By CHRIS GRAEME [email protected]
Members of the diplomatic and political community in Lisbon bade a sad farewell to outgoing Canadian Ambassador to Portugal, Anne-Marie Bourcier, and her husband Jean-Guy Saint Martin last week.
Addressing around 300 guests invited to celebrate Canada Day, the ambassador said it had been her privilege to travel the length and breadth of the country and make many friends.
“It’s not my habit to talk on national days, but today is a very special day – Canada’s National Day – to celebrate the anniversary of Canada’s foundation as an independent state,” said the ambassador who leaves her post in August to enter retirement.
On July 1, Canadians around the world remember that in 1867 a confederation of four Canadian provinces joined together to give birth to Canada. In subsequent years, other provinces joined, culminating in Newfoundland and Labrador, joining Canada in 1949.
This year, Canadians from Canada’s 10 provinces and three territories are celebrating at home and abroad the country’s 140th birthday.
“Canada and Portugal enjoy very good relations dating back to the 16th century. Although formal diplomatic relations only started in 1946, both countries are linked by common ideals and values,” she said.
“We are active together in multinational institutions. Portugal is an important host for Canadian investment and a source of investment in Canada. Portugal is a European Union member country and a very sympathetic and effective channel for bringing Canadian views and concerns before the bodies of this institution,” she added.
Portugal was also a source of recent immigrants who have become a well integrated community of an estimated 500,000 Luso-Canadians who maintain very close ties to Portugal.
This time last year, Germany, Canada and Portugal were in a race for two positions on the United Nations Security Council for the period of 2011 and 2012.
“Germany and Portugal won that race and we congratulate both, particularly Portugal, a very well deserved expression of confidence in this country’s ability to contribute towards global diplomacy.
For many pivotal regions of the globe, we are in an exceptional period of change and conflict, with future developments that are far from clear and possibly threatening,” remarked the ambassador.
Portugal would have a particularly important international role, an opportunity to share in the management and resolution of these challenges in the coming years.
Canada would join other nations with an active and common interest in global affairs in supporting and cooperating with Portugal in carrying out its important responsibilities on the Security Council.
Portugal held elections in June, in Canada it was in May. In Canada’s case, it was a return to office for the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, with a stronger mandate and majority government able to plan and deliver long-term policy for a much more secure position than was the case in the previous minority parliament.
In Portugal also, the result had been a stable majority coalition more conducive to long-term policies. For both Canada’s and Portugal’s new governments, economic recovery and fiscal consolidation would top the agendas of both nations.
The importance of an open and efficient global trade and investment environment has never been greater than now. In this context, we are now engaged with the European Union in the most important and ambitious trade negotiation Canada has undertaken since the North American Agreement, concluded with neighbouring United States and Mexico.
Portugal has been a consistently strong supporter and a contributor to this important initiative in opening markets and establishing the environment for a much greater transatlantic economic exchange and integration than exist at present.
Among the illustrious guests at this year’s Canada Day was the Director of the European Bank for Reconstruction & Development, Dr. João Cravinho, and the President of cement giant Cimpor, Professor. António José de Castro Guerra, the impresario and modern art collector Joe Berardo, the former first lady Maria Barroso Soares, seasoned ambassador, António Santana Carlos, currently diplomatic advisor to Lisbon Mayor António Costa, and President of the National Cultural Centre, Dr. Guilherme de Oliveira Martins.