Canada’s 148th
DIPLOMATIC POUCH - Neil Reeder (The Philippine Star) - July 29, 2015 - 10:00am

As we mark Canada’s 148th birthday this MONTH, Canadians at home and abroad take this time to appreciate the wonderful country we are blessed to be part of.   Here in the Philippines, it is a moment to highlight the growth and dynamism in the relationship between our two countries.

Canadians are fortunate to live in a country imbued with a long history of stability, peace and prosperity, one whose natural beauty and geographic diversity are admired around the world.  It is also a country built on cultural diversity –  by the flow of peoples from all corners of the world, including today, increasingly from the Philippines.

We have created a diverse and accommodating society, with English and French as official languages. Our identity and history have been shaped by our Aboriginal, French and British heritage.

Canadians are also known for our strong social conscience and tradition of helping others – a Canadian version of bayanihan.  In that spirit, I was proud that Canadians stood up and continue to help the Philippines in coping with the impact of natural disasters including the Bohol earthquake, and typhoons Yolanda and Ruby. We have provided nearly Cad$200 million in relief and recovery assistance for these natural calamities, both from the government of Canada and through private donations, directed through Canadian and international NGOs, UN agencies, and other civil society organizations.  

Canada and the Philippines are countries that share the same values –  democracy, freedom, respect for human rights, promoting inclusive growth and economic opportunity – that we advance as partners effectively, quietly and efficiently. 

The recent state visit of President Aquino to Canada in May saw important new agreements that will further enhance cooperation in trade, development assistance, security, and occupational health and safety.  Department of Trade and Industry Secretary Gregory Domingo and Canada’s Minister of International Trade, Ed Fast announced exploratory discussions towards an eventual free trade agreement and to modernize our existing Foreign Investment Protection Agreement.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced new Canadian assistance to the Philippines to counter regional and global security threats, as well as four projects worth Cad$20.6 million to help those still recovering from the effects of typhoon Yolanda.  A further Cad$1.5 million was committed for the deployment of Canadian police officers to support the development of policing options for the Bangsamoro region, and for training on countering transnational organized crime, along with Cad$1.5 million to assist those displaced by recent conflict in Mindanao.

The President’s visit also celebrated the contribution of Canada’s vibrant Filipino community, with large turn-outs from Filipino-Canadians in Toronto and Vancouver.  There are now more than 700,000 Canadians of Filipino origin – now one of our fastest-growing immigrant groups.

I thought it particularly symbolic that during President Aquino’s visit, he planted a young fir tree at Government House in Ottawa, right next to a lovely Canadian maple tree planted by his mother, President Cory Aquino, during her state visit to Canada 26 years ago.

And just as President Cory’s tree has grown and prospered in the intervening years, I am confident that her son’s tree will also flourish in the fertile Canadian soil in the years ahead.

Just as the vibrant relationship between our two countries will continue to prosper and diversify.

*      *      *

(Neil Reeder is Canada’s ambassador.)

ACIRC CANADA CANADA AND THE PHILIPPINES CANADIANS OF FILIPINO DEPARTMENT OF TRADE AND INDUSTRY SECRETARY GREGORY DOMINGO AND CANADA ED FAST ENGLISH AND FRENCH FOREIGN INVESTMENT PROTECTION AGREEMENT FRENCH AND BRITISH NBSP PRESIDENT AQUINO
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