Media Center



February 5, 2001 - Washington, DC

Prime Minister Jean Chretien, it is indeed a great joy for me to welcome you to the Organization of American States- your home and Canada’s home. Your indefatigable public service is an inspiration to us all, and your sound leadership is a model for the rest of the Hemisphere. Canada’s entry into the OAS in 1990 reinvigorated the Organization, providing a new perspective on, and a new approach to the inter-American system; a system that began to evolve and find new paths at the end of the cold war.

Your visit to the OAS reaffirms Canada’s clear commitment to the inter-American system, which now spans the entirety of the Hemisphere, from Nunavut to the Tierra del Fuego. Your country’s dedication to furthering inter-Hemispheric affairs has been clear in the past year alone with the successful General Assembly held in Windsor, as well as your playing host to the most important hemispheric meetings. In this decade Canada has played a fundamental role in furthering the mission of the Organization, illustrated by your backing of the creation of the Unit for the Promotion of Democracy (UPD).

The OAS has worked steadfastly to ensure the integrity, impartiality and reliability of electoral processes throughout the region. The best example of our efforts in this field is the case of Peru. After irregularities in the electoral process, the Canadian Foreign Ministry offered the necessary leadership for a mission to strengthen democracy. Canada provided not only policies but also valuable human resources and logistical support, which were essential for establishing political dialogue among the Government, the opposition and sectors of civil society. We worked closely with Ambassador Peter Boehm, whose brilliant political skills and untiring efforts helped ensure the success of the mission. His presence in Washington has made certain that Canada's initiatives at the Organization have been ably and efficiently carried out.

Mr. Prime Minister, under your strong and able leadership the Quebec Summit of the Americas will be a resounding success and will provide the capstone on this past year of Canadian efforts in the region. The Quebec Summit will provide the perfect forum for us to take inventory of our successes. We must consolidate the efforts of the past, which make the Summit of the Americas the most powerful integration instrument in the Hemisphere. An integration instrument that transcends issues of commerce, and extends into a much more ambitious and broad inter-American agenda. This agenda is the product of a great effort that began in Miami, and that was deepened in Santiago with the enormous responsibilities that were placed on us to deal with the serious problems that face our societies and our democracies.

Without a doubt the inter-American system is better equipped than the World Trade Organization, for example, to handle the enormous challenges and opportunities provided by globalization. We are prepared to work on an expanded and enriched agenda in which multilateralism will play a transcendental role in themes such as labor, the environment, finance, energy, justice, drug trafficking, and corruption. We will also work to put an end to poverty, making education our primary focus in an effort to construct more just and inclusive societies. And, of course, we will continue to work on themes that Canada has vigorously supported: demining, human security and connectivity.

Today the Hemisphere is blessed with widespread democratic regimes, and it is, perhaps, the most democratic of any region in the world. Despite the advances we have made since the dark days of dictatorship, there is still much to be done. Democracy can no longer be considered an absolute certainty. Democracy is at risk, and this risk stems from the inability of our states to meet the demands of our citizenry.

With the strong support of Canada, we must commit ourselves to solve these problems through our collective efforts. We must confront the challenges presented by capital volatility, the threats posed to our cultures and the pressure placed on our social security systems. We must also insist upon the peaceful resolution of conflicts. We must accelerate our economic growth, strengthen the state, give the market new opportunities and increase the quality of our economic management. We must have modern and efficient states that respond to the needs and demands of our citizens. And, as I have said in the past, we must have a democratic state that respects and guarantees everyone’s rights and protects the most vulnerable among us, a state that reinforces its oversight, regulatory, and justice functions- enforcing the law and ensuring security.

In this regard, Canada is a shining light in the Hemisphere, with an efficient state, social responsibility and strong private initiative. Prime Minister Chretien, I would like to congratulate you on your recent reelection as Prime Minister and I wish you all the best as you lead Canada into the future. A future that I am sure will include increased inter-American links and a commitment to the highest democratic ideals.

Thank you and welcome. Merci et bienvenue.