STATEMENT BY THE PRIME MINISTER OF CANADA in Toronto
June 2, 2014
Prime Minister Stephen Harper today delivered the following remarks at the Tribute to Liberty Dinner in Toronto:
“Thank you very much.
“Thank you, Senator Ngo for that kind introduction, and thank you all, ladies and gentlemen, for that very warm welcome.
“Distinguished guests, colleagues from the Parliament of Canada, ladies and gentlemen.
“We know the reason why we’re gathered together this evening, but let me briefly share with you the how.
“In 2008, Tribute to Liberty approached our Government with an idea and a question.
“First, the idea: to help construct a monument in our Nation’s Capital that would honour for all time the hundreds of millions of men, women and children who have struggled and continue to struggle against the tyranny of communism, those who lived and those who, tragically, did not.
“And second: would our Government work with them in carrying out this vision.
“Now you already know our answer.
“In 2010 in the Speech from the Throne, our Government made known our strong and clear support for Tribute to Liberty’s vision of a memorial to those who have suffered under communism.
“Let me take this opportunity to extend my gratitude to Tribute to Liberty, in particular, to you, Board Chair Klimkowski, to current Treasurer, past Chair Forstmanis, to the entire board, to all of the donors.
“The goal you have been working towards is important to Canadians, past and present, but it is especially so for future generations.
“For they must be forever reminded – forever – that the freedom and peace they stand to inherit was earned through struggle and sacrifice, and must always be cherished as a precious and unique thing.
“There are others who also deserve – some of my colleagues I know who also deserve – special thanks: Jason Kenney and the members of his team who have been invested in this project from the very beginning, John Baird, Shelly Glover, Senator Linda Frum, certainly Senator Yonah Kim-Martin, Senator Ngo, and of course my thanks to each and every one of you, because I know each and every one here has been a supporter.
“Thank you for your generous and ongoing support.
“And give all the organizers a very big hand for what they’ve done.
“Now friends, our work is nearly done.
“In fact, the Jury will be selecting the winning monument design team in a matter of months.
“And so, as they – as you – carry out this noble task, know that you have the admiration and appreciation of Canadians.
“For you mark a chapter in human history that is truly harrowing.
“During the 20th century, communism’s poisonous ideology and ruthless practice slowly bled into countries all around the world, on almost every continent.
“The result was nothing short of catastrophic.
“More than one hundred million souls were lost, an almost incomprehensible number.
“We must never forget that these are not numbers, they are not statistics.
“They were mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, friends and neighbours.
“Their futures, their potential, their hopes and dreams, were stolen from them.
“Our hearts break for those who suffered and we mourn for those who were crushed.
“In Canada, we feel this pain so acutely because nearly one quarter of all Canadians were either held captive by communism’s chains or are the sons and daughters of those who were.
“Indeed, throughout the 20th century, Canada became a haven for those fleeing communist governments, as Robert described to us, and a new home to those who wanted to live in freedom.
“And so, over nearly 100 years they came – your grandparents, mothers and fathers, uncles and aunts, brothers and sisters – you came, from Russia, Estonia, Ukraine, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Poland, Cambodia, the former Czechoslovakia, the former Yugoslavia, the former East Germany – I could go on – Vietnam, China, North Korea, Cuba, Albania and others.
“And when these freedom-seekers arrived, many having risked their lives to get here, instead of communism’s oppression, they found Canadian safety.
“Instead of communism’s restrictions, they found Canadian freedom.
“Instead of communism’s grim determinism, they found Canadian opportunity.
“Instead of communism’s fear, they found Canadian hope.
“Safety, freedom, opportunity, hope.
“That was Canada.
“And that is still our Canada today.
“Now since arriving here – once again I love the story Robert told us – but since arriving here these men and women worked hard.
“They raised strong families.
“They’ve upheld and promoted Canadian values.
“And through their innumerable contributions from coast to coast to coast, they have helped make Canada a better country.
“And friends, just as Canada combated communism at home by serving as a safe-haven for hundreds of thousands of immigrants and refugees, abroad, we vigorously defended freedom wherever it was threatened.
“Canadians know that the dangers and difficulties of the world do not go away simply by closing our eyes to them.
“And so with open eyes and a desire to do what is right and good, Canadians have led.
“During the Cold war, Canada was there on the frontier between East and West Germany.
“During those challenging years of one of my predecessors, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, stood shoulder to shoulder with the giants, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, President Ronald Reagan, and Pope, now Saint John Paul II, until the Cold War was successfully and decisively concluded.
“We threw our support and strength behind the people of the Baltic republics for 50 years, refusing to recognize their illegal annexation by the Soviet Union until they were finally liberated, as were the other captive nations of Eastern and Central Europe.
“Canada was a refuge for tens of thousands of Chinese fleeing the horrors of the Cultural Revolution.
“We welcomed more than sixty thousand Vietnamese refugees – the boat people – after the Fall of Saigon, as already been said including our first member of the Upper House of Vietnamese decent, Senator Ngo.
“We spoke out in those days against anti-Semitism in the Communist world, against the expulsion of Jewish citizens and against the horrific mass deportation of Crimean Tatars, the 70th anniversary of which we mark with sorrow, and with reminders unfortunately, this very month.
“Canada offered shelter to the Czech writer, Josef Skvorecky, and of course, to the Soviet defector Igor Gouzenko, who gave the west one of the very first warnings of the dangers to come in the Cold War, and who actually lived just a few blocks south of Parliament Hill.
“Canada was there in 1991 as the first western country to recognize a newly independent Ukraine and friends, Canada is still there for the people of Ukraine.
“In fact, there is no western country that has been closer and had closer ties to Ukraine than Canada, and you must know that we are all fiercely proud of that.
“Since the late 19th Century, we received with open arms hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian settlers.
“We called the Holodomor what it was, a mass genocide by starvation.
“And in 2008, at the initiative of my colleague James Bezan who’s here tonight, we passed an Act of Parliament declaring the fourth Saturday of November to be Holodomor Memorial Day in this country.
“Now ladies and gentlemen, I’m going to return to Ukraine in just a moment, because the current situation there has serious and far-reaching implications for peoples everywhere.
“But before I do, let me explain why it is that Canadians vigorously promote freedom, why so many Canadians have been willing to give their lives defending it.
“It’s simple, really.
“Freedom, for everyone, is at the heart of what it means to be Canadian.
“Canadians have a long history of guarding our freedoms at home.
“And we have an equally proud history of defending freedom abroad.
“Another one of my predecessors, Prime Minister St. Laurent, who served in the early post-war years, put it well when he said, and I quote: ‘The vigour and liberty of our national way of life are the foundations for playing our role in the Cold War.’
“A statement, I would add, that applies equally to virtually all of Canada’s historic military engagements abroad.
“Now I must pause here, however, with immense regret to note that Canada has not always lived up to these high aspirations.
“There have been times when we’ve fallen short, heeded the calls of those who preferred to see Canada sidelined, to see Canada serve as a neutral bystander instead of a principled actor.
“Those who preached moral-equivalency and who said that Canada should learn to accept totalitarian communism as just another option.
“They were the people who showed blindness to the unparalleled crimes of Maoism in China.
“Indifference in the face of the communist coup against Poland’s Solidarity in 1981 and who pushed the so-called Peace Initiative of 1984, not long before the Warsaw Pact collapsed.
“Friends, our Government has learned from the past and we have used these Canadian examples and experiences – both proud and shameful – to guide our present actions and shape our foreign policies.
“Today, our foreign policies are informed by our highest values.
“Canada defends and promotes the basic freedoms that are crucial to maintaining human society and we oppose those everywhere who threaten those values.
“Under our Government, Canada has cut support for terrorist-led governments.
“We’ve condemned human rights abuses.
“And, ladies and gentlemen, Canada proudly, resolutely, unequivocally stands with the people of Ukraine.
“Now I just want to add something: I was told a couple of weeks ago that Mr. Putin made some comments.
“He said he didn’t understand why Harper and Canada cared so much about Ukraine; it’s a long way away, he says.
“The fact that he doesn’t get it tells you there’s a problem.
“Freedom, democracy, justice: that’s what it’s all about for the people of Ukraine.
“A couple of months ago I travelled to Ukraine as some of you know, the first G-7 leader to do so.
“During my visit I had the pleasure of meeting with Prime Minister Yatsenyuk.
“And when we met I shared with him – as I continue to share with my counterparts in the G-7 and beyond – that what is happening today to the millions in Ukraine is both a wake-up call and a call to action.
“Over the last several months, indeed years, the world has watched as President Putin has grown more comfortable with confrontation.
“His boldness has increased since Russian troops first made an open grab for power in Crimea.
The impact of the Putin regime’s expansionism and militarism extends beyond Ukraine.
“It threatens the security of our Eastern European allies and, by extension, the stability and security of the world.
“Now friends, I cannot predict what these next few months or years hold for Ukraine, for Europe, or for Canada.
“But I do know this: Canadians have always supported freedom and democracy for all people and we will not hold back that support now from the people of Ukraine.
“Canada will do what we have always tried to do, the right thing.
“Now let me just close with this.
“Pope, now Saint, John Paul II referred to the 20th Century as the century of tears.
“And, for countless tens of millions of people, he was right.
“In the course of that century, its great evils – militarism, fascism and communism – snuffed out the lights and the lives of freedom, democracy and justice.
“But just as stars shine more brightly as darkness claims the sky at night, so I believe Canada, the North Star, stood out as these shadows fell across the globe.
“Now those of us who have lived long enough will know that evil comes in many forms and seems to reinvent itself time and again.
“But whatever it calls itself – Nazism, Marxist-Leninism, today, terrorism – they all have one thing in common: the destruction, the end, of human liberty.
“My fear is this: as we move further into the 21st century, Canadians, especially new generations, will forget or will not be taught the lessons hard learned and the victories hard earned over the last 100 years.
“That they will fall even further in love with ease and convenience.
“And that they will not understand that their rights and their advantages, their peace and their security, were won by people willing to live and die for what is good and right.
“That they will not appreciate how precious and rare our way of life here in Canada today truly is.
“And that they will not recognize these grave threats when they re-appear.
“What history has taught us is one clear thing: that the political ideologies that promise utopia lead to the opposite, hell on earth.
“That’s why Canada needs this monument, and why we are so grateful to the work of Tribute of Liberty that reminds us of the names and the stories of those lost to one of the deadliest ideological plagues ever spread, to communism.
“This monument is part of marking our path as a nation, and, thus, helping to ensure that we do not lose our way.
“Thank you very much.”
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