The Hon. R. Roy McMurtry, Q.C. High Commissioner for Canada to Great Britain
CANADA-U.K. RELATIONS: A FRIENDLY CHALLENGE
January 9, 1986
The President, Harry T. Seymour, Chairman
Your Excellency, My Lord the Queen's Chief Justice of Ontario, Honourable Gentlemen, Consul-General, other distinguished guests, members and friends of The Empire Club of Canada:
It is my pleasure to welcome as our guest speaker today the Honourable Roy McMurtry, High Commissioner for Canada to Great Britain:
It has been said of our guest today that he is somewhat of a paradox:
"On the one hand, he seems to have been the quintessential civil libertarian who fought for the abolition of capital punishment and for the constitutional entrenchment of fundamental rights and freedoms. But, on the other, Ontario's former Attorney General has been a strong advocate of law and order and a big booster of the police."
Prior to his appointment as High Commissioner for Canada to Great Britain in the spring of 1985, our guest had achieved considerable notoriety as an athlete, trial lawyer, politician, and accomplished landscape painter.
First elected to the Ontario Legislature as a Member for the Toronto riding of Eglinton in 1975, His Honour was reelected in 1977 and 1981. During his ten years as a sitting Member of the Legislature, he held the extremely responsible cabinet positions of Attorney General from 1975 to 1985 and Solicitor General from 1978 to 1982.
His previous 17 years' experience as a trial lawyer served to increase his effectiveness in these portfolios because he knew his way around Ontario's court system.
Roy McMurtry left public office in the spring of 1985 with a glittering string of accomplishments behind him. High on his list of personal satisfactions would be the patriation of the Constitution and the entrenchment of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. McMurtry, then-Justice Minister Jean Chretien, and then-Attorney General Roy Romanow of Saskatchewan, worked out the deal that broke the deadlock between former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and the Premiers. The Constitution was patriated and the "Charter" became the supreme law of the land in the spring of 1982.
Other initiatives for which McMurtry feels proud include (1) The Family Law Reform Act, which, for the first time, gave women the right to an equal share in family assets in a marriage breakdown, and, (2) The Courts of Justice Act, a massive overhaul of court procedures designed to make the judicial system more accessible and cheaper for litigants.
The Canadian High Commissioner is married to the former Ria Macrae. The McMurtrys have six children and reside in a new apartment provided for the High Commissioner in Macdonald House on Grosvenor Square. I know, sir, that with most of the children pursuing their own careers now, it may allow you more time for your great interest in sports and in landscape painting, this time in the beautiful English countryside.
Ladies and gentlemen, our guest today needs no further introduction. It gives me great pleasure to welcome the Hon. Roy McMurtry, who last addressed The Empire Club on February 18, 1980, and ask him to address us on the topic, "Canada-U.K. Relations: A Friendly Challenge"
Mr. President, Your Excellency, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen of The Empire Club of Canada:
Thank you for your welcome. I am, of course, delighted to have the opportunity of addressing The Empire Club again. On 6th March 1980, I spoke to the Club on the constitutional challenge lying ahead for Canada. In concluding, I reflected on the fact that "the drama is still continuing to unfold and we cannot guess its conclusion" Perhaps prophetic words. Certainly for me and the gentlemen that I worked most closely with on the Constitution, Jean Chretien and Roy Romanow, the drama following the constitutional accord of November, 1981, has had many interesting political twists and turns. It is interesting for me to reflect that, at this time last year, I was searching the province for delegate support. Certainly no one would have guessed that it was to be but the first of two leadership conventions in 1985 for the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario. In any event, my not-so-well-planned route to London encouraged one of my friends to offer a new definition for a High Commissioner as "one who is denied a job by his provincial colleagues, but who is given employment by the Prime Minister on the condition that he leave the country"
On a more serious note, I am personally very pleased that the British High Commissioner to Canada, Sir Derek Day, has honoured me, and indeed us all, with his company. He is an experienced and widely respected diplomat who has given distinguished service to his country. Immediately after my appointment was announced, Derek called to congratulate me and to offer his assistance. His encouragement and advice from the start have been very important, and, most of all, his friendship. We share a strongly held view that the enhancement of the relationship between our two countries is of crucial importance, not only to both nations, but to the international community as a whole.
Relations between Canada and the United Kingdom have deep and extensive roots. The forces of a shared history, continued British migrations to Canada and family ties, our cultural inheritance from Britain, the education of many Canadians in the U.K., tourism, professional and business contacts, parliamentary ties, military co-operation, and government-to-government contacts continue to work for a very extensive and close relationship. These elements remain vital underpinnings to one of the closest bilateral relationships that Canada has anywhere in the world. The experience of the last fifteen years has shown, however, that they are no longer sufficient to sustain the vitality of the relationship or provide a basis for its expansion. Traditional and sentimental ties with Britain have now to be set against the recognition of considerable changes marked by Britain's increased role in the Europe of the past ten years and also of a Canadian preoccupation with its relations with the United States.
The two countries have, therefore, tended to grow apart, through no deliberate design, but by force of external circumstance. The changing ethnic make-up of the two countries and the simple passage of time since the Second World War have also played their part. At the level of public perception, sentiments of active sympathy have progressively given way to benign indifference.
This concern was expressed at the first Anglo-Canadian Colloquium in 1971 by the chairman, the Honourable Alistair Buchan, son of our former Governor General, Lord Tweedsmuir:
"We have come here to talk from a sense in all our hearts, I think, that the Anglo-Canadian relationship, political, economic, cultural, has been gradually eroding; that as Britain prepares to enter the European Economic Community (EEC) and Canada becomes more deeply involved in the American economic system as a producer and begins to look more to the Pacific as a trader, as our press and other communications and cultural links become merely part of a global system of electronic chatter, as names like Vimy-or even Falaise and Monte Cassino-cease to be evocative, as the requirements of international politics make the relations of kith and kin and the whole concept of cousinly affinities less tenable, we are in danger of repeating the experience of, say, Spain and Peru, countries once so close in their relations that a man could make a profession in either country yet which have virtually lost sight of each other in the Hobbesian jungle that we dignify by the name of the international system"
The process of reinvigorating and strengthening the bilateral relationship must eschew nostalgia, and be based on the recognition of current realities in identifying new interests, new opportunities and new mechanisms. At issue is our ability to interest and influence public opinion and attitudes. One of the most important tasks of Sir Derek and me is that we do not become complacent, that we do not allow ourselves or others to take the relationship for granted.
The broad political context in which we are called upon to fulfil this mission is undoubtedly conducive to success. We - share with Britain common purposes in the collective defence of Western security and values, in the pursuit of improved East-West relations and viable arms-control agreements, in fostering economic development and political stability in the Third World, and in enhancing the opportunities provided our countries in the international trading system. To these ends, we work closely with Britain in NATO, the CSCE, the United Nations and the OECD, as well as bilaterally. Britain and Canada are the principal material mainstays of the modern multiracial Commonwealth.
At the recent meeting of Commonwealth heads of government in Nassau, we once again demonstrated that differences of view as to means could be overcome by shared goals, as Prime Minister Brian Mulroney was able to draw upon the relationship of confidence and trust he has established with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in helping to forge a consensus on the thorny problem of South Africa. Contentious issues do, of course, exist in our relationship with Britain, whether they concern the British Government's decision to withdraw from UNESCO, Canada's vote on a recent
United Nations resolution on the Falklands, or the European Community's ban on the import of seal products. These, however, pale when set against the host of bilateral and international questions on which we not only agree, but work together in close collaboration. At all levels, contacts and communications are easy, informal, and friendly. As High Commissioner to Great Britain, I could not ask for more congenial surroundings or circumstances in which to promote Canada's policies and interests.
The High Commission in London does play a pivotal role in strengthening the reality of Canada in Britain as well as representing Canada in a number of multilateral organisations based in Britain. We daily strive to raise the Canadian profile and improve awareness and understanding of Canada through commercial, cultural, academic, and media promotional activities as well as maximising the benefits of the visits of cabinet ministers. The fostering of people-to-people contacts and exchanges generally cannot be underestimated.
Through ministerial presentations, seminars and advertising, we work to improve the flow of productive British investment capital and technology to Canada as well as maintaining our contacts with key members of the British business, banking, and investment communities.
In supporting Canadian economic policy, we make representations and report on Canada-EEC trade relations and irritants, economic developments and the preparation for the next round of the MTN. A further supporting economic initiative is to take full advantage of new Canadian immigration regulations and levels to increase the number of quality immigrants from the United Kingdom, particularly in the entrepreneur and investment categories. The High Commission also provides the fullest possible range of services to Canadian exporters in identifying and exploiting market opportunities in the U.K.
To promote Canada's political and security interests, as well as emphasizing our distinctive role in international affairs, we pursue an active dialogue with the British Government. This includes NATO affairs, East-West relations, arms control and disarmament, European integration and Third World regional conflicts.
We keep our government informed on developments in British foreign policy, and external relations, in areas of importance to Canada and where Britain continues to play an influential role, especially Europe, South Africa, and the Caribbean.
In London, we maintain and develop bilateral relations in the fields of defence, intelligence, national security and law enforcement. We support provincial initiatives in the fields of trade, investment, tourism, and public affairs, and, of course, maintain close contact with the Agents General of the six provinces represented in London.
We also try to provide a full range of consular, passport, and information services to the thousands of Canadians who visit the U.K. each year.
The reality of international diplomacy in a major world capital like London is, of course, somewhat different than the traditional "striped pants" perception that many people harbour.
When Mrs. Thatcher came to power in 1979, she instilled a resurgent U.K. nationalism that sought to pursue aggressively U.K. foreign and economic interests and to alter fundamentally the structure of British social and economic relations. Thus in foreign policy, British leaders have focussed on its big partnerships, namely the United States and the European Economic Community. You are familiar with efforts to improve relations with the United States on security, foreign policy, and economic issues over the last several years as represented by the recent British-U.S. accord on SDI. Similarly, the U.K. demanded renegotiation of certain of its obligations to the EEC, a process that created difficulties with its EEC partners in the short term but that reflected the U.K.'s fundamental commitment to Europe and the Community. It would no longer try to go it alone.
While the Commonwealth connection is certainly not dismissed, it no longer holds the primacy that it once did in U.K. thinking. Canada is an important member of the North Atlantic Triangle but we can no longer rely on shared heritage and cultural roots to define our relationship. We must respond to Britain's changing focus and shape our own goals in that context.
When we look at the challenge of our economic relations with the U.K., we realise that Britain faces similar public policy problems as those in most industrialised countries. Future growth and trade will take place for the most part in those sectors that provide a healthy dynamism. It is here that Canada should look for opportunities to increase business co-operation-through investment, joint projects, technology transfers, licensing, and trade.
Furthermore, we must realise that, in a mature industrial and service-based economy, one cannot look at trade, investment, technology transfers as discrete elements. They are so thoroughly interlinked that rarely can one do without the other.
When I spoke a moment ago of the resurgent British nationalism, nowhere is this more apparent than in the goals of British content, whether in the North Sea oil infrastructure or in telecommunications. This, again, underlines the importance of joint ventures and co-operation.
Despite some recent decline, British high-technology industries are providing much of the drive in the manufacturing sector. In southern England and parts of Scotland where the industry is concentrated, they are enjoying a buoyant prosperity. This sector has some notable characteristics similar to our own that provide obvious opportunities to co-operate. In fact, there are more than 100 agreements between Canadian and U.K. companies in the high-technology field covering research, licensing, investment and joint projects.
There are many other important areas such as energy, nuclear technology, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, instrument engineering, textiles, refineries, petrochemicals, automobiles and aerospace that provide opportunities for Canadian investment and co-operation.
In particular, the service sector or what we call the "London Connection" is an area of British life where there could be a greater Canadian connection. Britain's former colonial connections and the related explosion in British trade and financing activity worldwide led to an unequalled infrastructure to support international commerce. Its infrastructure has expanded and London is now the most sophisticated and influential centre for world business.
In London, we have a highly efficient business infrastructure, an internationally oriented commercial, banking and trading community with a vast network of connections. The "London Connection" is unfortunately little used by Canadian businesses that are largely unaware of the ways in which this long-standing British experience and sophistication in difficult developing country markets can be used to assist Canadian firms in winning business in Asia, the Middle East, Latin America, and Africa.
The High Commission has a Third World programme to help Canadians obtain business in the Middle East, Africa and Asia. Our trade officers in London have excellent contacts in the City and with consultant firms, as well as Third World experience.h
It should also be noted that the changing environment in , London for financial capital-market operations does pose a ` challenge for Canadian financial service firms. Anxious to maintain London's competitive edge, the U.K. Government has launched a major reform of financial and capital-market structures. It is aimed simultaneously at freeing up ownership restrictions for both national and foreign investors, improved capital resources for the securities industry, and regulating reform of securities and bond markets and banking supervision. The U.K. Government, having opened up its banking securities and investment sectors to foreign ownership, is now looking to its OECD partners including Canada to reciprocate.
Let me return for a moment to our more traditional economic ties with the U.K. as exemplified by our trade. Despite the loss of Commonwealth preferential tariffs and the orientation of the U.K. towards the EEC, Canadian exports have held up very well. While our market share has not grown, Britain continues to provide an excellent export base for a wide range of our traditional exports and is our second-best market for fully manufactured foods.
In Britain, Canadian firms should, and usually do, assess the prospects for moulding our own corporate strategy with the wide range of opportunities for collaboration with U.K. firms. What we are seeing is a rebirth of interest and understanding of the U.K. market as it is today, not fettered by out-of-date perceptions. The question is how Canadian firms can participate more effectively than heretofore in the modern U.K. market and what sectors offer the greatest opportunities.
While we can reflect and occasionally fret about the challenge of our changing political and economic relationship with Britain, there can be no denying the basic underlying community of interests and initiatives.
As I indicated at the outset, Sir Derek Day and I are very much committed to enhancing the relationship we fear is slipping into some degree of benign neglect. Notwithstanding the invaluable basic community of interest, times clearly have changed. As Britain and Canada must, of course, look far beyond our bilateral ties, the nature of our relationship has been inevitably diluted. As the ties of sentiment and family are becoming weaker, our younger generations in particular know less about each others' countries and what we have contributed to each other.
As a Canadian ever mindful of the enormous and pervasive influence of our friendly neighbours to the south, I strongly believe that we must work to strengthen our other traditional relationships.
In the Canada-British context, Derek Day and I are committed to encouraging the establishment of a form of U.K. Canada association or foundation that would provide a focus for the relationship and promote it in practical ways. Such a body would not seek to replace but to support other existing organisations. Its purpose would be to inform, educate, and stimulate, to sponsor interchange, particularly among the younger generation, which might not otherwise take place. It would provide a vehicle through which those concerned with the relationship could make an active contribution.
Your suggestions to either Sir Derek or to me, or both, would indeed be most welcome.
It has been wonderful to have this opportunity of visiting with you, and to everyone my warmest best wishes for a prosperous and fulfilling 1986.
The appreciation of the audience was expressed by Mrs. Jean Casselman-Wadds, a Director of The Club and a former High Commissioner for Canada to Great Britain.