Prime Minister Trudeau delivers remarks at the Canada-India Business Council dinner
Thank you Kasi for that warm welcome. I know the High Commissioner is not here tonight, but he… and I'm going to happily steal one of his favourite lines in talking about Canada and India: one of the reasons we are such good friends, Canada and India, is that we are the two largest democracies in the world. One by population, and one by size. And I think that pulls us together tremendously right.
I want to begin by thanking all of you from the Canada-India Business Council, all its directors, all its members and staff, for bringing us all together this evening. I'd also like to acknowledge one of my colleagues and friends who is here with me tonight, Canada's Minister of International Trade, François Philippe Champagne. Thank you again for welcoming us both here on this very special evening.
These are events that I'm always happy to be part of, because the central message of Diwali is a message I think more people need to hear. We need to be reminded that light can and will triumph over darkness. That knowledge and hope are powerful and effective ways to counteract ignorance and despair. And that at the end of the day, evil doesn't stand a chance when it's up against all the good in the world.
It's so easy to be cynical, the news cycle encourages it, and sadly so do some politicians. But I believe that when people come together for celebrations like this one, people of diverse communities all working towards building a more prosperous and peaceful world, that's when I know we're on the right track. Diwali feels especially meaningful this year, on the 150th anniversary of Confederation, and on the 35th anniversary of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms; a document that enshrines the fact that Canada, unlike just about any other country in the world, but India perhaps comes as a close second, is a place where we understand that diversity can and must be a source of strength, never a source of weakness.
As Kasi pointed out, it's also a significant year for India, which celebrated its 70th year of independence just a few months ago. And this past July just up the 427, the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir marked its 10th anniversary at an event I had the pleasure of attending. For many people, arriving in Canada through our largest airport, that magnificent building is one of the very first sights they see. How appropriate. I think it speaks volumes about Canada, and about its incredibly strong and vibrant Indo-Canadian community.
And now, thanks to the joint efforts of Canada Post and India Post, and the two new stamps that celebrate Diwali, people around the world will be able to see how important the Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, and Jain faiths are to Canada. The contributions that these communities make, that the more than one million Canadians of Indian origin make, are seen everywhere; in our colleges and universities, in our hospitals and in our courtrooms, in cultural industries like music and film; with some Bollywood blockbusters being filmed right here in Canada. Even in sports – and I'm not just talking about the Punjabi edition of Hockey Night in Canada.
The ties that bind Indo-Canadians, their friends and neighbours, including in my own riding of Papineau, make our cities, large and small, more pleasant, dynamic and exciting places to live. Naturally, we can see that you also make significant contributions to the business community as well.
As entrepreneurs and business leaders, you are helping strengthen Canada's connections to India. And it couldn't come at a more important time. As countries around the world turn inward, as they fuel skepticism about trade agreements and grow more anxious about their borders, there's an opportunity for Canada and India to forge an even stronger relationship. One that will benefit the citizens of both our countries. That's a point I've made many times to Prime Minister Modi on the various occasions we've had to speak and spend time together.
We've shared many priorities. Both countries want to protect and improve our strong democratic traditions. In Delhi as in Ottawa, finding ways to strengthen and grow the middle class is a constant priority. And as you know, one of the best ways to do that is to expand trade and investment. That's why we're continuing to work hard on the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement, and the Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement. Because we know that progressive trade deals can create more good, well-paying middle class jobs for Canadian workers and Indian workers. Done properly, these agreements can also create the conditions for things like better labour standards, greater gender equity, responsible management of natural resources, and stronger environmental protections.
Building stronger trade relationships between Canada and India has been a priority for our government since day one. Seven of our ministers have visited India in the last two years, and we're gearing up for another ministerial trip in just two weeks. Happy to announce, and I introduced François Philippe earlier, that in mid-November he will be joined by our Transport Minister Marc Garneau and our Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, Navdeep Bains, who, together, will head up a business delegation to the tech summit in Delhi.
It will be a chance to showcase our expertise, your expertise, to business and political leaders, and I'm confident that it will lead to many productive partnerships down the road. We're already well on our way.
There are more than 400 Canadian businesses in India, and over a thousand are actively looking to enter the Indian market. Our bilateral merchandise trade reached nearly $8 billion last year, our respective GDPs keep growing, opportunities are better than ever.
Before I finish, I want to once again thank the Canada-India Business Council for bringing all of us together tonight. Canada and India have a long history together, and I believe that an even brighter future lies ahead. I hope you will continue to work hard to help businesses in Canada and India form stronger partnerships, because I promise you, our government will do the same.
Thank you, Diwali Mubarak, Happy Diwali, Shubh Diwali!