January 17–19, 2018
Lviv, Ukraine - Yavoriv, Ukraine - Riga, Latvia
Standing at a podium in Riga alongside Latvian president Raimonds Vējonis, Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette spoke warmly of the values common to Canada and Latvia and reaffirmed Canada’s commitment to peace and security in the region.
“We share common interests in a rules-based international order, common values of individual liberty, democracy, human rights and the rule of law,” said the Governor General, who also serves as commander-in-chief of Canada.
“This is why we have significantly expanded our defence co-operation in recent years with a renewed Canadian military presence in Latvia through NATO,” she continued. “We now have more than 450 troops deployed in this country, and later today I will go to Camp Ādaži and witness the work done by our Canadian Armed Forces through Operation REASSURANCE.”
A day earlier in Lviv, Ukraine, Her Excellency delivered a similar statement of support for the sovereignty, security and territorial integrity of Ukraine in the presence of President Petro Poroshenko.
That support includes a number of Canadian Armed Forces members posted in Ukraine who are providing tactical readiness and capacity building assistance to the Ukrainian Armed Forces through Operation UNIFIER. Wearing the Canadian Armed Forces uniform, Her Excellency and General Jonathan Vance, Chief of the Defence Staff, visited the International Peacekeeping and Security Centre in Starychi, Ukraine, to witness the collaboration between Canadian military personnel and their Ukrainian counterparts.
Thankful for the precious time spent with @CanadianForces Troops in #Ukraine. As Commander-in-Chief, proud to see the incredible work done by these men and women who represent #Canada so well. #OpUNIFIER pic.twitter.com/kquHmjvVnv— GGJuliePayette (@GGJuliePayette) January 18, 2018
Travelling at the request of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Her Excellency’s visits to Ukraine and Latvia sought to further strengthen relations between Canada and the two nations.
Canada is home to the world’s second largest population of Ukrainian descent—numbering more than 1.3 million people—outside of Ukraine.
It’s a population that has made significant contributions to Canada, the Governor General said.
“Two of my Canadian astronaut colleagues have Ukrainian roots. And some of our most famous and talented hockey players have Ukrainian origins. Distinguished Canadians of Ukrainian descent have excelled as artists, authors and musicians and have occupied business and political positions at the highest echelons. In fact, one of my predecessors, the 24th governor general of Canada, the late Ray Hnatyshyn, was one of them.”
Meanwhile, the ties between Canada and Latvia continue to grow. Though numbering only 28 000 people, the Latvian-Canadian community is one of the largest and most active outside of Latvia itself. That Latvia was the first European Union member state to ratify the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement is also a sign of the expanding trade and commercial ties that exist between the two nations.
Her Excellency is the first governor general of Canada to visit Latvia, which is celebrating its 100th year of independence in 2018.
“You also gave us quite a scare in men’s hockey at the 2014 Olympics!” Her Excellency said, referencing the nerve-wracking quarter-final game in Sochi in which Canada defeated a determined Latvian team by a score of 2-1 on a late third period goal.