Every spring, St. Thomas University hosts its annual John Peters Humphrey Model United Nations. This event not only honours the memory of New Brunswicker John Humphrey — the principal author of the UN’s 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights — but also expands the thinking of more than 200 high school students from throughout Atlantic Canada. The event gives them a greater understanding of the value of global cooperation.
Engaging and cooperating with the world is essential to Canada’s future. As parliamentary secretary to Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, I have observed firsthand the value of building global relationships and respecting international agreements and institutions.
For much of its history, Canada has punched above its weight in meeting its international responsibilities and obligations. This continues to be a source of pride for Canadians and a source of respect for countries throughout the world.
John Humphrey’s human rights work is just one example of this. His Universal Declaration of Human Rights remains a core element in the effort to ensure equal rights for all of humankind. Another example, which we in Fredericton, and New Brunswick, are well aware, is Canada’s recent admission of more than 40,000 Syrian refugees.
Canada’s post-World War II efforts in helping to create and maintain international agreements and institutions, combined with military contributions such as Lester Pearson’s peacekeeping efforts, reflect our nation’s strength, determination and desire for cooperation among nations. Our flag, which we so proudly fly in anticipation of Canada’s 150th birthday, symbolizes the success of those efforts.
In recent years, cuts to the Defence budget under former governments, combined with an attitude of “pulling back” on our international responsibilities and obligations, have eroded Canada’s standing in the world.
As our Government believes, this is not the time to pull back. Now is the time for Canada to reach out to the world with our liberal-democratic traditions and reassert its leadership.
“International relationships that had seemed immutable for 70 years are being called into question,” said Minister Freeland in her June 6 address to Parliament on Canada’s foreign policy priorities.
“From Europe, to Asia, to our own North American home, long-standing pacts that have formed the bedrock of our security and prosperity for generations are being tested.
“And new shared human imperatives—the fight against climate change first among them—call for renewed, uncommon resolve.
“Turning aside from our responsibilities is not an option. Instead we must think carefully and deeply about what is happening, and find a way forward.”
Strong, Secure, Engaged, Canada’s new defence policy released recently by Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan, contributes significantly to that “way forward.” This new vision for the defence of Canada for the next 20 years is the federal government’s commitment to keeping our nation strong at home, secure in North America and engaged in the world so we can continue to make significant contributions to global cooperation.
Supported by the human and financial resources needed to make it a reality, the new policy increases Defence spending from $18.9 billion in 2016-17 to $32.7 billion in 2026-27, an increase of more than 70 per cent. This increase means 5CDSB Gagetown will take on an even bigger role both defending our country, and as an economic generator in the local economy.
But, the true strength of this new vision lies in our human resources — the women and men of the Canadian Armed Forces in whom we all take pride.
We recognize that our soldiers, sailors and aviators often operate in challenging and dangerous parts of the world. We recognize too that, in doing so, they may suffer loss or trauma. The new defence policy will improve the care and support we offer to them, as well as to their families, the source of so much of their strength and our strength as a nation.
Strong, Secure, Engaged will ensure that Canada is strong at home with a military ready and able to defend its sovereignty and to assist in times of natural disaster and other emergencies. It will give us more security in North America, as we become more active in a renewed defence partnership in NORAD and with the United States. And by helping us engage internationally, the policy will allow us to increase our contributions to a more stable and peaceful world.
Because of Canada’s new defence policy, and our renewed foreign policy priorities, students attending the John Peters Humphrey Model United Nations 20 years from now will learn that beginning in its sesquicentennial year, 2017, their country took on a renewed and more engaged leadership role among the nations of the world.
Matt DeCourcey is the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Member of Parliament for Fredericton—serving the communities of Fredericton, Oromocto, New Maryland, and the Grand Lake Region.