Address by Minister Freeland to open the Women Foreign Ministers’ Meeting
September 25, 2018 - Montréal, Quebec
Check against delivery. This speech has been translated in accordance with the Government of Canada’s official languages policy and edited for posting and distribution in accordance with its communications policy.
I would like to welcome everyone to the city of Montréal for this meeting of women foreign ministers. I would like to begin by recognizing that we are on the traditional territory of the Kanien’keha:ka Nation and I would like to thank Elder Annie Konwaronhia:wi Deer, who we just heard, for welcoming us so beautifully and poetically here today. She said to me as we were getting ready to come in that a meeting of women leaders together must be very powerful. She was very keen to get us started and I think she did a wonderful job.
Today and tomorrow, we will discuss key foreign policy issues and the pressing challenges facing the world. In the world of politics, it is important to join our voices and discuss these topics together. This is an opportunity to send a powerful message that we, women foreign ministers as well as all women around the world, are involved at all levels of society. We are essential links in finding solutions to the political, economic and social challenges facing our societies.
It has been a while since my co-chair, Federica Mogherini, and I were talking about having a meeting like this one. From the first moment we announced these meetings, during the G7 Foreign Ministers meeting in Toronto in April 2018 until now, it has been a real pleasure to see our vision take shape.
We think that this is the first time that women foreign ministers of the world have gathered for a formal meeting. It is a historic moment and I am really proud and thrilled to be together with all of you for this moment. As foreign ministers, we all play crucial roles in representing our countries globally. I think all of us appreciate very personally what a challenging job that is in this world today.
We all know that prosperity, peace and security are more likely in places where women and all people in our societies can actively participate in political life and where the fundamental rights of all people are respected. In Canada, one of the first things Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did after our election in 2015 was to announce Canada’s first gender-balanced Cabinet. As he said when we walked out of Rideau Hall, he did it because it’s 2015.
We are very proud of the fact that women here in Canada not only participate equally at the highest levels in our Cabinet, but are also able to use their experiences as women to shape and influence the important policy decisions of our country. Women can bring to bear that knowledge of the ways in which policies can have a different effect on women and girls. That is why Canada has pursued a feminist foreign policy. I am so glad that Margot Wallström, Sweden’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, is here with us, as she pioneered the notion that you can have a feminist foreign policy. That is the idea that the equality of women and men, of girls and boys, can be a central objective, a central defining moment, of what we do as ministers in the world.
Canada made gender equality a priority of its G7 presidency. At the summit in June, we worked together with other G7 countries and the world to secure a $3.8-billion investment in education for women and girls in crisis and conflict situations. Our international assistance policy is explicitly a feminist international assistance policy and we have an ambitious national action plan on women, peace and security, which is one of the issues we will be discussing here. As part of that effort, we have launched the Elsie Initiative for Women in Peace Operations to increase the role of women in peacekeeping.
As minister of foreign affairs and as a committed feminist, I know that all of our efforts to advance our diplomatic, trade, security and development priorities must fully take into account the needs of women and girls. I will always promote equal representation and respect for the rights of women and girls, as well as access to leadership positions and equal opportunities at home and abroad.
Because when we are all involved in decision-making processes, then our societies become stronger, our economies and our middle class become more prosperous and our countries safer.
I really would like to thank all of you very, very much. I know how busy every single one of you is. Thank you for being here, for coming to Canada, for coming to Montréal and for participating in what I am convinced is going to be a wonderful and important conversation.
Office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs
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