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Prime Minister’s remarks addressing the European Parliament

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Distinguished parliamentarians, ladies and gentlemen—

It is a privilege to be here in Brussels with you all.

Before I begin, I would like to first offer my condolences on President Sassoli’s death early this year.

It was a great loss for your Parliament and for Europe.

I would also like to take a moment to express my condolences to the loved ones of the victims of the Louvière tragedy, and to all those whose lives were shattered by these events.

Our thoughts and friendship are with Belgium in these difficult times.

I first addressed the EU Parliament in Strasbourg in 2017.

It was the first time a Canadian prime minister addressed your parliament.

Back then, this parliament saw me as someone new on the world stage. 

We got to work, tackling progressive issues, building the things we thought mattered.

We could see that something was lurking off on the horizon, something shadowy and something that was threatening.

We didn’t look close enough.

When I spoke to this parliament five years ago, I spoke about making multilateralism work for the middle class and those working hard to join it.

So that economic frustrations don’t become fertile ground for populism, nativism, protectionism, and the polarization towards more extreme political views.

Today, we are staring these forces in the face as they threaten the peace, justice, truth, democracy, and stability of our world.

We have a choice about what we do next.

Since 2017, the world has changed, a lot.

A global pandemic has taken the lives of over 6 million people and disrupted the lives of everyone else.

A global recession, some millions lose their jobs and many economies still struggling to bounce back.

A world not just now forecasting, but living, the dangers of climate change.

A growing distrust of governments and facts.

A weakening of democratic institutions.

We saw one of our staunchest guarantors of the rules-based order choosing for four years to step away from NATO, away from multilateralism.

And now, Putin’s criminal invasion of a sovereign, independent, democratic—Ukraine.

People have a real and deep sense of uncertainty about what the future holds.

These are anxious times and people are looking for leadership and solutions.

Unfortunately, we are seeing a rise of cynical populists who are trying to exploit these anxieties.

They pretend to have easy solutions that play on people’s fears.

Even in Canada, where 90% of people are vaccinated, and our motto as a country is peace, order and good government, we saw anti-vaccine and anti-government protests devolve into blockades at our borders.

The leaders of those convoys were effective in turning citizens with real anxieties against the system best suited to allay those concerns.

Democracy is not a game.

There just aren’t easy solutions to the big complex problems we are all facing.

That doesn’t mean the way forward is not clear.

There is no greater clarity than the will of the people who want better for themselves and their children, at home.

And no stronger defence against destructive forces from outside our democracies than the unwavering unity of like-minded partners.

Over the past 80 years, we have collectively established and strengthened a series of rules and institutions to improve the stability and foreseeable nature of international affairs.

We did this to protect people, to give them the best prospects for peace, to defend their dignity and their inalienable rights, and to make sure they were free to choose their own futures.

Today, these rules and institutions are being openly threatened.

Vladimir Putin has violated the most fundamental precepts of international law.

And he is now killing innocent civilians by bombing hospitals and residential buildings.

This blatant disregard for laws and for human life is a huge threat to Europe and to the entire world. 

Canada, the EU, and all of our partners and allies are facing a defining moment.

We can not fail. We must meet this moment. 

So I speak to you today, no longer  as someone quite so new.

In fact, I may now be one of the longer-serving progressive leaders around.

And I am certainly not going to pretend to have all the answers.

But what I do know is that there is work that lies before us as thoughtful leaders, as people focused on the short- and long-term well-being of all their citizens. As people committed to democracy and the values that underpin them.

And that work is more important than ever.  

Putin thought democracy was weak. He saw our disagreements and debates as weakness. But what he has never understood is that the rigours of debate, that forceful civic engagement is what makes us strong.

And that democracy, at its best, will always be stronger than authoritarianism.

But if we’re going to be honest, and we need to be honest in this place. We haven’t always been at our best these past years.

Putin thought we were divided. He thought he could weaken the EU and NATO.

He miscalculated.

And he is seeing it backfire.

NATO and the EU are now more resolved and united than ever.

Because all of us in this room who are committed to democracy,  know in our bones that democracy didn’t happen by accident.

And it will not continue without deliberate, mindful effort.

My friends, I want to be very clear: Europeans—including our allies in eastern Europe—can count on Canada’s friendship and total support.

Canada is leading NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence Battle Group in Latvia.

This mission includes 10 NATO countries.

For the past five years, hundreds of Canadian military personnel have been deployed thousands of kilometres from home to take up position two hundred kilometres from the Russian border.

They are deployed in Latvia because what is important to European security is also important to Canada’s security.

We recently announced that we were doubling our NATO deployment for the coming years.

These military personnel are not defending only Latvia and eastern Europe: they are defending our freedom, our security, and all our democracies.

We can not let Ukraine down. They are counting on us. So let’s use all the tools we have at our disposal.

President Zelenskyy and I have been talking often about the strong ties between our countries. Canada as mentioned is home to the second largest Ukrainian community in the world, after Russia.

We must all collectively step up to provide humanitarian aid to support families affected by this war and already start thinking about investing to rebuild Ukraine afterwards.

We must all continue to send military equipment and lethal aid to help Ukrainians in their heroic defence, not just of their lands, but of all the principles that defend ours.

And we must continue to impose unprecedented sanctions on Putin and his enablers in Russia and Belarus, increasing the pressure, as much as we can.

We must ensure that the decision to invade a sovereign, independent country is understood to be a strategic failure that carries with it ruinous costs for Putin and Russia.

Putin’s attack on Ukraine is an attack on the values that form the pillars of all democracies.

We have a responsibility to make the case to people about why these values matter so much—not just to Ukrainians but to us all.

We must recommit ourselves to the work of strengthening our democracies.

And demonstrate the principled leadership citizens everywhere are looking for.

That leadership means re-enforcing the things our citizens have in common, rather than playing to their differences.

The task before us is not small.

But given the right tools we can do it.

We should all be reassured of how much of this work is already underway.

In this place, and in parliaments like it across Europe and around the world.

In Canada, our government is currently working on new legislation to address online harms.

This year, Canada is the Chair of the Freedom Online Coalition, and we will focus on protecting human rights, inclusion, and diversity in the digital space.

Here in the European Union, your motto is “United in diversity.”

In Canada, diversity is also central to who we are.

Of course, we know that there is always more work to be done.

But in terms of reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, fighting systemic racism, gender equality, defending LGBTQ2 communities, we are making progress.

Whether it is implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, or investing to support entrepreneurs from Black communities.

We are giving those who have too often been left behind the tools they need for economic growth.

We can, and should, play a positive role in people’s lives.

In Canada—like in many European countries—we made massive investments to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It was the right thing to do to protect our people, and it was the necessary thing to do to ensure a strong and robust economic recovery. 

We know when we invest in people, including in the most vulnerable, and when we grow the middle class and make life more affordable for everyone, not only do individuals benefit, but our entire country and the foundations of our democracy also benefit.

Whether it is the immediate consequences of food insecurity, inflation, and high fuel prices, or the long-term consequences of climate change and the pandemic, democracies must be at their best to be able to hold the difficult and necessary conversations to find solutions.

In terms of the fight against climate change, the collaboration between Canada and the European Union continues to be essential.

We are continuing our work to accelerate the transition towards green, renewable energy, to meet our COP26 commitments, and to secure our supply chains, including for critical minerals.

We must continue to work together to build a cleaner future and a more resilient economy. 

European countries also share the goals of reducing poverty and inequality while growing the middle class.

We share aspirations for a better, safer, and cleaner future.

Progressive trade agreements like CETA are helping our economies grow and creating good jobs while protecting high standards for workers, consumers, and the environment.

Our ability to pull together despite differences and deliver for people really mattered and I thank you all for that.

With the longest coastline in the world, Canada’s shores reach out into the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic oceans.

And our connections with the whole of the Americas is strong.

We are one of the most globally connected partners at the UN, with memberships in NATO, the G7, the G20, the Arctic Council, APEC, the OAS, the Commonwealth, and La Francophonie.

We have a lot of work to do, and collaboration will be key to success towards building a better future for our kids and our grandkids.

It will require constant effort, but I am confident that we are up to the task.

I am confident in the resilience of our institutions. And most of all I am confident in our citizens.

I can say that because of what I have witnessed over the past four weeks.

The resolve of our united response to this invasion has been stronger than anything Putin expected.

Not just from governments, but from citizens in all of our countries.  

It’s that spirit and resolve that we must take forward with us. The European Union has mobilized to defend democracy. And, as always, you can count on the friendship and full support of Canada, every step of the way.

Together, we must support democracies all around the world, including those that are the most fragile, and fight authoritarianism with more investments and more leadership.

We must support brave people like President Zelenskyy and the Ukrainians fighting for their rights.

And we must continue our work—each of us—to improve the democracies in our own countries.

Five years ago, we saw the storm clouds on the horizon. 

But today, we are clear-eyed.

Let us continue to fight lies with the truth.

Fear with facts.

Division with unity.

As long as we don’t take our democracy for granted—

As long as we keep working every day to make it better—

As long as our partnerships are strong—

We can be confident in the future.

In the words of Volodymyr Zelenskyy, “light will win over darkness.”

Thank you.