Governor General of Canada

Governor General of Canada

July 11, 2007 15:31 ET

Her Excellency the Right Honourable Michaelle Jean, Speech on the Occasion of a State Visit to the Federative Republic of Brazil, Brasilia, Wednesday, July 11, 2007


OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - July 11, 2007) -

This is not my first visit to your country.

In June 1992, I was in Rio for the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development.

I was here as a journalist with Canada's public television network, and I passionately followed the commitment of those fighting to protect the world's biodiversity.

I thought it was not only appropriate, but also an inspired decision to hold the conference in a country that is home to the Amazon forests, which alone are an ode to biological vitality and constitute a "green lung" for all of humanity.

I came to see Brazil as an international meeting place in favour of all forms of life.

For me, the rallying cry for life that rose up from your country-a cry that was heard by the entire world-remains forever linked with Brazil.

And so, Excellency, I am delighted to see that the hope that was sparked 15 years ago at that conference has since spread to every sector of Brazilian society.

In fact, I think it is finally time for Brazil to reach its full potential, a potential that is as rich and promising as the incredible gift of nature that surrounds you.

I am proud to see all the progress Brazilians have made over the past few years to create a place for themselves on the world stage.

And I stand before you today on behalf of all Canadians to extend our friendship and admiration for the wave of democracy that has washed over Brazil and led to extraordinary achievements.

We wholeheartedly support your desire, Excellency, to combine economic stability with a policy of social inclusion, and we congratulate you for it.

As you yourself said, "where there is hunger there is no hope." And, "hunger nurtures violence and fanaticism."

Your "Fome Zero" program, which assures a basic income to over 11 million Brazilian families, is remarkable.

Like you, we believe that people who have the means to feed themselves, stay healthy, and access education create responsible societies.

And we believe that freedom of expression, the rule of law, and respect for human rights are what encourage the growth of prosperity.

We are thrilled with the vitality of the trade relations between our two countries. Brazil is the largest investor in Canada from Central and South America.

And Canada would like to double our trade relations by 2012.

Brazil's commercial success is impressive and has continually increased these past few years. Your country drives the South American economy.

The Americas and the world see you as a model for development.

For so many women, men and children, you represent the desire to live a better life in a society that is more just, fair and peaceful.

Today, Brazil embodies that hope.

And it is that hope that I have come to honour and celebrate on behalf of the Canadian people.

Brazil and Canada are partners in a number of international organizations, notably the WTO, the OAS, and UNESCO.

I would also like to mention the work that we do with nine other Central and South American countries to help our brothers and sisters in Haiti to break the devastating cycle of misery and violence.

I was born in Haiti, and my family fled to escape the then-merciless regime of Francois Duvalier.

I know what it means to be able to live in a country like Canada, where anything is possible if you work hard enough.

And I sincerely hope that the rest of the world recognizes this outpouring of solidarity toward the people of Haiti as a symbol of the ties that unite everyone in the Americas.

I also see it as an ethical responsibility, which does your country and the other participants credit and deepens our sense of humanity.

I would like to echo your words, Excellency: we must not "make the mistake of ignoring the hideous cry of the excluded."

You said that, "the poor must be given reasons to live, not to kill or die."

May your words be a source of inspiration to all of us here in the Americas, and to people all over the world.

May the young people following in our footsteps hear your words and consider them carefully.

I know that there are a great many young people in Brazil.

These last few days, I have met young people committed to their communities and at the University of Bahia.

As a matter of fact, among the delegation accompanying me on this State Visit, there are young people who are just as committed to the promotion of social justice and as interested in spreading their realm of action.

There are currently 12,000 Brazilian students in Canada.

And so there are 12,000 new bonds of friendship being formed between the young people of our two countries, which can only strengthen our profitable collaboration.

Young people from all over the Americas will soon descend upon Brazil to take part in the Pan American Games.

Canada would like to sincerely thank you for welcoming them in such large numbers and for giving them all an experience that will remain forever etched in their memories.

I strongly believe that our memories are intangible, precious beacons that light our way into the future.

And the memory of the woman you see before you has very deep roots in Africa.

It gave me great pleasure to explore my ancestors' heritage during a State visit I took last fall to five African countries.

I know that Brazil has the largest population of people of African descent outside Africa.

I am told that of the approximately 15 million Africans who crossed the Atlantic in the holds of slave ships, roughly 3.5 million landed in Brazil.

Those African roots are now embedded in Brazil and run through its very heart.

I have seen traces of these roots every where I have been to date, especially in Salvador, where I began this trip.

These past few days, I have witnessed in Salvador the work the NGOs accomplish in the spirit of solidarity and in an attempt to combat social exclusion.

In Sao Paulo, the economic capital of your country, I have praised the vitality of our trade relations and the entrepreneurial spirit of the Canada-Brazil Chamber of Commerce.

I have told them that the determination of Brazilian investors in Canada must be a source of inspiration for us.

Moreover, my husband, Jean-Daniel Lafond, filmmaker, gathered artists, producers and creators, both Brazilians and Canadians, to discuss the impact of new technologies on the audiovisual environment.

In Rio, I will have the pleasure of participating in the official opening of the Pan American Games. I will also take the time to meet some NGOs who do remarkable work to mobilize youth otherwise lost to the streets.

I was so anxious to meet you in Brasilia, Mr. President, to share with you my perceptions of your country and to see again the man I met 12 years ago when I was still a journalist. A man who is now at the head of a country which is becoming one of the great powers of the 21st century.

I would like to end these remarks by quoting one of your authors, who I believe captures the significance and depth of the unshakeable convictions that Brazil and Canada both share.

Lya Luft wrote: Only in truly believing the notion that life is good and that we deserve freedom and happiness can we share it with others.

We do believe this, Excellency, and we support you in this belief.

Thank you.

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