Prime Minister Trudeau holds a joint media availability with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
Hello! Good afternoon everyone. Thank you for being here. It’s an honour to welcome NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg to Ottawa today. Jens visited Canada’s east coast recently for the Halifax International Security Forum, accepting the Halifax Builder Award on behalf of NATO for the organization’s work to strengthen cooperation amongst democracies. In accepting the award he said of NATO allies, “in good times we enjoy each other’s company and in bad times we come to each other’s aid,” which I thought was a pretty apt way of characterizing our relationship.
Allies, yes, but also friends. It was on this day in 1949 that representatives of 12 allies, including Canada’s Lester B. Pearson, came together in Washington to sign the treaty that created the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. So the significance of today, April 4, is not lost on me and it’s been my absolute privilege to meet with Jens today on Parliament Hill.
This afternoon, we discussed Canada’s role in NATO and its long-standing commitment to this important alliance. We also discussed the ways in which NATO is adapting to today’s security challenges, and that included the need to advance programming for women, peace and security. As our partners know, Canada will always heed the call. Today, Canada is launching a media campaign titled “We are NATO,” thereby adding its voice to those of our allies who have launched similar campaigns in the past year. This new initiative is designed to show Canadians what Canada is doing for the alliance and the impact NATO has on our country’s security.
Recent political instability, civil unrest and threats to democracy remind us of why NATO matters in the 21st century. Not only is Canada an unwavering member of this alliance, we are also active from our leadership in NATO’s multinational battle group in Latvia and helping patrol the skies in the North Atlantic in Iceland, to partnering in Iraq to help build local capacity and denouncing Russian aggression in all its forms. Working in unison to promote peace and security, member nations know that we are indeed stronger together. We share much more than an ocean. We share a vision of what our world can and should be, a place of cooperation and mutual respect. The rule of law, democracy, security, these are principles worth fighting for.
Through our trans-Atlantic partnership, we will continue to stand shoulder to shoulder and defend that which is important. I am looking forward to travelling to Brussels in July to participate in the 2018 NATO summit. Once again, it is an honour to welcome the Secretary General to Ottawa today, and I will now let him say a few words before taking questions. Thank you. Jens.
HIS EXCELLENCY JENS STOLTENBERG (Secretary General of NATO): Thank you so much Prime Minister Trudeau. Justin, it’s great to be back in Ottawa and to meet with you. And as you said, NATO was established by the Washington treaty 69 years ago today. So, the 4th of April is an important date in the history of NATO. Since then our alliance has been a guarantor of peace, providing security and preventing conflict, because North America and Europe stand together.
Canada was a founding member of the alliance and today Canada continues to make vital contributions to our shared security. Following Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and aggressive actions in eastern Ukraine, NATO boosted its presence in the eastern part of our alliance. And today Canada leads our multinational battle group in Latvia, your largest European deployment since the Cold War. When I visited the Canadian troops in Ādaži with Defence Minister Sajjan last year I was impressed by their dedication and by the fact that so many are serving so far from home to deter aggression and keep our allies safe. Canadian jets have also patrolled the Black Sea region to support Romania and Canadian ships boost NATO’s maritime presence from the North Sea to the Aegean Sea.
I also warmly welcomed the Canadian decision to rejoin our AWACS program. We have flown these surveillance aircraft on NATO missions for more than 30 years and today we use them to support the global coalition to defeat Daesh. Canada also makes important contributions to NATO partners. Your support for Ukraine helps boost its resilience. You are making a major financial contribution to the Afghan National Army Trust Fund. And just last month I saw how your trainers helped Iraqi officers and soldiers in keeping their country safe.
Justin, both of us agree that gender equality is not just the right thing to do, it is also the smart thing to do. So I also appreciate Canada’s work to keep gender issues high on the NATO agenda and I’m working closely with Claire Hutchinson from Nova Scotia, my new special representative for women, peace, and security.
And let me also commend Canada for investing more in defence. After years of decline, defence spending now is increasing and I welcome your government’s commitment to make further increases. Today we had an excellent discussion on how to prepare for the upcoming summit in NATO and how to continue the adaptation of the alliance. Over the past few years the world has become more unstable and more unpredictable, and NATO has responded with determination. At the summit in July, we will take the next steps to further strengthen our deterrence on defence, project stability and fight terrorism beyond our borders, and modernize our alliance for the challenges of the 21st century.
Canada’s contributions to the transatlantic bond and to international security remain essential, just as they have been since NATO was founded on this day in 1949. So once again, thank you so much Justin for hosting me and my delegation and for excellent discussions today. Thank you.