Speaking notes for The Honourable Chuck Strahl, Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities-At the Official Opening of the Dr. Norman Bethune Exhibit
Celebration of 40 Years of Canada-China Relations
Soong Ching Ling Residence
October 13, 2010
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Thank you for your kind introduction. It is a privilege to be here with you today and to represent the Government of Canada as we mark a very special date in our shared history. It was 40 years ago today that China and Canada entered into formal diplomatic relations.
Before beginning my formal remarks I would first like to read a message from Prime Minister Harper in honour of our 40th anniversary celebrations.
On 13 October 2010, we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Canada and the People’s Republic of China. On this occasion, I would like to extend my thanks to the Soong Ching Ling Foundation for hosting our joint commemoration of this event, and for organizing an exhibition which illustrates so vividly the longstanding historical ties between our peoples.
The friendship between China and Canada has been built on the basis of equality and mutual respect. Today, the relationship between our two dynamic nations is flourishing, with more trade, more people-to-people links, and more co-operation on a wide variety of issues than ever before.
Last year, I had the pleasure of accepting President Hu Jintao’s invitation to visit China, which I will always remember with fondness. I was highly impressed with China’s stunning economic growth. In return, I had the honour to welcome President Hu to Canada in June.
These visits underline the commitment of both our nations to increase our ties in the whole spectrum of bilateral relations, including trade and investment, energy and environment, health and governance. During our exchange of visits, we also explored ways to increase the strategic partnership between our two countries, including to foster academic, educational, and cultural links, as well as dialogue regarding fundamental values like human rights and the rule of law.
The more than one million Chinese-Canadians are the enduring bridge upon which our friendship has been built. As we move into a new era of partnership, we have shared aspirations for even stronger relations, so that all citizens of our two countries can continue to enjoy the concrete benefits of our cooperation.
Significantly, Canada has been granted Approved Destination Status, which will lead to more exchanges and contribute to a more profound mutual understanding between our peoples.
On the occasion of this 40th anniversary, I express Canada's very best wishes to the people of China and for our mutual relations in the years to come.
It is fitting that we celebrate our 40th anniversary at this magnificent museum – once the home of Soong Ching Ling and the site of numerous historic events in the life of your country.
I had an opportunity to discuss with our hosts earlier today and was struck by what an exceptional woman Soong Ching Ling was. As you know, she was the first female Vice Chairman and the only honorary President of the People's Republic of China. The people of China have every reason to be proud of one of your country’s most outstanding citizens.
Canadians are equally proud of the man we are honouring today, someone with whom we have a shared history. It is a pleasure to officially open an exhibition dedicated to the memory of Canada’s Dr. Norman Bethune. Of course, he is better known here as Bái Qiúēn.
Dr. Bethune, whose name is for many Chinese citizens synonymous with Canada, is a very good example of the ties that link our peoples. Canada and China have a long history of mutual co-operation and respect, which serves as an important guidepost for future relations.
Norman Bethune's public health legacies and the values he defended—for example, universal health care—live on in Canada and serve as an inspiration to all of us, especially in a context of growing global disparities between rich and poor, and between those who have access to health care and those who don't.
Aside from his heroism and extraordinary work ethic, Dr. Bethune was renowned for his innovations. These included a radical new treatment for tuberculosis, the world’s first mobile medical unit, and his model hospital for teaching and treatment on the front lines. It was while working to save the lives of Chinese soldiers that he lost his own life.
Norman Bethune’s legacy lives on and continues to symbolize the ties between Canada and China.
Since the signing of a 1995 Memorandum of Understanding between Health Canada and the Chinese Ministry of Health, Canada and China have developed dynamic health collaborations.
In recent years, the annual ministerial-level Canada-China Policy Dialogue on Health has become an important and effective vehicle for both strategic and pragmatic cooperation in the health area.
Last month, my colleague, the Honorable Leona Aglukaaq, Minister of Health, visited China and participated in a very successful Second Canada-China Policy Dialogue on Health, hosted by the Chinese Minister of Health.
Canada and China’s ties however, extend well beyond health care.
This was first evident with Prime Minister John Diefenbaker’s government and the Canadian Wheat Board’s decision in 1961 to launch what became known as the “Icebreaker Initiative” when Canada supplied grain to China at a critical time.
The establishment of diplomatic relations between Canada and China in October 1970 signaled a further commitment to foster stronger ties between our countries. It marked a major turning point, not only for Canada but also for the western world.
Beyond bilateral accords, Canadians feel a close personal connection with the people of your nation. Over the past four decades, our countries have built an extraordinary partnership culturally, socially and economically.
Strong people-to-people ties exist between the two countries: over 1.3 million Canadian residents are of Chinese origin, with over 50,000 Chinese students studying in Canadian institutions. Chinese is Canada’s third-most spoken language after English and French, and immigrants born in China form one of the largest groups within Canada’s immigrant population.
The opening of six new trade offices in China last year is further evidence of the increasing ties between our two countries and the priority we place on doing business with China, our second largest trading partner. Your country has emerged as a major global economic and political power that is increasingly important to Canadian security and prosperity.
As stated in the Joint Statement signed last December by Premier WEN Jiabao and Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Canada and China are committed to the development of a long-term and stable relationship of cooperation on the basis of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit, in the fundamental interest of our two countries.
This commitment extends to a range of areas of cooperation, including energy and environment, trade and investment, health and governance. It is also underlined by the intense pace of high-level visits in the past several years.
Since 2006, 30 ministerial level officials have visited your country. And that’s not counting the visits to China in the coming weeks of Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Lawrence Cannon, the Minister of Environment Jim Prentice, the President of the Treasury Board and Minister of the Asia Pacific Gateway the Honourable Stockwell Day, to name just a few.
The Canada-China relationship is clearly a unique one marked by historic ties, a shared cultural bond, effective diplomatic relations and significant economic links.
Looking forward to the future, we are confident that the next 40 years will lead to an even deeper and more productive partnership. I have no doubt that would make Dr. Bethune very proud.
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