New Challenges for Crisis Management in the Asia-Pacific

Speech

Notes for The Honourable Harjit Singh Sajjan
Minister of National Defence

International Institute for Strategic Studies
Shangri La Dialogue 2017

Singapore
3 June 2017

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(Thank you ….)

Esteemed panelists,

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is an honour for me to attend the Shangri-La Dialogue for the second year in a row, and to be welcomed warmly once again.

I wish to thank and congratulate the International Institute for Strategic Studies for your leadership in fostering security cooperation and dialogue through bridge-building opportunities like this. As always, I welcome the opportunity to hear the perspectives of others, and share Canada’s approaches and contributions to crisis management.

Canada has a long history of engagement in the Asia Pacific. We can proudly say that Canada was among one of the first countries in the world to establish ties with Singapore in 1965, and diplomatic ties with China in 1970. As ASEAN celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, you may also know that this marks Canada’s 40th anniversary as a Dialogue Partner.

As you know, we are a founding member of the ASEAN Regional Forum and a strong supporter of ASEAN’s important role in shaping the way Asian countries work together today.

Ladies and gentlemen, Canada is – very much – a part of the Pacific community. We will always hold a vested interest in this region’s security, stability, and continuing prosperity.

We are a country with over 25,000 km of Pacific coastline and many of our top trading partners are in Asia.

But on a more personal note, I feel a particular connection whenever I travel to other countries in the Asia Pacific, because this is where I – and so many other Canadians – were born.

Asia has been the largest source of immigrants to Canada for many years. Like me, over 2.3 million Canadians immigrated to Canada from across Asia. More than one million of them were from Southeast Asia. They have added a tremendous richness and diversity to Canada’s cultural fabric.

Canada views diversity as a source of strength, connecting us to the world and the world to us. I know this is a belief that is shared by ASEAN member states.

I have travelled to the Asia Pacific several times since taking office. As Minister of Defence, the value of building bridges between Canada and this region is quite clear.

Just this April, I traveled to India and Malaysia, where I met with my counterparts to discuss a range of common security concerns and opportunities to work together in support of common goals. And last year, I traveled to New Zealand and Australia to reinforce and build upon our excellent defence relations.

As Canada commits to engaging in the Asia Pacific, we are aware of the changing nature of modern conflicts and crises. The message of violent extremism is able to spread more quickly than ever before through new technologies.

Devastating natural disasters are increasingly conditioned by the effects of climate change. And territorial and maritime boundary disputes can further cause setbacks to the region’s stability. 

I believe crisis management is about more than just doing things right. It is also about doing the right things. 

That is why, like many of our friends in the region, Canada is taking a constructive approach, and recommitting to the principle of multilateralism.

We know that coordinated and multilateral approaches to crisis management, along with investments in prevention, hold the key to crisis preparedness. Canada puts that knowledge into action with concrete defence engagements with partners and allies.

I am proud of the fact that Canada funds ASEAN’s Operation Sunbird, a counter-terrorism partnership with Interpol, based out of Singapore. Just last month, this initiative resulted in the arrests of 17 terror suspects.

Canada has also continued investing in our Counter-Terrorism Capacity Building Program, which provides counter-terrorism training, equipment, and technical assistance to ASEAN Regional Forum members.

In particular, our Counter-IED program with Indonesia and the Philippines has trained over 900 regional law enforcement officers at the Jakarta Center for Law Enforcement Cooperation.

Canada has also partnered with Malaysia to help first responders prepare for terrorist attacks.

The Government of Canada applauds Malaysia for its efforts on de-radicalization through their innovative Digital Counter Messaging Center.

Of course, we know that violent conflict is not the only thing that destabilizes a region. Natural disasters can equally throw nations, populations and governments into chaos. Canada is committed to taking decisive action on climate security.

For example, Canada’s Disaster Assistance Response Team – the DART – was created to work with local and regional governments in disaster affected areas.

The DART is made up of military and civilian personnel who can deploy on short notice anywhere in the world to respond to natural disasters and humanitarian emergencies.

In recent years, the DART was part of the international response to the 2015 earthquake in Nepal, and after Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines in 2013.

During times of need, Canada remains committed to working together with affected countries, humanitarian actors and the international community.

The recent military exercise for ASEAN’s Disaster Response, hosted by Singapore last January, is an excellent example of joining efforts on Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief.

We are also building our relationship with this important region in other ways. For the past two months, we have deployed two warships to the Asia Pacific on Exercise Poseidon Cutlass. During this six-month deployment Canada will visit numerous ports, participate in interoperability exercises and train with regional partners. HMCS Winnipeg arrived just this week, marking the third such visit this year.

And in September, our women and men of the Canadian Armed Forces participated in Op RENDER SAFE with the Australian Defence Force to dispose of explosive remnants of the Second World War.

Finally, Canada is only one of three nations that has participated in every RIMPAC since its inception.

When undertaken through established security frameworks and norms, these efforts all help to erode other stumbling blocks. 

We are also deeply concerned about regional tensions that have been escalating for a number of years and have the potential to undermine peace and stability.

It is essential that all states in the region exercise restraint and avoid coercion and actions that will escalate tension.

The current tensions facing the Korean Peninsula, for example.

Canada calls on North Korea to comply fully with its international obligations, cease its pattern of illegal and destabilizing actions.

We will continue to work with international partners to address North Korea’s destabilizing actions.

Canada is determined to play a very constructive role in addressing multilateral challenges and crises throughout the Asia-Pacific region and around the world.

Like many of our Asian partners, we are also bolstering our support for the work of the United Nations, as well as pledging additional personnel and related capabilities for peace operations. I am happy to say that Canada will be hosting the next UN Peacekeeping Defence Ministerial meeting in Vancouver this November.

We believe the role of the military in peacekeeping should be to stabilize a region so development, economic and humanitarian activities can safely take place. Because we understand that these are the building blocks of peace.

Canada is ready and willing to do its part to create a more secure world.  We recognize the challenges facing the global community – including Asia – are too vast and too complex to be taken on by a single country, or region, alone.

A coordinated, multinational approach is needed to enhance our collective ability to confront them.

This week, I will have the honour of unveiling our new Defence Policy to Canadians.

This policy is the result of the largest Government of Canada consultations in history with Canadians, defence experts and our allies I look forward to many more constructive conversations in the days to come.

As always, our Asia-Pacific partners can count on Canada. We will be there to engage with you, learn from you, and support you as we all move forward together. Our commitment to crisis management, conflict resolution and peace support is unwavering in a challenging and changing world.

Thank you.


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