Media Center



June 5, 2013 - Antigua, Guatemala

Mr. Chair, Secretary General Insulza, Assistant Secretary General Ramdin, Ministers, delegates and observers, it’s a pleasure to be one of you at this important assembly.

Sincere thanks to President Perez Molina and all Guatemalans for the generosity, warmth and hospitality we’ve all enjoyed here at the 43rd General Assembly of the OAS in beautiful Antigua.

This annual gathering of the Americas family reminds us that the OAS is the region’s principal multilateral organization. At this essential venue for cooperation with our hemispheric partners, we can all work together to build a brighter future for our people.

Canada highly values this work with our neighbours, and I truly welcome the opportunity to further deepen our many friendships while here in Antigua.

This organization’s work plan for the upcoming year is particularly important. The plan reflects a broad consensus on our shared priorities. These include the need to strengthen democracy, protect human rights, enhance security, and promote economic development.

Canada also welcomes the opportunity this year to focus on the important issue of the impact of drugs in the hemisphere. The issue of illicit drugs and how to better protect the safety and security of our citizens are among the top concerns of all governments here in the Americas.

Canada takes seriously its part in addressing these matters, especially our work with our neighbours, including our hosts here in Guatemala, to build capacity in the institutions necessary to address this problem.

We have all come here anticipating a productive debate. Canada’s goal has been to help identify opportunities for collaboration, and to set a constructive agenda to reduce the impact of illicit drugs on the lives of the citizens of the hemisphere. They look to us as leaders to do all we can to protect them.

We believe that only through a comprehensive approach to illicit drugs can we make real progress in responding to the needs of our citizens. Our efforts are guided by the “2010 OAS Hemispheric Strategy on the Drug Problem in the Americas”, which is grounded in the obligations set out in the UN drug control conventions. Those UN conventions address both the demand for and supply of illicit drugs.

In addition, our collective efforts will only be effective if they recognize that transnational organized crime is not limited to drug trafficking. People smuggling, arms trafficking, illegal mining, kidnapping, extortion, and human trafficking, especially in women and girls, are all activities that these organizations engage in. Even if we were to successfully eliminate the trafficking of illicit drugs, these criminal groups would still plague our societies. We would still have to contend with the associated problems of money laundering, corruption and violence.

The recently released Drug Study, led by the Secretariat, and presented by Secretary-General Insulza describes the magnitude of the task ahead of us.

Fortunately, the OAS Hemispheric Strategy on the Drug Problem provides an excellent basis from which to proceed. The OAS Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission, the technical experts, is best placed to analyze this study and provide concrete recommendations on how to address this problem going forward.

The success of the important work of the OAS Drug Abuse Control Commission, however, depends on the success of our work to strengthen and renew the OAS. Our shared commitment to reducing the impact of illicit drugs can only be met by an OAS with a clear vision, freed from the weight of unfunded, outdated and irrelevant mandates.

We believe the OAS is on the right track, but that the next step should be a serious discussion of our collective vision for the organization, its mandates and a business modernization strategy.

Under the leadership of the Secretary General, we look forward to streamlining mandates and improving the effectiveness and efficiency of the organization.
Mr. Chairman, there is no other table that brings us all together. We can have no better goals than strengthened democracy, greater prosperity and justice for all.

We also show our solidarity by working together through the Inter-American Development Bank, the International Financial Corporation, our own Trust of the Americas and the Pan American Development Fund. It is time for the OAS to expand our dialogue with these and other parts of the Inter-American system. This will better coordinate OAS actions to improve institutions, improve living conditions for the people of the hemisphere, and support the implementation of best practices.

The OAS can also encourage the economic growth. This is vital if we hope to lift our citizens out of poverty, give our youth real opportunities, and achieve social inclusion. We have, for example, the tools to establish predictable regulatory frameworks, support trade, reward investment and create jobs.

What we need now is the collective political will to effectively employ these tools in order to ensure that this hemisphere reaches its full potential as a dynamic economic force.

As we move forward towards these goals, Canada’s commitment to our partners in the hemisphere has never been more resolute and we strongly support the OAS as the central forum for our collaboration.

But again, the OAS needs to step up its game in order to deliver to our citizens the prosperous and socially inclusive societies they deserve. To achieve this, Canada will continue to work with all of you, our partners, to build a better OAS.

This organization has demonstrated its worth in promoting and defending democracy and human rights in the Americas. We urge all colleagues here to safeguard this cornerstone of our values and not allow it to be weakened in any way.

Finally, we know that our people-to-people links are what truly make this hemisphere a family. Which gives me a chance to tell you how much we look forward to the Pan and Parapan American Games in 2015. We will be welcoming to Canada athletes, artists and visitors from all over the Americas. This is the most important sporting and cultural gathering for the Americas.

As our young athletes prepare to compete against each other in two years’ time, we will continue to meet as friends and allies, looking ahead to the many events that bring us together.

This 43rd General Assembly is one step along the path that we walk, just as the 2015 PanAm Games will be another. It is not just individual victories, but our hemispheric aspirations that we are here to work towards.

Everything we do here, in beautiful Antigua, should focus on making our collective future brighter and more promising.

Thank you again, Guatemala, for hosting us so warmly and thank you colleagues for each of your important roles in leading the people of the Americas towards a better tomorrow.

Thank you