"Canada has a special place in the hearts of the French", says President
Canada/state visit/bilateral relations – Speech by M. François Hollande, President of the Republic (excerpts)¹
Ottawa, 4 November 2014
I am very touched by your warm welcome. You do France a tremendous honour by allowing me to speak here today, to address your Parliament, the seat of democracy, which was defiled on 22 October by a terrorist-inspired attack whose ultimate goal was to attack the very idea of freedom, which this Parliament represents. I salute the courage of Kevin Vickers, who is now known all across the world.
I wish to assure the people of Canada that France stands in solidarity with you following the terrible ordeal you have endured. I reassert here that in the face of terrorism, there is no room for backing down, for concession, for weakness, because terrorism threatens the values on which both our countries are built. That is why France and Canada are working together to take up our responsibilities for global security.
Ladies and gentlemen, Canada and France have an unwavering friendship, which has a long history, as you mentioned, Prime Minister. Just 400 years ago, a Frenchman from Charentes, Samuel de Champlain, crossed the ocean, travelled up the St Lawrence and founded a new country, your country. He was the first Governor General of Canada. In 2017, we too will commemorate and celebrate the anniversary of the founding of Canada, the 150th anniversary of Confederation.
France and Canada are also united by the blood that was spilled and the alliance that was forged during the two successive world wars in the 20th century. Canada and Newfoundland came to France’s side in the early days of both conflicts, in 1914 and in 1939.
France has war cemeteries. At commemorative sites such as Vimy, Hénin-Beaumont, Beaumont-Hamel and Dieppe, many ordinary French citizens become quite emotional as they remember the sacrifice made by these young Canadians, your forebears, who died for France.
That is why I wanted to recognize nearly 600 Canadian veterans who took part in the landings in Normandy and Provence in 1944, to liberate France and Europe. I made them knights of the Legion of Honour.
In this very Parliament, in July 1944 – the war had not ended yet – General de Gaulle said that your support during what he called the dark days was proof positive of the friendship between France and Canada.
That alliance has never been broken. It survived the Cold War and the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia, in Afghanistan, in Libya, today in West Africa, in Mali, and also in Iraq. Our air forces are fighting together in Iraq, not to make war, but to defend ideas that can lead to peace. We remain united in defending democracy, peoples’ longing for freedom, human dignity and women’s rights around the world. (…)
Ladies and gentlemen of Parliament, last year during the Prime Minister’s visit to Paris, Canada and France adopted an enhanced cooperation agenda centred on three priorities. The first was the simplest to identify: growth. Growth is important for both the Americas and Europe. To achieve growth, there has to be trade between our two continents and between our two countries. Trade between France and Canada is currently valued at $8 billion. France is Canada’s eighth-largest trading partner and ninth-largest foreign investor. That is not where we want to be. We know that we can never be first, but second place is an achievable goal. We can therefore do more!
I am convinced that the economic and trade agreement that was signed between Canada and the European Union can help develop our trade. France was in favour of that agreement and set conditions on it. Audiovisual services had to be excluded and the origin and quality of our agricultural products had to be maintained. You were also concerned about this. However, now that the agreement has been signed, we must not waste any more time. We need to ratify and implement it.
French businesses in Canada
Beyond the French language and culture, France also has a business presence in Canada. There are more than 550 French businesses in your country, which is still too few. I urge business leaders – and the ones who have accompanied me here firmly agree – to invest even more in Canada. I call on Canadians and the French to increase investments in our respective countries.
The reforms I initiated two and a half years ago in France have created new opportunities, since they make it much easier to invest in France. I wanted to make my country more attractive; simplify procedures; lower labour costs; and support innovation, research and education. However, although France is making an effort, we cannot achieve this alone, which is why Europe must also take action.
Two years ago, when I met with the Prime Minister of Canada, Europe did not even know whether it would be able to protect its own currency. There was a serious risk that the Economic and Monetary Union could break up, as countries were threatening to leave. Two years later, the Euro Area is strong and robust, but growth is too weak.
The European Union is preparing to launch a major programme to inject public and private investments into energy transition, infrastructure and new technologies. I invite Canada to contribute its expertise and to seize these opportunities as well, since we need growth, we need development and we need progress. We cannot allow young people, our youngest, to be the first victims of an economic system. The main purpose of an economy is to give young people the hope that they can live a better life, and that is what we need to work on now.
The world is facing new threats, as we have discussed. We share the same objectives within the Atlantic Alliance with respect to our collective defence. When necessary, we work on foreign intervention. Canada gave us critical support from the very start of our involvement in Mali. For West Africa, knowing that people who might be physically far away from these conflicts were capable of working together to offer support and solidarity created a new connection between Africa and the countries that were providing support. (…)
Canada has also become a very attractive country for the French. More than 200,000 of my compatriots have chosen to spend a significant amount of time here. I believe that these visits help raise our profile and help us develop as a country. There is nothing to worry about. Moreover, France has nothing to fear from comparison, competition or, especially, openness. The experience that the French gain here benefits us, it encourages others to want to do the same, and it is useful to both Canada and France.
We even want to encourage this by means of mobility accords, which you call mobility agreements. I like the word “agreement” much better than the word “accord”. To me, an accord implies that two parties have come to an understanding, whereas an agreement implies that there is a lifelong relationship. That is why we want to increase the number of permits awarded for working holidays and international volunteering, so that you can have more young French nationals here and we can have more young Canadians in France.
Academic and scientific cooperation
We also want France to be a very attractive destination for foreign students. Our country is already one of the most attractive to foreign students, but we need more Canadians. Part of the problem is that our post-secondary education system has not been considered to be compatible with yours. This morning, we increased the number of agreements between universities and research institutions and we set the bar high to ensure that there are more Canadian students in France and more French students in Canada.
These scientific exchanges are very important for us. We were able to build the Canada-France-Hawaii telescope and are engaging in advanced astronomy as well as doing excellent research on neurodegenerative diseases.
That is why I am so pleased to be making this state visit. I see Canada as a friend, a young country that is open and proud of its diversity.
Your population is growing every year. You are not afraid of immigration. You open your doors wide because you believe in your model of harmony and compromise. Guard it closely because every nation must be able to live in harmony. The strength of a nation lies in knowing its destiny and its future and in a growing population.
France has the same demographic vitality. We are lucky to know that we will grow together and that we can live together, respecting one another but with rules that apply to everyone. That way, there is no ambiguity about the way of life we want to embrace and protect.
As you know, France has an exceptional, unique relationship with Quebec. That will not change. At the same time, France wants to work with all the provinces in Canada. I demonstrated that by going to Alberta, and I am open to any and all agreements with the provinces. Know that we have Quebec in our hearts, but that we also want to offer our sincere friendship to the rest of Canada.
I would like to close by saying that what has united us for centuries and unites us still today is culture, language and the economy, to be sure, but more importantly, the shared values that enable us to understand one another instantly, that allow us to guess what you are thinking and that ensure you always interpret what we say in a positive way. We respect each other as people. We believe in progress, justice and the critical importance of respecting the planet.
I believe in the strength of our friendship, in the vitality that drives us and in the things we can achieve together. Canada has a special place in the hearts of the French. The Canada of yesteryear made us proud. The Canada of today inspires us to build still stronger ties. Let our friendship be capital for our economies, let it guard our safety, and let it give our youth hope.
Long live Canada and long live France./.
¹ Source of English text: Canadian Parliament website.