Prime Minister Jean Chrétien
Ottawa, Ontaria
September 17, 2001

Mr. Speaker,

I want to thank the Leaders of all the Parties in the House of Commons, indeed all members, for their cooperation in organizing this historic debate. In the sad and trying days since the awful news came from New York and Washington, it has been clear that the civilized nations of the world have a solemn duty to speak -- as one -- against the scourge of terrorism.

Under these urgent circumstances, Canadians will be pleased to see that their elected representatives have come together, in a spirit of unity and resolve, to make this debate our first order of business. I look forward to hearing the views of member on the role that Canada should play in shaping a firm and just global response to an unprecedented global threat.

Mr. Speaker,

There are those rare occasions when time seems to stand still. When a singular event transfixes the world. There are also those terrible occasions when the dark side of human nature escapes civilized restraint and shows its ugly face to a stunned world.

Tuesday, September 11, 2001 will forever be etched in memory as a day when time stood still.

Mr. Speaker,

When I saw the scenes of devastation my first thoughts and words were for all the victims and the American people. But there are no words, in any language, whose force or eloquence could equal the quiet testimony last Friday of 100,000 Canadians gathered just a few yards from here for our National Day of Mourning.

I was proud to be one of them. And I was equally proud of the Canadians who gathered in ceremonies right across the country.

It was a sea of sorrow and sympathy for those who have lost friends and loved ones -- Americans, Canadians, citizens of many countries. Above all, it was a sea of solidarity with our closest friend and partner in the world: the United States of America.

Mr. Speaker,

As always, this time of crisis brought out the very best in our people. From prayer meetings and vigils. To the countless numbers who lined up to give blood. From a flood of donations by individuals and businesses. To patience in the face of delays and inconvenience. And we were all moved by the sight of Canadians opening up their hearts and their homes to thousands of confused and anxious air travellers who had no place to go.

When I spoke to President Bush last week, he asked me to thank the Canadian people. And I would ask all Members to carry his message back to their constituencies.

Mr. Speaker,

The President also told me that he had been told many times by his own officials about the tremendous cooperation and assistance that they were receiving from the agencies and departments of the Government of Canada. In responding to the immediate emergency of the attack and in the investigation that will bring to justice those who committed this crime against humanity.

Indeed, I am proud of the speed and coordination that has characterized our response:

Assessing and pre-positioning disaster assistance supplies. So that we could respond in a timely and effective a manner when called upon;

Seeing to the safety of stranded air travellers;
Working to protect the safety of Canadians;
Sharing information with investigators; and,
Responding to calls for information about loved ones.
The relevant Ministers will inform the House in detail on what their departments have done, and are doing, on behalf of Canadians. But I want to express my appreciation to our public servants for their round-the-clock effort.

Mr. Speaker,

The House must also address the threat that terrorism poses to all civilized peoples and the role that Canada must play in defeating it.

To understand what is at stake, we need only reflect on the symbolic meaning of the World Trade Center Towers. In the words of their architect, the Towers were "a representation of our belief in humanity, our need for individual dignity, our belief in cooperation and, through cooperation, our ability to find greatness."

So let us be clear: this was not just an attack on the United States. These cold-blooded killers struck a blow at the values and beliefs of free and civilized people everywhere.

The world has been attacked. The world must respond. Because we are at war against terrorism and Canada -- a nation founded on a belief in freedom, justice and tolerance – will be part of that response.

Terrorists are not attached to any one country. Terrorism is a global threat. The perpetrators have demonstrated their ability to move with ease from country to country. From place to place. To make use of the freedom and openness of the victims on whom they prey. The very freedom and openness that we cherish and will protect.

They are willing, indeed anxious, to die in the commission of their crimes and to use innocent civilians as shields and as tools.

We must prepare ourselves, and Canadians, for the fact that this will be a long struggle with no easy solutions. One in which patience and wisdom are essential.

But, Mr. Speaker, let us not deceive ourselves as to the nature of the threat that faces us; that it can be defeated easily or simply with one swift strike. We must be guided by a commitment to do what works in the long run not by what makes us feel better in the short run.

Mr. Speaker,

Our actions will be ruled by resolve. But not fear.

If laws need to be changed they will be. If security has to be increased to protect Canadians it will be. We will remain vigilant.

But we will not give into the temptation, in a rush to increase security, to undermine the values that we cherish and which have made Canada a beacon of hope, freedom and tolerance to the world. We will not be stampeded in the hope -- vain and ultimately self-defeating -- that we can make Canada a fortress against the world.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, I want to make another very, very important point.

Immigration is central to the Canadian experience and identity. We have welcomed people from all corners of the globe: all nationalities, colours and religions. This who we are. And let there be no doubt: we will allow no one to force us to sacrifice our values or traditions under the pressure of urgent circumstances. We will continue to welcome people from the whole world. We will continue to offer refuge to the persecuted.

I say again: No one will stop this!

I have been saddened by the fact that the terror of last Tuesday has provoked demonstrations against Muslim Canadians and other minority groups in Canada. This is completely unacceptable. The terrorists win when they export their hatred. The evil perpetrators of this horror represent no community or religion. They stand for evil. Nothing else!

As I have said, this is a struggle against terrorism. Not against any one community or faith. Today, more than ever, we must reaffirm the fundamental values of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms: the equality of every race, every colour, every religion, and every ethnic origin.

Mr. Speaker, we are all Canadians!

We are a compassionate and righteous people. When we see the searing images of mothers and fathers. Sisters and brothers -- many of them Canadian -- wandering the streets of New York looking for their missing loved ones, we know where our duty lies.

We have never been a bystander in the struggle for justice in the world. We will stand with Americans. As neighbours. As friends. As family. We will stand with our allies. We will do what we must to defeat terrorism.

But let our actions be guided by a spirit of wisdom and perseverance. By our values and our way of life.

And, as we go on with the struggle, let us never, ever, forget who we are. And what we stand for!


©2001 Government of Canada.