growing number of Colombians are coming here to study.

We also share common interests in addressing social issues. Indeed, we both believe that it is our duty to help improve the lives of our fellow citizens,  reduce inequalities and ensure that progress is made on human rights, in our countries and elsewhere.

For decades, Canada has collaborated with Colombia in its development efforts and will continue this cooperation in all sectors of the economy, with a focus on poverty, gender equality and the rights of the vulnerable. We also look forward to fruitful exchange with Colombia and its partners including, we hope, as an Associated State of the Pacific Alliance of which Colombia serves as pro-tempore president.

As for the global challenges that affect us all on the planet, it is paramount that our goals be aligned.

By working together and making decisions based on information and facts, we will better position ourselves to identify solutions to the major issues affecting us. These are serious and preoccupying issues such as climate change, migration, weapons proliferation, poverty, growing population and security challenges. Global issues know no borders and no timeline, and they truly do need our attention.

My friends, we have work to do.

We have a lot to accomplish, but tonight let us rejoice and toast to the success of this visit, to our fruitful collaboration and to our long-standing friendship.

To a life that unites us.

Good evening.