November 29, 2014
Prime Minister Stephen Harper today delivered the following remarks at the opening ceremony of the 15th Summit of La Francophonie:
“Mr. President Sall of the Republic of Senegal, for the second time in two years, I thank you for your hospitality.
“Secretary General Abdou Diouf, my fellow Canadians, Premier Couillard of Quebec, Premier Gallant of New Brunswick, heads of state and government, delegates, my first words will be to thank the Government of Senegal, and especially the City of Dakar, for being such a friendly host once again – for the great family of La Francophonie.
“It so happens that Canada has hosted the Summit the most often – on three occasions.
“So we know how much dedication, determination and imagination are needed to put on such a large and important event.
“You have done a wonderful job, and we thank you, ‘Djere Jeff,’ but as it has already been mentioned, Senegal’s role in the history of the Francophonie goes far beyond hosting two summits in Dakar.
“Indeed, we are here today in the homeland of l’Organisation internationale de la Francophonie.
“It was from here that Léopold Sedar Senghor exerted over so many years the fervour and the faith that would finally give rise to La Francophonie.
“And already in 1963, he had a young and brilliant collaborator in Abdou Diouf, who would also closely participate in the institution that brings us together here today.
“Together, those two men, those two great Senegalese, transformed the dream of La Francophonie into a modern, credible and effective multilateral organization.
“As Prime Minister for 11 years and President for 19 years, Abdou Diouf always remained admirably faithful to the ideal of his mentor.
“Like a good father, he guided La Francophonie from birth to the age of maturity.
“What he accomplished is now part of history, like this Abdou Diouf Centre.
“Ladies and gentlemen, today and tomorrow we will have the opportunity to further strengthen the foundations of La Francophonie in adopting the Economic Strategy decided on at Kinshasa, as well as the 2015-2022 Strategic Framework, in which Canada has been an active participant.
“We commend President Macky Sall on his wise decision to centre this year’s Summit on the themes of youth and women.
“That admirably dovetails with Canada’s top international development priority: maternal, newborn and child health.
“Ladies and gentlemen, every year, thousands of women do not survive pregnancy or childbirth, and in 2013, over six million children died before their fifth birthday.
“That is why, in 2010, when we chaired the G-8, Canada called for a global effort to reduce maternal mortality and improve the health of mothers and children in the world’s poorest countries.
“That initiative has already yielded very encouraging results.
“Between 2010 and 2013 – in just three years – two million deaths were prevented because children had access to basic vaccines.
“Yesterday, accompanied by Prime Minister Dionne, I announced a new major contribution by Canada to promote immunization, one of the pillars of our maternal and child health strategy.
“And tomorrow, the participants in this Summit will be called on to adopt a Canadian resolution on maternal, newborn and child health.
“Maternal mortality rates are also down.
“I firmly believe that it is possible to put an end to preventable maternal and child deaths within a generation.
“The contribution of non-governmental organizations remains critical to achieving that goal.
“And I commend the NGO representatives who are here with us today.
“There is another field in which we can and must act: child marriages, early marriages, and forced marriages.
“Between 2004 and 2014, 100 million girls will have been forced to marry before they have reached adulthood.
“When girls cannot achieve their full potential, everyone suffers: the girls, their children, their communities, and their countries.
“The family is the foundation of any society.
“But how can the unity and harmony of the family be preserved when it is formed in constraint, in inequality?
“Ladies and gentlemen, unexpected situations can also arise that call for international solidarity, like the Ebola virus.
“Fortunately, thanks to the remarkable prevention efforts of government authorities and medical personnel, Senegal has escaped the worst effects of the disease.
“But the situation is still of great concern in some West African countries.
“Canada has responded quickly to that threat by supporting the affected countries and their neighbours.
“Other measures have been announced at the Summit, including the forthcoming deployment of medical teams and troops on the ground to assist local populations.
“In addition to providing mobile laboratories, we will also contribute experimental vaccines and financial assistance to the World Health Organization and other international partners.
“Mr. President, Mr. Secretary General, distinguished guests, in closing, I want to ensure you and the entire Francophonie that Canada remains committed to the remarkable work that is your legacy.
“And we will always stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our international Francophone brothers and sisters, especially in connection with economic development, human rights, and democracy.
“Canada may undoubtedly seem very far away for some participants in this conference.
“But ever since Samuel de Champlain founded our first national capital, Québec City, in 1608, the French language and culture have been part of Canada’s DNA.
“They were only a handful of brave pioneers who spent the first winter on the North American continent.
“Today, over 10 million Canadian Francophones have their place in the sun, and thanks to the international Francophonie, they can express their pride and their hope throughout the world.
“As in all countries of the Francophonie, there are many different accents in Canada.
“French is spoken with an Acadian accent, an accent of Saguenay – Lac Saint-Jean, eastern Montréal, and many others.
“That is what the Mayor of Québec City, Régis Labeaume, calls the ‘accent of the Americas.’
“But with one voice, we say today: long live La Francophonie!
Statement by the Prime Minister Of Canada at the 15th Summit of La Francophonie