Last month I had the honour of not only once again participating in an all-party, parliamentary delegation to Europe, but I was also provided the unique privilege of leading the delegation through my new role as President of the Canada-Europe Parliamentary Association.
Once a year, the Canadian delegation which represents both the House of Commons and the Senate, travels to Europe to meet and discuss matters of mutual importance for Canada and Europe. The matters often range from economic and democratic development, to the importance of international law. A number of substantial issues are debated with European parliamentarians. The focus of talks this year revolved primarily around democracy throughout Europe and the importance of market economic systems for both the developed and developing world.
Unlike previous years, the 2008 delegation was invited by French Senator, Nathalie Goulet, to visit the Juno Beach Centre and attend a memorial ceremony in Flers, Normandy, to commemorate General Charles De Gaule’s call to resistance on June 18, 1940. After exploring the awe-inspiring facility, I would encourage any Canadian who is planning to visit Europe to take the time to tour the Juno Beach Centre. The Centre simultaneously provides a powerful monument to the contribution of Canadian soldiers during D-Day, while providing a captivating educational experience for the young and old alike. While I was examining the multiple monuments, I was drawn to the cenotaph where I was pleased to find commemorative plaques from both Dufferin County and the Town of Caledon, honouring local Canadian soldiers who fought valiantly during the D-Day offensive.
Amid the many conferences and discussions, I was asked twice to address the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on both the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and Canada’s experience with migration and democracy.
My first address highlighted the significance of the EBRD which, since its’ founding in 1941, has promoted the continual alteration of formally centrally-planned economies in Central and Eastern Europe to market based economies. As the eighth largest shareholder, Canada displays our commitment to the Bank’s medium-term operational priorities through our financial contributions, which total 3.4 per cent of the Bank’s total capital. The EBRD uses monetary assistance from countries like Canada to: create and strengthen institutions that ensure markets function well; to promote the key role that small business can play in creating dynamic, competitive and more equitable economies and; further promote democratic systems.
During my address to the Council, I paid special praise to the EBRD’s recognition of the correlation between environmental and social issues and the long-term economic and political stability of a region. Essentially, the transition to a market-based economy is intrinsically linked to the evolution of political democracy, and vice versa, through their mutual recognition and reliance on the concepts of freedom and equality.
The second address dealt with Canadian philosophy on democracy in our immigration and migration policies. Given Canada’s diverse and multicultural population, our country can fully appreciate the potential difficulties that may arise while attempting to fully integrate immigrants of varying cultural and religious persuasions, into the overarching democratic system. For historical and geographical differences, the Canadian approach to immigrant integration may not be emulated without adjustment within Europe. I believe that our European partners could learn from our successes, as we could surely benefit from theirs.
Participating in yet another Canada-Europe parliamentary delegation has further solidified, in my mind, the importance for continued cohesion between Canada and the numerous countries in the European Union on existing and future matters of mutual importance. The similarities, as well as the differences between our countries results in a vibrant forum for the recognition of issues and the intelligent discussion of mutually beneficial solutions. I look forward to my continued participation in the Canada-Europe Parliamentary Association, both at home and abroad.