Prime Minister Trudeau and Taoiseach Varadkar of Ireland deliver joint remarks
THE RIGHT HONOURABLE JUSTIN TRUDEAU (Prime Minister of Canada): Hello everyone. Thank you for being here today. I am going to keep it brief and also give you a chance to ask questions. I’m going to make sure we’re not late for the Pride Parade, which is the reason we’re here in Montréal today.
Before we get into things, I’d like to say a few words about two recent international tragedies that have touched Canada. At the beginning of the week, two Canadians, Tammy Chen and Bilel Diffalah, lost their lives in a terrorist attack in Burkina Faso. They were among 18 innocents who were killed. We’ve reached out to the families to express our sympathies as they grieve in this difficult time.
And just a few days ago there was another heinous act of terror on the streets of Barcelona where 14 people were killed and over 100 injured. Among the dead is a Canadian, Ian Moore Wilson. Our thoughts go out to his family as well as the four Canadians who were wounded in this attack.
These recent acts of terror are despicable. They seek to divide the global community, aiming to pit neighbour against neighbour, stoking fear and mistrust. But these cowards will not win. We will continue to do as we have done, standing united and stronger in the face of hatred. We will be emboldened in our values. Values of love, acceptance, and strength through diversity. My friends, in the wake of terror, let us never lose sight of who we are.
At the beginning of the week, two Canadians, Tammy Chen and Bilel Diffalah lost their lives in a terrorist attack in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. They were among 18 innocents who were killed. We are in communication with their families and express our sincere condolences to them in this difficult period of grief.
And a few days ago, there was another heinous act of terror on the streets of Barcelona where 14 people were killed and over 100 injured. Among the dead is a Canadian, Ian Moore Wilson. Our thoughts go out to his family as well as the four Canadians who were wounded in this attack. These acts of terror are despicable. They seek to divide the global community, aiming to pit neighbour against neighbour, stoking fear and mistrust. But these cowards will not win. We will continue to do as we have always done, standing united and stronger in the face of hatred. We will stay true to our values: values of love, acceptance, and strength through diversity. My friends, in the wake of terror, let us never lose sight of who we are.
And I’d further like to address the situation at our border at St-Bernard-de-Lacolle. Canada is an opening (sic) and welcoming society. These values have always defined who we are. But let me be clear: we are also a country of laws. Entering Canada irregularly is not an advantage. There are rigorous immigration and customs rules that will be followed. Make no mistake. We enforce them to safeguard our communities against security risks.
I also want to address the situation at our border at St-Bernard-de-Lacolle. Canada is an open and welcoming country, and its values have always defined who we are. But let me be clear: we are also a country of laws. There is no advantage to be gained from entering Canada irregularly. There are rigorous immigration and customs rules that must be followed. Make no mistake. We enforce them to safeguard our communities against security risks. Thank you.
Now, the Taoiseach and I just wrapped up a great meeting, and there were several things on the agenda. Obviously CETA is top of mind for both Canada and Ireland with the agreement coming into effect one month from now. We talked about ways that the Canadian and Irish businesses can benefit from the greater market access that’s coming, and reaffirmed our support for the agreement’s progressive provisions.
We also talked about our shared attachment to diversity. The citizens of Canada and of Ireland know that diversity is a source of strength, not weakness. We understand that it is not enough just to tolerate our neighbours; rather, we need to celebrate what makes each of us unique. Maybe it’s the language we speak or the religion we practise, maybe it’s our gender or how we express it. And yes, who we love is also part of what makes us unique.
I’m so proud to have Leo and his partner Matthew marching with me today in Canada Pride Montreal 2017. This is the first time a foreign head of government has marched in a Canadian Pride event, and it’s particularly fitting given the close connections between Ireland and my city of Montreal specifically. And the St. Patrick’s Parade is our other great parade, and I certainly hope you see it at one point, but today everyone will be celebrating Pride.
Every year, Montreal Pride events bring together millions of people gathering in peace and friendship to celebrate who we are. It’s an event that reminds us that we’re all part of the same community and we need to keep fighting every day to ensure that no person feels excluded or unwelcome in this city or in any other community because of where they’re from, because of what they wear, because of who they love.
And of course Montreal Pride is a pretty great celebration, and I am very happy to take part in this parade today, together with my good Irish friends, and to share this city with them. I will stop here and ask the Taoiseach to say a few words. Leo. Please.
THE HONOURABLE LEO VARADKAR (Taoiseach of Ireland): Thank you, Prime Minister, and hello everyone. I am very happy to be here today in Montreal at the invitation of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. This is not my first visit to Montreal, but it is my first time here as Prime Minister of Ireland, and I am very pleased to be here with you.
I’m really delighted to be here in Canada today representing the Irish government. And before I start, I want to express my condolences on behalf of the Irish government to Canada on the loss of your citizens in the terrorist attacks in Barcelona and in Burkina Faso. An Irish family as well was injured in the attacks in Barcelona, but thankfully we have had no fatalities involving our citizens. But it does remind us that terrorist attacks by their very nature target civilians, are indiscriminate and are odious, and must be condemned without any equivocation, and Canada and Ireland will work together to defeat terrorism, but never allowing terrorists to force us to change our values and our way of life or to restrict our own freedoms.
I’m visiting Montreal and Toronto for the next three days. I had the pleasure to meet with the Prime Minister just now – our second meeting. I’ll be meeting with business leaders and investors over the coming days. There’s about three billion in trade between Ireland and Canada every year and that’s growing. I’ll also be engaging with the Irish community here in Montreal and Toronto. And as you know, there’s a very established Irish community here in Canada – about 4.5 million people in Canada claim Irish descent, which is something we’re very proud of, and we’re very proud of the extent to which Irish people have helped to make Canada the great country that it is. And also, it’s a whole new generation of Irish people. Many from my age group, some of them my peers, who’ve come here to live and build new lives, and we want to particularly engage with them as well.
And also I’ll be engaging in some tourist promotion now that there are so many direct flights between Ireland and Canada. Canada is one of our top ten tourist markets. We’ve had a 28% increase in visitors from Canada in the past two or three years and it’s been a record number for inbound tourism to Ireland from Canada, and I really hope that many more people in the years ahead will have an opportunity to visit both countries going in both directions because we both live in fabulous countries that are really worth a visit.
I think Canada and Ireland are countries that very much have shared values. We believe in openness to the world. We believe that free trade makes our economy stronger. We believe in personal liberty and equality before the law, and also multilateralism as the best way to solve the world’s problems and deal with disputes, whether it’s conflicts or issues such as climate change. And I hope that this visit and future engagements will help us to bring Irish and Canadian relations forward both in terms of investment and trade, tourism, business, and also political cooperation and key international world issues.
As Prime Minister Trudeau said, the main thing that we discussed in our meeting was CETA, the Canada-EU trade agreement. As you know, that comes into effect on the 21st of September and involves the removal of 98% of tariff barriers to trade between Europe and Canada, which I think is an enormous change for the better in trading relationships between Canada and all of the European Union. So I’m here to promote that.
Ireland is a country in Europe that is very similar to Canada in a lot of ways. We’re English-speaking – it’s our main language. We have civil law. We’re in the European Union. We’re in the Euro and we’re staying. And we think there’s a lot of reasons as to why Ireland in particular can benefit from this new trade arrangement between Canada and the European Union, so our government intends in the years ahead to expand our presence here in Canada. I hope to speak about that a bit more tomorrow in Toronto. We’re already developing and increasing the staffing in our Enterprise Ireland office here. Tourism Ireland is here already, and we’re going to expand our diplomatic bases here too, which I think is something very significant. One or two of our operations for Canada are run out of the United States. I don’t think that’s appropriate. We should run our Canadian affairs from Canada, and we intend to do that entirely in the years to come.
And we also spoke about Brexit and NAFTA and updated each other on the talks that are underway in relation to those two items. Discussed a little bit about the Canadian health care system. As you know, Ireland is struggling to bring about improvements and reforms to our health service, whereas Canada has one of the best health services in the world. As the Prime Minister reminded me, it’s far from perfect and you do have your own problems, but I think Ireland can learn a lot from the success of the Canadian health care system, and I hope we can do that in the years to come.
And we also discussed the issue of abortion which I know is an important issue for a lot of campaigners for women’s rights in Canada, and we discussed that and I updated the Prime Minister on our plans to have a referendum on that in Ireland next year to give the people of Ireland the opportunity to remove our constitutional ban on abortion should they wish to do so, and the intention is to have that referendum next year, ideally in the first half of the year if that can be done.