Speech: Defence Minister Harjit S. Sajjan


Opening Plenary

Major-General Tammy Harris: Many of you will know our first speaker of the day, the Canadian host of today’s conference, the honourable Harjit Sajjan. Minister Sajjan was a detective with the Vancouver police department. He has undertaken four operational tours as a military reservist and since November of 2015 he has served as Canada's Minister of National Defence.

In June of this year he led the development and release of Canada's new defence policy, Strong Secure and Engaged. Minister Sajjan was elected as a Member of Parliament in 2015 and he represents the constituency of Vancouver South. I can personally say he is a strong advocate and champion for the integration of gender perspectives into military operations and planning. Ladies and gentlemen, it gives me great pleasure to welcome Minister Sajjan to speak to you today.

Hon. Harjit Sajjan: Ladies and gentlemen, first I'd like to acknowledge that we are on the uncededterritory of the Coast Salish peoples. Mr. Prime Minister, Mme Jean, General Dallaire ,M. Lacroix, M. Khare, fellow Canadian Ministers, Excellencies, delegates.

Welcome again to Vancouver. It's nice to see the sun peeking through the clouds. We've had a great day. We have a great day ahead of us thanks to our impressive range of panelists with a real depth of experience and expertise. I want to acknowledge the efforts of our cohosts for this ministerial: Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Japan, the Netherlands, Pakistan, Rwanda, the United Kingdom, the United States, Uruguay and of course the United Nations.

I would like to express our collective gratitude to those who helped pave the way for this ministerial with the preparatory meetings in recent months in Tokyo, Kigali and Dacca. We come together at a crucial time. There has been a concerted effort over the last several years to modernize the United Nations peacekeeping to better reflect and respond to the challenges of our modern world whether it's the impact of non-state actors or the proliferation of small arms or the egregious exploitation of women and children.

The challenges of the 21st century require outstanding leadership and coordinated action across the globe. We must rethink traditional elements of our operations, the training, equipment, capabilities, outreach to meet the need. We must consider how we as member states form our own contributions. This includes working closely as militaries, police, equipment and financial contributions and taking a whole of government approach as we work to address the root causes of conflict.

We must explore new ways of focusing on prevention, being more responsive and engaging more women. Last week Canada took a significant step to do just that. We announced the release of Canada's national action plan on women, peace and security. This plan will go a long way to helping Canada increase the integration of gender perspectives into our internal policies and our operations abroad as well.

We believe these types of initiatives are key to our progress in doing peacekeeping differently and better. We know there are critical gaps confronting the United Nations peacekeeping operations. This conference will encourage and highlight pledges that will deliver tangible results and resources.

Last night I spoke about the challenge before us, the need to identify what we can do better and what we must do differently. It is this challenge we need to keep in mind as we move throughout the day today and throughout the range of sessions we're going to be having. Whether it's integrating gender perspectives, enhancing policing or developing second language abilities in order for troops to operate in the numerous francophone conflict areas, we must be willing to try new approaches that better reflect the reality of our world today.

A world where our personnel are tasked to deliver complex mandates. We all have a vested interest in addressing the many challenges in conflict zones around the globe. Collaboration among partners is crucial to strengthening of peace and security around the world. UN peacekeeping has a remarkable history of achievement. It is now time to write the next chapter. Let us resolve today to be the authors of meaningful progress that will bring safety and solace to at risk populations around the world. Merci beaucoup.

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