Prime Minister Trudeau delivers remarks at the Italian Chamber of Deputies
Buongiorno, Honourable President Boldrini, Honourable President Grasso, honourable deputies and senators, distinguished guests, and of course people of Italy.
Sophie and I thank you for your warm welcome. Everyone we’ve met here in your beautiful country has made us feel instantly at home -- a testament to both the legendary hospitality of the Italian people and to Canadians’ ability to recognize a good meal when we see one. All joking aside, thank you once again. Your gracious welcome reflects the special long-lasting friendship between our two countries.
Just a few days ago Prime Minister Gentiloni and I met with our counterparts at the NATO leaders’ meeting, followed by the G7 meetings in beautiful Taormina. We made progress together for our citizens. We built on our shared values to enhance our collective security and create jobs for our countries. We know that our success comes from our people -- people who are creative, curious, innovative and diverse, who work hard but who always find time for the things that really matter, like spending time with family and arguing about politics.
But we have more in common than just that. Both our countries know that when it comes to global security, international cooperation is the best way to secure peace and prosperity. We know that trade is vital to creating the good jobs that strengthen and grow our middle class, as much the heart of the economy here in Italy as it is back in Canada. These are the connections that bind our countries together today as they have for centuries.
And I’m going to, because I’m Canadian, I’m about to slip into French now, but I know there’s translation only for English, so I will repeat in English so we can cover it all.
It started back in 1497 when Giovanni Caboto, a proud Venetian, crossed the Atlantic and landed on the East Coast of Canada, claiming it for the King of England. At first, only small numbers of intrepid Italians left Italy for Canada, drawn by business opportunities and undaunted by inhospitable climate.
Until the 1900s there were fewer than 2,000 Italians living in Canada. That number rose dramatically in the years before the First World War, but migration slowed in the post-war years due in part to discriminatory restrictions put in place by the Canadian government of the day. Then our countries changed utterly by the terrible toil of World War II. Ninety-three thousand Canadians crossed the ocean to fight for Italy’s liberation, and I’m proud to say my grandfather, James Sinclair, was one of them, posted in Sicily. Nearly 6,000 of them never made it home. They’re buried here in the soil they sacrificed their lives to liberate.
In the decades that followed the end of the Second World War, Italian immigration to Canada surged. Italians came to Canada by the hundreds of thousands after the war. Your families worked hard and sacrificed much. Your work ethic built our cities. Your creativity filled our galleries. Your judgement defined our courts. You became the proudest of Canadians but kept a special place in your hearts for La Patria.
We saw that just a few weeks ago when Italian-Canadian business leaders joined forces to support the Italy Earthquake Relief Fund, raising money to support those still recovering from last year’s devastating earthquakes. I was proud to attend that event with our many talented and hardworking Italian-Canadian members of Parliament and pleased to announce our government’s intention to provide up to $2 million in matching funds.
The earthquake emergency response work of the Italian Red Cross and its partner charities, including those operated by the Vatican, not only rebuilds communities, they also save lives. We are honoured to be able to help them in their work because in times of tragedy we stand up for each other. That’s what friends do.
Sophie, who’s here with us this morning, Sophie and I visited Amatrice on Sunday. It was an honour to witness the indomitable will to rebuild. As Prime Minister, I’ve seen too many communities that have endured natural disasters, whether from floods, wildfires, or ice storms. The strength and resilience of survivors always stands out. I saw that spirit in Amatrice. That strength of character and that commitment to community is so deeply Italian, and it’s pretty Canadian too.
That’s because Canadians and Italians share a common set of values, the things that make us, us. That applies to our hopes and dreams and to our worries and concerns. You see, we all want to leave to our children and grandchildren a better world than the one we inherited from our parents; a cleaner more prosperous world, one where every person has a real and fair chance to succeed; a world where the middle class is strong and growing and where all those working hard to join the middle class can feel confident that their hard work will pay off. Those are our shared dreams.
But at the same time, there are those in Canada and here in Italy who feel uncertain and anxious about what the future holds. And that’s understandable. The world is changing rapidly, and people are right to be concerned about what this means for their future and for their children’s future.
It’s a small example, but think about mobile technology. I remember when a calculator was something you plugged into a wall; when a video camera weighed 40 pounds and you had to carry it on your shoulder; when mail was only a real physical object that took days – okay, sometimes weeks – to deliver. My children, they’ve never known a time when all those things couldn’t fit into your back pocket. It speaks to how quickly we have come accustomed to things that seemed impossible just a generation ago. The pace of change has never been so fast, and yet it’ll never be this slow again.
No wonder people are anxious for their jobs, for their families. It used to be that if you could land a job at the plant, you’d be set. You could save for your kids’ education, put aside a little for your own retirement. But with today’s automation, stable work like that is hard to find. It’s being replaced by new types of jobs that demand new skills, the kind that need to be updated constantly. That’s the reality of the world that we’re living in.
My friends, this is an extraordinary age. The twin forces of technology and globalization are remaking the world. They’re creating possibilities that would have been unimaginable to our parents. And the generation coming of age right now has the tools and potential to solve the world’s biggest, toughest problems: climate change, growth that works for everyone, truly equitable societies where a person’s opportunities are not limited by their gender or race or beliefs.
All these things are possible if we shape the great forces of change to deliver progress to people. That’s what progressive leadership does in moments like this. Leaders who think we can hide from these changes or turn back the clock are wrong. It’s our responsibility to harness these changes and make them work for people.
Trade is an example of this. We know that trade can create good jobs, the kinds of jobs that support a strong and growing middle class and offer a ladder of opportunity to all those working hard to join it. That’s why we worked so hard to make sure that the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between Canada and the European Union was a truly progressive deal. We’re proud of it, and you should be too. It’s an agreement that will expand opportunities and create more good jobs on both sides of the Atlantic, not only for the large companies, but for small businesses that will get access to more markets and farmers whose great products will be as loved in Torino as they are in Toronto. It’ll create the kind of growth that benefits all our citizens, not just the wealthiest.
CETA’s provisions on labour protection, responsible investment, food and consumer safety, management of natural resources, and environmental stewardship are unprecedented. It’s a deal that should serve as a blueprint for future ambitious trade deals, and it would not have been possible without the support of like-minded leaders, including Prime Minister Gentiloni.
To all those of you here today who helped secure this landmark agreement, thank you for your help in making CETA a reality. It’s one of the best trade agreements ever negotiated, one that will serve the people of Italy and the people of Canada for many years to come.
But as we all know, it takes more than one good trade deal to allay people’s anxieties and offer hope for a better, more prosperous future. In Canada we also made it our first order of business to raise taxes on the wealthiest 1% so we could lower them for the middle class. We stopped sending child benefit cheques to millionaires so that more Canadian families, nine out of 10, could have extra help with the high cost of raising their children. To help more young Canadians pursue their dreams, we increased the amount of financial assistance available to students, making post-secondary education more affordable. And to help unemployed and under-employed workers, we’re investing to make sure that every Canadian can get the training they need to find and keep a good well-paying job.
These are just a few of the ways our government is responding to the concerns we hear. We’re also making sure that in the choices we make we stay true to the values that have always made Canada a strong and prosperous country.
I’ve told you about some of what we’ve been able to do in our first 19 months on the job, but it’s worth noting that the very first campaign promise we followed through on -- technically even before we were sworn in as a government -- was creating a gender-balanced cabinet. There was at the time a lot of grumbling in Canada. The pundits, mostly men, had a field day with it, saying that cabinet appointments should be made on the basis of merit, not gender. Of course what was imminently clear of those appointments were made on the basis of merit. The women we chose to serve in cabinet were every bit as qualified, if not more so, to serve as the men we selected. And they’ve been proving it ever since. After all it was a woman, former Minister of International Trade and now Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chrystia Freeland, who helped bring CETA over the finish line.
But I don’t want to leave you with the impression that there isn’t still more work to be done. In the election that brought our government to power, Canadians elected more women members of Parliament than ever before, 88 in total. And thanks to by-elections, that number has since increased to 92. But that’s still barely more than a quarter of the seats in our House of Commons. Women and girls make up over half the population, but are only a quarter of our legislators? That’s not acceptable to me. Not as a political leader, not as a father, and certainly not as a feminist.
And yes, it bears repeating: I am a feminist. And I hope, as so many of you do, that in the coming years there will be one less mirror in the Salla delle Donne.
Because that is how progress is made, one person at a time, one change at a time. I believe that it is our responsibility to teach young women and girls that their future is limitless. But that’s only half of the equation. We also need to be teaching our sons, and this is something that Sophie reminds me of regularly. We need to be teaching our sons to be just as focused on equal opportunities and equal outcomes. You see, I have two sons and one daughter, which means that we’re not just raising one feminist in our house; we’re raising three of them.
And in our working lives as politicians and leaders, we need to be vigilant in our efforts to advance greater equality. We need to amplify women’s voices and give them full credit whenever they bring forth a good idea. We need to stop interrupting and start listening. And we need to make sure that the women offered seats around the edges of the table are given a seat at the table, and that includes the boardroom table.
Last fall our government introduced legislation that would require publicly-traded companies to disclose to shareholders the number of women on their boards and in senior management, because as a country, we should know how we’re doing and how we can do better. And the CEOs I’ve spoken with understand the business case. They know that more diversity on their boards leads to better decision-making and stronger profits. And that’s not just true for large companies. Across the business world when women do well, when their entrepreneurship is encouraged, we all benefit.
You know, Canada is a strong… Canada is a country that is strong, not in spite of our differences, but because of them. Canadians responded with open arms and open hearts to the Syrian refugee crisis. Over the last year and a half we have taken in over 40,000 Syrian refugees. But you, you are on the frontlines of this crisis, and Italians have stepped up and opened your homes and your schools and your minds to those fleeing violence and persecution. So from the people of Canada to the people of Italy, we thank you for the leadership you have shown during this time of great crisis.
In Canada we’re working hard to embrace diversity in all its forms. That includes making our country, our government, our businesses, our schools safe and welcoming places for our sisters and brothers in the LGBT community. And I want to congratulate you on doing the same. It was around this time last year that your government began to officially recognize same-sex civil unions. And I hope you will continue to work hard to support and expand LGBT rights. Because I promise you…
I can promise you when you are defending the right of a citizen to love whomever you choose… whoever they choose... that is a fight worth fighting.
I would like to end today with a quote from His Holiness Pope Francis who I had the extraordinary privilege of meeting me yesterday. In his 2015 papal encyclical Laudato Si, His Holiness said: We must regain the conviction that we need one another; that we have a shared responsibility for others and for the world, and that being good and decent are worth it.
As countries, Canada and Italy need each other. We understand and we embrace our shared responsibilities. And together we will continue to make progress in a world of change side-by-side as good and decent friends for the benefit of each other and of the world.
Grazie. Merci. Thank you very much.