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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

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Prime Minister’s Speech to the French National Assembly


Mr. Speaker of the National Assembly;

Mr. Prime Minister;


Members of Parliament;

Dear friends;

It is with gratitude and humility that I accepted the invitation to address your National Assembly.

This is the first time that the voice of a Canadian prime minister is heard within these walls.

A Canadian descended from a French carpenter from La Rochelle who, in the middle of the 17th Century, left his homeland in search of a new life on a continent that was once called new.

Étienne Truteau’s story is the story of countless Canadians who are also descendants of the first French immigrants who helped shape Canada.

So it is with deep emotion that I address you this afternoon, in this place that is marked by your history and the great debates that have shaped France.

My presence here in this hall is a testament not only to the importance you place on our partnership, but also to a shared desire to deepen the bonds of friendship that have united our two peoples for centuries.

Those who came before us in our governments and parliaments endeavoured to make the world a better place.

They promoted the development of our economies.

They created legislation to protect our workers.

They ensured that everyone would have access to an education, an effective health care system and better opportunities.

Yet while our citizens are healthier, richer and more educated than ever before, many of them worry about their future and that of their children.

Anxiety is becoming pernicious.

It is fueled by a rising cost of living while wages are stagnant and jobs are becoming more insecure.

By the widening gap between the rich and the poor and a dwindling middle class.

By the polarization of political discourse.

By feelings of dispossession and powerlessness both at home and beyond our borders.

In too many countries, populism is spreading, democracy is eroding… symptoms of a malaise afflicting our integrated world.

Elsewhere, millions of people are taking to the road, risking their lives in search of a better future.

And we cannot ignore rising temperatures and a changing climate.  

We must recognize that change is not always synonymous with progress.

Faced with the major challenges of our time, liberal democracies bear the unique responsibility of articulating a clear and convincing vision of the future they aspire to – of the world they hope to build.

This is the mandate our fellow citizens entrusted to us.

Your invitation comes at a pivotal moment.

France is called to consider its role within the European Union and, consequently, the world order.

I welcome the unwavering commitment of the President of the Republic in this regard, highlighted again this morning in his address to the members of the European Parliament gathered in Strasbourg.

Canada, for its part, is reflecting on its place in a world that is constantly and rapidly changing.

We are asking ourselves about the state of our planet and our ability to alleviate its problems.

Should the globalization crisis lead us to isolate ourselves, to withdraw?

Should Canada let fear and worry dictate its future and, most importantly, decide the future of its children?

That’s just not who we are.

At a time when political forces are exploiting the very real anxiety of their fellow citizens, Canada has chosen to counter cynicism with boldness and ambition.

While many countries define themselves through opposition, Canada is asserting itself.

We are standing up for progressive trade, for diversity, for immigration, for the protection of the environment, for gender equality, for the rule of law, for democracy, for equality, and for freedom.

As the Enlightenment taught us, in the face of ignorance, let us advocate reason.

In the face of darkness, let us choose science, public debate and progress.

So my remarks here today will focus on the positive and resolutely progressive approach that we have chosen to adopt, and on what that means for the world.

By tracing an outline for renewed cooperation, I hope to paint a picture of the next chapter in our relationship and push us toward an even more promising and prosperous future.

The inequalities that persist in our societies are causing some people to feel doubt, anxiety, even hostility towards an integrated world.

They are a barrier to our prosperity.

In fact, we all lose when our fellow citizens are excluded, be it as a result of their gender, origins, sexual orientation or gender identity.

No country can hope to achieve its full potential without the participation of all its citizens, no matter who they are, where they come from or what their beliefs are.

France and Canada have made important progress in this regard. We both made history by appointing a gender-balanced Cabinet.

I also note that this assembly is nearly gender-balanced.

On that front, I have to admit that we have a long way to go in the Parliament of Canada.

And it is our responsibility to work every day toward substantive equality at all levels and in every sector.

Neither France, Canada nor the other five of the world’s advanced economies in the G7 can claim to have eliminated these inequalities. 

That is why gender equality is the horizontal theme of the G7 Summit that Canada will host in Québec, in the Charlevoix region, this June. 

Whether on the economy, employment or the environment, the conclusions the G7 members reach must contribute to the substantive equality of women and men.

Recognizing that public policies do not have the same effects for women and men, we must review all solutions in terms of their impacts on women as well as on men.

Through the main themes of our presidency, therefore, we will seek ways to counter chronic slow growth, income gaps and social inequalities.

These inequalities erode not only the standard of living of the middle class, but also public confidence in global trade, international cooperation and liberal democracy.

This explains our decision to create the Gender Equality Advisory Council, co-chaired by Canada’s Ambassador to France, Isabelle Hudon, and leading philanthropist Melinda Gates.

Their mission is to ensure that gender equality is integrated across all the themes, activities and results of the Canadian presidency.

The argument is simple: increasing the participation of women in the job market is critical to the growth of our economies.

Especially since the average age in G7 countries is increasing and the work force is shrinking.

I am also pleased that France will succeed Canada as the president of the G7, knowing that your President shares the desire to continue this fight next year.

When I think about Canada’s future, and about the bold and positive role we intend to play, I see France by our side, on every issue.

Whether the issue is progressive trade, inclusion or the environment, as part of the G7, the United Nations or the International Organisation of La Francophonie, I see France also being the positive influence that our world so needs.  

France affirms itself as a voice for environmental protection – and it has shown itself to be a true global leader.

So our two countries are united in their ambition to fight climate change while growing our economies in a sustainable way.

On both sides of the Atlantic, we are making historic investments in clean technology and green infrastructure, which are stimulating growth and creating good middle class jobs.

As countries around the world look to increase their market share and try to carve out a prime place for themselves in tomorrow’s economy, Canada, like France, has to promote sustainable development to remain competitive.

In my government’s very first weeks, in 2015, we actively participated in COP21.

And by the way, I want to congratulate France for the momentum it brought to these negotiations, and to highlight the active role that Canada’s Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna, played to bring the parties together in order to conclude the Paris Agreement.

Since that powerful moment, my government has worked with provincial and territorial governments, as well as Indigenous Peoples, to develop a national Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change – a first for Canada.

We also chose to put a price on carbon pollution, nationwide.

And, like you, we are committed to phasing out coal and eliminating all coal-fired power plants by 2030.

But if there’s one thing that France and Canada both understand, it’s that the fight against climate change absolutely needs to happen at an international level, because the consequences of global warming know no borders.

The unprecedented number of countries that signed the Paris Agreement attests to the international consensus about the impact of human activity on the climate.

It’s up to us to make this agreement in principle a reality.

It’s up to us to ensure that our children and grandchildren can breathe fresh air and enjoy the outdoors like we have done.

It’s up to us to take advantage of the many business and job opportunities created by a low-carbon economy.  

And it’s in this spirit of cooperation that, yesterday, President Macron and I celebrated the signing of the Canada‑France Climate and Environment Partnership.

Through this initiative, which aims to promote and accelerate the achievement of the Paris Agreement targets, we commit to stepping up our collaboration in implementing concrete measures.

For instance, we are committed to reducing international ground, sea and air transport emissions, promoting energy efficiency, and integrating climate into development assistance.

We also agree to mobilize stakeholders around the world to promote carbon pricing, and we will encourage research and analysis on effects of environmental protection provisions included in free trade agreements.

From generation to generation, the people of Canada and France have cultivated a friendship that has been able to adapt to change, deal with large-scale challenges and stand the test of time.

This friendship led our forebears into the trenches of Vimy Ridge – the site of a defining battle for Canadians, since it was on French soil that a real Canadian nation took shape for the first time.

A friendship I witnessed one year ago when I visited Hauts-de-France to attend the commemorations around the centenary of the Battle of Arras.

A friendship that was strengthened when, a generation later, Canada again came to France’s defence.

Over one million Canadians answered the call.

Too many of them would never see their home country again.

Today, Dieppe, Juno Beach, Courseulles-sur-Mer and so many others resonate in our national memory.

Canada and Canadians remember.

The horrors of war highlighted our shared responsibility to act, engage and collaborate with our partners to achieve our ambitions.

The Axis powers were vanquished through the joint action of states driven by a similar vision of the world and shared values.

This work still continues today.

Even recently, a murderous regime used chemical weapons against its own people.

When confronted with horror, the world has a duty to react.

This is why Canada supported without hesitation the decision of France, the United States and the United Kingdom to intervene to degrade the Assad regime’s ability to carry out these attacks.

Modern threats make cooperation among nations more relevant than ever.

For example, take the situation in Mali.

France’s role to re-establish security and stability there is an inspiration for the international community.

Returning to this Canadian tradition, we will soon be joining France and the 56 other partner countries that are supporting MINUSMA.

France positions itself as a nation that wants to give its energy to drive progress – whether in protecting the environment, fighting violent extremism or promoting the French language.

Last month, the President of the Republic gave a speech to the Académie française during which he expressed his desire for French to resume its place and role in the world.

He emphasized that French had “become this world language, this archipelago language,” a fact to which we can attest every day in Canada.

You must know, my French friends, how important the French language is to Canadians.

Those for whom it is their native language.

Those who have learned it.

Those who, without speaking it, enrol their children in French immersion schools –

Or those who are simply proud to count this international language, this language of culture, as one of our two official languages.

The French language is still so alive in North America, four centuries after the birth of French on the continent, because Canada, and especially Quebec, is deeply committed to keeping it alive.

France, like Canada, has a duty today to make this language a tool of modernity, of work, of prosperity.

As the Acadian writer Antonine Maillet, the first Canadian recipient of the Prix Goncourt, emphasized:

”A tree is not just a tree: it is trunk, root, sap, leaves, fruit, wind in the branches, nests where birds escape from the sky. That is the most beautiful image that La Francophonie inspires in me.”

A proud member of La Francophonie, Canada will continue to promote through it not only the French language and the communities that live it, but also its commitment to international cooperation and the values of peace, democracy, respect for human rights, peaceful pluralism, diversity, inclusion and shared prosperity.

And once again here, our partnership is essential.

A strong friendship, able to stand the test of time, is a feeling that is cultivated, which requires work and at times a strong will to move forward.

I witnessed this will when Canada and the European Union concluded the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement.

On that day, we decided not to pit trade against social and environmental progress.

Together, we chose a progressive approach to our trade.

Together, we spoke out for trade that benefits the many. 

For an agreement that creates good, well-paying middle class jobs.

For an accord that protects the environment and reaffirms our commitment to the Paris Agreement.

For a partnership that reflects our values and lives up to our ambitions.

After all, four centuries of business and trade do build trust.

CETA goes further than any other trade agreement in the world.

It sets the standard on the protection of human rights, the environment and the mobility of citizens.

It upholds the right of governments to legislate and regulate in the public interest, to implement policies aimed at supporting their cultural industries, in addition to protecting work standards and promoting increased cooperation on the environment.

CETA came into force on a provisional basis a few months ago and is already bearing fruit.

In 2017, after only four months of impetus from CETA, imports to Canada from France increased by 4%.

In the agricultural and agri-food sectors alone, there was an 8% increase compared to the year before.

Canadian investments in France surged by 23% last year.

Today, some 200 Canadian companies employ more than 28,000 people in France, while the French support 95,000 jobs in Canada.

These figures are early but positive signs of the direction that our partnership will take under this agreement.

But, for our citizens, CETA goes well beyond percentages and data.

For Décathlon, this agreement means the opening of the very first branch in Canada this weekend, giving Canadian sports and outdoor enthusiasts access to a new range of products.

For Pipolaki, a company from the Atlantic Pyrénées, the reduction of tariffs will increase its competitiveness, so that more Canadians will wear their famous hats. For Canadians, they sell tuques.

For Confiserie du Roy René, located in Aix-en-Provence, CETA will increase its sales in Canada, thus resulting in the hire of new employees in France.

And this week, a delegation of nearly 50 companies from the innovation sector is in Paris to develop partnerships with your companies.

All these examples illustrate the same reality: commercial trade, when well-structured, benefits the many.

And let us ask ourselves this question: If France cannot ratify a free trade agreement with Canada, what country can you imagine doing it with?

CETA is only the starting point for a new era in cooperation and integration.

Together, we must go even further, and dare to bet on innovation, progress and the future.

Our scientists, university centres and students have been among the first to recognize the immense potential in new technologies, such as artificial intelligence and deep learning.

As governments, we must play a leadership role to encourage their creativity, ingenuity and ideas.

It is up to us to bet on our citizens, on knowledge and on science.

This courageous bet is that of the Age of Enlightenment – which allowed countries of the world to overcome challenges and which has inspired progress ever since.

Dear friends, the problems we are facing are very real.

We cannot deny global warming.

We cannot ignore the inequalities in our societies, and we cannot gloss over the very real challenges that we must face.

Nor can we resign ourselves.

We cannot allow ourselves to accept the world as it is.

Canada has decided to stand for progress.

And we see our partner, our ally, our long-standing friend, France, as standing for it, too.

You are heir to the legacy of the Enlightenment, whose ideas made your country a symbol of hope for the world, from one generation to the next.

In the face of ignorance, you answered with reason.

Over obscurity, you chose science, debate and progress.

Together, let us revive these humanist values.

Dear friends, this renewed partnership between France and Canada I’m speaking to you about – a partnership rooted in our values and our history, but strengthened by our shared ambition – shall resonate throughout the world.

To our French friends: Canadians are reaching out.

Together, let’s have the boldness to build a world that’s more progressive, more diverse, greener, more inclusive, more open, more democratic.

A freer, fairer, and more collaborative world.

A world that reflects our values.