Speech on the Occasion of the Luncheon with the Presidents of the Senate and Chamber of Deputies
Valparaíso, Chile, Tuesday, May 8, 2001
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Thank you so much for this warm welcome. I really appreciate it enormously, and I know our whole delegation appreciates it.
It is wonderful to sit in this room and look at Valparaíso, which I first came to in 1987. And I managed to make it up and down five elevators – a wonderful thing to do at the time. I know I'm not going to have time to repeat this today, so I'll have to settle for looking at the city from on high.
And here I am again in your beautiful country. And at the onset of winter in the southern part of the Americas.
It makes me think of Pablo Neruda's poem, "Winter Garden":
This is springtime also. I had the great fortune, more than a decade ago, the time that I was going up and down the elevators to witness this springtime, which has continued blossoming ever since. It was a time when Chile was leaving a kind of winter that had blanketed the land for too long.
And to return to Neruda and his poem "Many Thanks", which I will read in English:
The precision of spring is, in my view, as much a statement of resolution as it is of renascence and thanks.
And now, thirteen years later, I have returned to Chile to see for myself this resolve, this precision.
We have come from Canada for this State Visit to Chile, to make genuine contact with Chileans and to learn more about the wealth of your culture. And we hope that you will have the opportunity to look at "the face of Canada" and gain a greater appreciation of the meaning of our culture, through the people making up our delegation.
We think of the term culture in a very broad sense – embracing, for example, political culture, democratic ideals and indigenous peoples' rights.
On this visit are Canadians who have distinguished themselves in their fields. Ours is a delegation comprising artists and writers and literary translators; representatives of our Aboriginal peoples; Directors of our National Gallery and National Library; specialists in agricultural area and in medical research, particularly telemedicine and teleconferencing; development specialists; a cabinet minister, Mr. Dion; and senior government officials.
And of course, here in Chile, our leading Canadian wine-makers and experts from the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia and the Niagara Peninsula in Ontario.
With us today at this luncheon are parliamentarians with long and distinguished years of service – at both the federal and provincial level.
I am personally delighted that today here in the Senate, I should meet my first friend in Chile, Senator Serio Betar, whom I met in 1987 at the time when we thought democracy was going to return to Chile.
I met him again in 1988 when I came as a non-governmental observer from Canada for the plebiscite and then shortly thereafter when President Aylwin was inaugurated. So it is a pleasure to see him and to renew this contact.
Which brings me back to political culture. At this luncheon not only do you, as members of the Chilean Senate and Chamber of Deputies, have the opportunity to meet with some of our parliamentarians, a privilege which is mutual, but you also have an opportunity to think about recent and highly positive developments concerning relations between parliamentarians throughout the Americas.
Less than two months ago, I had the honour of hosting representatives from 34 countries of the Americas who were attending the first meeting of the Foro Inter-Parlamentario de las Americas, or Inter-Parliamentary Forum of the Americas. And I hosted them at my house, our official residence in Ottawa, Rideau Hall.
Chileans have been a very strong force in the creation of this new Forum, which will strengthen relations among the democracies of the Western Hemisphere. This is a good thing, and I applaud all of you who have worked so hard to make this happen.
I am also very delighted that the Chilean Parliament ratified last week the Ottawa Convention banning anti-personnel landmines. This is a cause that has been very close not only to the heart of our government but also to the people of Canada.
When I say that Chile and Canada have things in common, what I really mean to say is that we have people in common.
Events of the past years caused a number of extremely talented Chileans to make their home in Canada. Indeed, in our Canadian Delegation is Rafael Goldchain, the photographer. And I shall be opening an exhibition of his work at the Biblioteca Nacional on Thursday.
A number of these Chilean-Canadians have returned to Chile, and we hope to meet some of them at a reading at La Chascona tomorrow.
I spoke about the anti-personnel landmine treaty as being very close to our heart. We know the difficulties and the horrors of anti-personnel landmines, because we are so involved as a country in international peacekeeping.
Major General Cameron Ross is with us, and his contribution to peacekeeping has been enormous. As Governor General and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Canada, I have been very moved by his stories of how much danger our troops abroad have been able to avert now that this treaty is in place – and also how much still remains to be done.
We are here to listen to what you have to say and to strengthen the natural warmth and understanding that our countries now have.
And we have much in common. Our two countries are outward-looking and both are the product of a colonial past. We both have rich and profound indigenous cultures to which we have not always accorded the full dignity and respect they deserved.
These indigenous cultures have much to teach us – especially as we face growing globalization. Our nation-building is not complete – and cannot be complete – until we recognize this fact and bring our aboriginal cultures fully into our national identities.
Neruda described Chile as having the "elongated shape of an albatross with extended wings". We in this Delegation are hoping very much to learn more of this beautiful, wandering and lofty bird. That is the purpose of our visit.