Address by High Commissioner Gaston Barban on the Occasion of Canada Day 2015 Reception
1 July 2015
Honourable Mr. Andries Nel, Deputy Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs;
Ambassador Bene M’Poko, Dean of the Diplomatic Corps;
Your Excellencies, fellow Ambassadors and High Commissioners;
Other distinguished members of the diplomatic corps;
South African Government Officials;
High Commission of Canada colleagues,
South African friends;
Fellow citizens of Canada;
Mesdames et messieurs
Joyeuse fête du Canada - Happy Canada Day to one and all!
Welcome to the grounds of the Official Residence of Canada and thank you for accepting our invitation to celebrate Canada’s national day.
The theme of this year’s Canada Day is the national flag of the country so prominently displayed here today. 2015 marks the 50th anniversary of the distinctive red and white maple leaf flag, and it has been an important and recognizable symbol of the country since 1965.
Before I go further, let me extend my thanks to my spouse Jane Barban for her rendition of O Canada … and to Leote Taylor, one of South Africa’s most talented young singers, for the beautiful Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika.
I also wish to thank Canadian Michael Rae and the Soweto Marimba Youth League for entertaining us and creating a festive atmosphere for today’s event.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
On July 1 Canadians celebrate the birthday of their country.
Canada is 148 years old today having been founded on July 1, 1867.
Canada is a country imbued with a long history of stability, peace and prosperity— and a geography of resource wealth, natural beauty and environmental diversity, of which are most proud and grateful.
Our identity has been shaped by our human diversity: our Aboriginal people, that is, the First Nations, the Inuit and the Métis; by our French and British heritage; by our two official languages of English and French; by the millions of immigrants from all corners of the world who have come to our shores; and by our national commitment to societal peace and tolerance, the rule of law and good government.
J’aimerais ajouter quelques mots en français, surtout à mes compatriotes francophones ici présents, pour souligner l’importance de la langue et la culture française dans l’histoire du Canada et comme le fait français au Canada et le bilinguisme fédéral sont des éléments fondamentaux de l’identité canadienne. Et cette année, nous pouvons être fiers du fait qu’une canadienne francophone, Michaelle Jean, ait été nommée secrétaire-général de l’organisation international de la Francophonie.
Canada is also a country that, over the years, has become influential in world affairs and has done its part to contribute to world peace and economic stability. It has done this: through its active membership in major multilateral organizations from the UN, G20 and G7, the Commonwealth and la Francophonie, to name just a few; through the provision of humanitarian assistance throughout the world, including recently to the victims of Ebola in West Africa; and by its actions and support to fight threats to world security in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Ukraine.
Honourable Deputy Minister,
Canada and South Africa have longstanding and friendly relations. Indeed Canada has been associated with this land and its people for many years.
This property and the imposing white building behind me has been in the possession of Canada since 1948 … 67 years.
But connections between Canada and South Africa go back further. The first Canadians who came here were soldiers fighting with the British in the Anglo-Boer war at the turn of the 20th century.
Later Canada and the Union of South Africa were self-governing dominions in the British Empire, fighting alongside each other in the First World War, and then working to bring full autonomy to the dominions after the war. Official relations were established in 1942. After the Second World War, the countries began to grow apart as the Union of South Africa implemented its apartheid policy, a policy in direct contradiction to the new Commonwealth where a race-based system was simple inacceptable.
In 1961, Canada took a lead in ensuring that South Africa was not readmitted to the Commonwealth.
With the election of Brian Mulroney as prime minister in 1985, together with his foreign minister, Joe Clark, Canada took a leadership position in the anti-apartheid struggle, supporting disenfranchised South Africans and urging countries to pressure for change. In the 90s Canada greatly assisted the new democracy, providing many advisors and help in building the democratic infrastructure of the new Republic of South Africa, including with the drafting of the South African constitution.
And, the late, great Nelson Mandela, whose birth we will commemorate in 17 days on July 18, was greatly admired by Canadians. He came to Canada many times and was the first foreigner to be conferred with the Order of Canada, and he was made an Honorary Citizen of Canada in 1999.
In short, Canada and South Africa have over a century of history between them and, I am happy to say, we are friends.
These friendly relations continue with many people-to-people exchanges, as our students, workers, tourists and business people visit each other’s shores.
Commercially there is significant trade, over 15 billion rand in annual two-way trade, as well as an important Canadian commercial and investment presence in the country.
And with that, I will now take a moment to thank our Canadian corporate sponsors who helped make this reception possible.
Our Premier Partners:
Bombardier Transportation SA: builder of the cars and locomotives of the Gautrain and soon to be manufacturing, here in South Africa, electric locomotives for Transnet.
BlackBerry SA: maker of one of the most popular smart phones on the continent and certainly the most secure one on the planet.
Platinum Group Metals: a large investor in the Western Bushveld, north of Rustenburg, where its large platinum mine will go onto full production later this year, providing jobs to 2,400 South Africans.
FaskenMartineau: one of Canada’s largest international law firms and the biggest in Africa with offices in Johannesburg since 2003.
Ivanplats, an Ivanhoe Mines Company: investing millions in its Platreef Project in Limpopo to build what will be among the largest platinum-group metals mines in the world.
Our Supporting Partners:
Air Canada – code-sharing flights with South African Airways to connect Canada and South Africa in the air.
Open Text – providing information management solutions to governments and companies across this land.
Four Seasons Hotel –managers and operators of the newly restored, beautiful Westcliffe Hotel in Johannesburg.
Thank you Partners!
In addition to our commercial relations, we have extensive cooperation between our police on drug interdiction and stopping child pornography to name two areas, and our military are in close liaison on training programs and security cooperation.
Our immigration and border-control officers work together to stop the illegal movement of goods and people, especially to identify fraudulent documentation.
Our development cooperation program, so fundamental in the early days of the new democracy, continues to assist with public sector capacity building programs.
At the level of senior officials, our two governments cooperate through the annual Canada- South Africa Consultations. The 10th such consultations will take place in Ottawa later in 2015 and will see progress on the implementation of a recently signed MOU on mining cooperation, an industrial security arrangement, a nuclear cooperation agreement, space agency collaboration, expansion of links in higher education and further capacity building through development cooperation, to name a few.
Deputy Minister, ladies and gentlemen, to conclude, Canada and South Africa relations are growing and, despite the geographic distance that separates us, continue to grow. This is based on a long history of engagement and friendship and on a mutual desire to advance the security and prosperity of our citizens.
Let us continue to work together to realize this most worthy goal.
High Commission of Canada, Pretoria