Canada, France and Europe: Is the Atlantic Ocean Shrinking?
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 11 Apr 2002, p. 489-499
Chretien, His Excellency Mr. Raymond, Speaker
Media Type
Item Type
Starting with three words: Canada, France and Europe. Highlighting the links that bind all three together and exploring where, together, we might go. The origins, nature and consequences of our historical links with Europe. The present, notably the importance of economics and trade. Why the speaker believes that in some very important respects the Atlantic Ocean is shrinking and why Toronto and Canada should take advantage of this. The nature of our relationship to Europe. What it means for Canadians today. Exploring a common purpose. Business, and opportunity. Business as a two-way street. Falling short of our potential. Ways in which the Atlantic has in some respects widened. How it has shrunk. Why Canada should draw closer to Europe. Why the French and Europeans would be interested in Canada.
Date of Original
11 Apr 2002
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Full Text
His Excellency Mr. Raymond Chretien Canadian Ambassador to France
Chairman: Bill Laidlaw
President, The Empire Club of Canada

Head Table Guests

Catherine S. Swift, President, CEO and Chair of the Board, Canadian Federation of Independent Business and Director, The Empire Club of Canada; Carolyn Elizabeth Laidlaw, Honour Roll OAC Student, St. John's College, Brantford, Ontario; The Reverend Kim Beard, BA, Bed, Mdiv, Rector, Christ Church, Brampton; Derek H. Burney, OC, President and CEO, C.A.E. Inc. and Former Canadian Ambassador to the United States; The Hon. Roy McLaren, Former High Commissioner for Canada to Great Britain and Northern Ireland; The Hon. James K. Bartleman, Oont, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario; Hugues Goisbault, Consul General of France; Jocelyne Cote-O'Hara, Principal, C20 & Company Director and 3rd Vice-President, The Empire Club of Canada; Francoise Bertrand, Partner, Secor; John Geddes, Ottawa Bureau Chief, Maclean's Magazine; and John A. Campion, Partner, Fasken Martineau Dumoulin LLP and Past President, The Empire Club of Canada.

Introduction by Bill Laidlaw

Europe today is a much different place from what it was at the turn of the century, and completely different from what it was at the turn of the century before. As a student of history I have read and studied many volumes of work on this great continent.

Having travelled as well throughout this great region and seen and visited many of the treasures that these countries have brought to our civilisation, I am truly in awe.

For many of us in Canada Europe is where our ancestors came from and where we formulated our culture and our traditions. For me it is Ireland, Scotland, England and Germany--countries which I have visited and admire.

Having recently read a book on Napoleon and Wellington, L think about Napoleon's effort to make Europe one large entity. Odd that his dream would come true.

When L visit the various museums and art galleries, which I love to do in Europe, I notice how this region has fought within itself for centuries. One battle after the other. We hoped the last two great wars in Europe where North Americans were so involved were the last major horrendous events for this continent. Sadly, with the recent events in Yugoslavia, wars continue to be with us.

It does seem though that with the recent creation of the European Common Market and the euro that peace and economic harmony has finally come to this land. There still may be French, Germans and Spaniards but the term European will also be used.

Canada's relationship with Europe, and particularly France, is a fascinating one. From the days of Champlain to the present our ties are strong and continue to be so. We have a rich cultural and economic connection between our two nations. With the advent of a united Europe, France will play a critical role, and with our speaker in the important role as Canada's Ambassador to France we have a superb connector for this new union with Europe and Canada.

For a unique perspective on all that is happening on this world stage we are fortunate to have as our guest--Raymond Chretien, Canadian Ambassador to France. He was in fact the first speaker at the beginning of my term as president that called me to accept my invitation to speak to the Empire Club. He is very well known and liked in Canada, but a short background on his personal history will no doubt be useful.

Raymond Chretien currently serves as Canada's Ambassador to France. Prior to this post he served as Ambassador to the United States from 1994 to 2000.

Raymond has spent nearly three decades in the diplomatic service. In 1978 he was named Canada's Ambassador to Zaire and in 1985 he was appointed our Ambassador to Mexico. During his service there he was awarded the Order of the Aztec Eagle, the highest award the Mexican government has presented to a Canadian.

Upon completion of his assignment in Mexico, Raymond was named to the position of Associate Under-Secretary for External Affairs, the second-highest in the department.

From 1991 to 1994 he served as Canada's Ambassador to Belgium and Luxembourg before being named as our Ambassador to the U.S. in 1994. In 1996 he was appointed as United Nations Special Envoy to the Great Lakes region of Central Africa to undertake an assessment of the crisis in the Great Lakes region and to make recommendations on how the UN should respond. He presented his report and recommendations to the Security Council in December 1996.

Born in Shawinigan, Quebec, Raymond received his Bachelor of Arts degree from the Seminiare de Joliette and completed his law degree at Laval University. He was called to the bar in 1966 and joined the Legal Affairs Bureau in the Department of External Affairs.

In 1998 he received a certificate of honorary membership in the bar of the United States Court of Appeal for the Armed Forces, and in 1999 was awarded a degree of Doctor of Letters from Brock University in recognition of his contributions to Canadian public life and Canada's role in the international community.

I am very pleased to present to you today as our guest Raymond Chretien.

Raymond Chretien

It is a great privilege and pleasure to be among you once again.

I last stood at this podium three years ago. Washington was my home then--the hub of my life, thoughts and work. Every day I experienced the massive gravitational pull and appeal of the United States; every piece of news, every business decision seemed to revolve around them in some way.

When Bill Laidlaw asked me to return, I pondered a little: what would make a fitting title for my presentation? April in Toronto? A Canadian in Paris? Both had a nice ring but I opted instead for Shrinking the Atlantic.

The title of my presentation starts with three words: Canada, France and Europe. My aim indeed is to highlight the links that bind all three together and to explore where, together, we might go. To accomplish this aim, I will first speak briefly on the origins, nature and consequences of our historical links with Europe. Second, I will touch upon the present, notably the importance of economics and trade. Finally, and as promised, I will say why I believe that in some very important respects the Atlantic Ocean is shrinking and why Toronto and Canada should take advantage of this.

To turn to my first point: what is the nature of our relationship to Europe? My answer draws in part from my own experience as a Canadian arriving from Washington to live in and re-discover France and Europe.

On the one hand, I feel a strong North-American identity. Like any other Canadian, my heart lies somewhere between St. John's and Victoria. I am at home with the ways of the New World: with freedom and space, straight talk, efficiency and change. As business people and professionals, you are all sensitive to the vital importance of Canada's relationship with the United States. The FTA, NAFTA and the forthcoming FTAA have become the acronyms of Canada's modern destiny. The implications of this relationship extend far beyond trade and economics to the fight against terrorism and to the goals of securing world peace and sustainable development. These links carry us south, past the Rio Grande into Mexico and the whole of Latin America, where we are seen as a natural ally: "la otra America del Norte."

But at the same time, I feel the strong bonds of blood, history, language and culture that connect Canada with France, Britain and many other countries of the European continent.

Where does this particular connection with Europe come from? What does it mean for Canadians today? Does it still create opportunities?

Canada's decisive connection with Europe originates with the peaceful encounter in 1604--almost 400 years ago--between the Mi'kmaq Nation and a company of Frenchmen led by two dauntless explorers, Pierre Dugua des Monts and Samuel de Champlain.

Canada's story as a modern country begins at that moment. Champlain--navigator, map-maker, writer, diplomat and statesman--was above all convinced that Canada could be home to goodness and greatness. He who left the first European footstep imprinted on the shores of the Great Lakes would feel right at home in Toronto today. For I cannot think of any world-class metropolis which better embodies the spirit of encounter, openness and discovery.

In 2004, on the 400th anniversary of the first permanent European settlement in Canada, we will have much to recall, and to celebrate. I hope that Ontario and Toronto will be closely involved in the events Canada and France are organising together to mark this anniversary.

Four hundred years of community have generated many bonds between Europe and Canada: language and culture; order and respect for the law, freedom and democracy; science and innovation; the sanctity of contract; and fair and responsible government. In France, where presidential and legislative elections are soon to take place, the big issues are security, economic growth, health and well-being, and the environment. I am struck by the way in which Canada and France today confront similar challenges and how familiar the subjects of debate throughout Europe would seem to many Canadians. We share concerns, hopes, our very dreams. It may be Burgundy; it could be Alberta. It may be Brittany; it could be Nova Scotia.

But there is far more to the Canada-France or the Canada-Europe connection than sharing roots and feeling alike, which brings me to my second point--the nature of our links today with Europe and the ties that bind two modern economic leaders.

There is a common purpose. Canada's name was forged in the crucible of Vimy Ridge, and on the beaches of Normandy. Today, France and Canada are joined in the fight against international terrorism. Canadian and French troops stand guard, side by side, in Bosnia and Kosovo, and in Afghanistan. We are pursuing an entire Justice and Home Affairs agenda with Europe and working towards engagement with a common European Security and Defence Policy. Underpinning it all are common values.

And there is business, with superb opportunities. French business is on the move. European integration and globalisation have sharpened the skills of French entrepreneurs and their best are making their mark on a world scale. Next time you see an American film from Universal Studios, remember it was brought to you by a Frenchman, Jean-Marie Messier, le patron, the boss of Vivendi Universal. Next time you fly Air Canada, remember that you are in one of the 105 Airbuses built in Toulouse by Airbus Industrie, whose chairman is Noel Forgeard. Next time you buy a car, check whether the tires aren't Michelin, made by Edouard Michelin, the heir of the family business. Next time you need a vaccine, remember that Connaught Labs really means Aventis. The list goes on. I would run out of time before I ran out of examples.

In the year 2000, French investment in Canada made a giant leap forward. In a single $7-billion transaction, Alcatel purchased Newbridge Networks of Kanata. Then Vivendi acquired Seagram's/Universal for $30 billion. Today the French rank as the second-largest investor in Canada, ahead of Great Britain, Japan, and Germany. They are present of course in Quebec, taking advantage of the great opportunities for business there. But they have also invested in the Alberta tar sands, in the uranium mines of Saskatchewan, in cement factories in British Columbia and right here in Ontario.

Business is a two-way street. France and Europe offer significant opportunities for Canadians. Last January, Bombardier beat Alstom at its own game, securing a $1.8billion euro deal (that's C$2.4 billion) to supply regional trains for the French railways. A recent traveller on the Eurostar TGV from London to Paris told me that every second car on his train bore Bombardier's wheel-and-sprocket logo.

But I am convinced that we still fall far short of our potential. And this brings me to my third--and most important--point: how can we shrink the Atlantic and strengthen these common bonds?

For years now, Canada has sought to enhance its trade and investment relationship with Europe. One option under review is a Canada-EU Free Trade Agreement. Perhaps it can meet Canada's interests and deliver us the results we seek.

Canada and France are also partners in many cultural ventures. Last year, Telefilm Canada was responsible for $250 million worth of joint productions with French filmmakers and broadcasters. And may I also mention "TVS Monde," the French-language global TV network.

In the minds of many, the French are Latin. It's all about "joie de vivre," not business. Well, think again. Europe may be the Old World but its mind is fresh and inquisitive. French science, technology and culture can match North American inventiveness and dynamism with a particular flair, elegance, and charm.

I never fail to invite visitors to France to look beyond Paris; to the countryside of course, but also towards regional hubs such as Lyon, Lille, or Marseille.

Invariably, these visitors come away with a new appreciation of France's wealth, lifestyle and ingenuity. They see for themselves that France is the fifth-largest economic and technological power in the world, that in every category of luxury goods, France is either number one or two in the world and that it is the second agricultural exporter in the world, right after the United States. It did not get there out of sheer luck!

North America and Europe, Canada and France: both have great strengths. As a unit, Europe represents 40 per cent of world trade. The replacement of 12 national currencies with euro bills and coins on January 1 heralds a new era.

Admittedly, the Atlantic has--in some respects--widened. Four years ago, Prime Minister Jospin encouraged his countrymen to make the quantum leap into the information age. There have been remarkable successes, such as the widespread use of cellular telephones, which now outnumber fixed phones in France. But whereas most if not all classrooms in Canada are plugged into the Web, it is not yet the case in France.

In other instances, the gap has grown from our side of the Atlantic. You cannot really talk about Europe's future directions without talking about the United States and how its global role will evolve. America was deeply wounded by the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The United States' desire for tighter security is justified and, for that very reason, is widely shared. Yet, it is crucial that our collective effort to stem international terrorism not create new divisions or mistrust among the great cultures of the world, further distancing a poor South from a rich North.

We Canadians have a role to play here. We can help to foster the U.S.A.-Europe relationship. We can also helpand this is a major objective of the Kananaskis Summit--to renew the links with Africa, the poorest region of the South.

Fortunately, the Atlantic Ocean has fast been shrinking in many other areas. Last year Canada and France signed a Working Holiday Agreement enabling 18 to 30 year olds to spend a full year in France or Canada and to take advantage of job opportunities that come up during their stay. The French visit, study, and work abroad considerably more than Canadians do probably by a ratio of 3 to 1. Every province plays host to an increasing number of dynamic young French women and men. Toronto is home to many of them and British Columbia and Alberta are not far behind.

Yes, Canada is attractive. Young French men and women are drawn by the opportunities offered by our modern North American society. They are intrigued by the closeness that Canada has established with the United States while keeping its distinctiveness and maintaining its rich cultural diversity.

The United States, Canada and Europe are now fully engaged in the virtual world and the knowledge economy. This not only creates links, but it makes them mandatory. If your business entails communications, if your product can be digitised, if you are increasingly dependent on ecommerce, then you have already committed to going global. Seize this moment to look beyond this continent and to head for Europe and France.

Our definition of Europe has to change as well. The European Union stands at the threshold of a huge enlargement to the East, as does NATO. Who could have predicted that, barely more than a decade after the demise of the old world order, Europe would form a union from the Atlantic to the borders of Belarus and Ukraine? We often forget the enormity of these changes; take them for granted perhaps. A new Europe is being forged, even if by fits and starts, before our eyes. The implications are vast for European and international stability and economic growth. All the more reason for Canada to ensure that relations with Europe remain close.

Most of you are professionals and business people. You know how to distinguish opportunity from chance and to sift advice from information. Let me give you, as my parting shot, three reasons to increase your European exposure and three reasons to expect the French and other Europeans to welcome you.

Why should Canada draw closer to Europe?

First, Europe is a huge market, larger than the United States. It makes a great deal of sense for Canadian corporations to tap into Europe's opportunities, while at the same time diversifying their portfolio of products, services, suppliers and clients.

Second, we live in a global and open world. But democracy, freedom, and opportunity should not be taken for granted. Keeping our world united and dynamic requires contact, dialogue, business links to and fro, and most particularly between North America and Europe.

Third, extensive contacts with Europe will ensure that Canada remains a strong and dynamic mosaic. We Canadians have a unique asset in multiculturalism. But, cultural diversity thrives through sustained contact at the community, official, and business levels.

Now, why might the French and Europeans be interested in Canada?

First, Canada, as a bilingual and multicultural country, is able to draw very efficiently on a vast and varied pool of talent. It readily connects and works with partners overseas. Canada is a natural partner for worldwide operations. May I add that a key motivation for young French people to come to Canada is their desire to learn from the North American experience, and pick up English, while enjoying the advantages of our cultural diversity and dynamism.

Second, Canada has leapt very eagerly into the information society and developed numerous high-tech industries. The French know this. They admire our universities, our unique networks of excellence and our ability to manage complex systems and social conditions. By working with us, they share our strength.

Finally, as a nation and people, we have introduced significant political and social change. We have crossed the threshold into the 21st century. As the French gradually merge with the European Union and welcome an ever greater number of immigrants, they turn towards Canada for social innovations and for successful experiments in modernity.

I have had my say. Now perhaps Bill Laidlaw will allow me to rest for another three years.

To all of you here today, I give one final piece of advice. Reserve your Air Canada tickets. I invite you to come to Paris.

Thank you.

The appreciation of the meeting was expressed by John A. Campion, Partner, Fasken Martineau Dumoulin LLP and Past President, The Empire Club of Canada.

Desmond Morton, Professor of Military, Political and Industrial Relations History, McGill University.

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Canada, France and Europe: Is the Atlantic Ocean Shrinking?

Starting with three words: Canada, France and Europe. Highlighting the links that bind all three together and exploring where, together, we might go. The origins, nature and consequences of our historical links with Europe. The present, notably the importance of economics and trade. Why the speaker believes that in some very important respects the Atlantic Ocean is shrinking and why Toronto and Canada should take advantage of this. The nature of our relationship to Europe. What it means for Canadians today. Exploring a common purpose. Business, and opportunity. Business as a two-way street. Falling short of our potential. Ways in which the Atlantic has in some respects widened. How it has shrunk. Why Canada should draw closer to Europe. Why the French and Europeans would be interested in Canada.