Prime Minister Jean Chrétien
Edited Speech at 2001 Confederation Dinner
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
September 24, 2001

Everyone is trying to find the words to express our outrage and sadness about the events of September 11, 2001. Thousands and thousands of Americans and Canadians and citizens from many countries lost their lives. And I know that many in this room tonight are mourning the loss of family or long-time friends and colleagues. Many remain very concerned about their colleagues and friends who are still working in New York City. I thank all of you, all of you, for being here tonight.

At times like this it is our prayers, our feelings and action that count. All we have is each other, our common humanity and decency. I am so proud of what the Canadians have done in the last two weeks because this crisis brought out the very best in our people. One hundred thousand Canadians were on the Hill in Ottawa for the national day of mourning. And I'm very proud of the fact that we did it in the open. We decided that we were not to go in hiding, that we were not to be afraid to come in the public, and 100,000 Canadians came to that great ceremony. As you know, there were prayers meeting and vigil all across the land. Thirty-seven thousand Canadians gave blood donations.

And what was fabulous was the opening of hearts and homes to help travellers who had no place to go. That was really moving. I was in the United States today and I was reading some of the stories that have been written to many, many newspapers in the United States for the people who had the experience to land in Canada. Forty-three thousand of them. And they were welcomed in places like Gander, where the population is 10,000 and they have received 12,000 people.

There was a letter that was extremely impressive because someone said that he wanted to say thank-you, and the lady replied you don't have to say thank-you; we've done what we had to do, and in similar circumstances you would do the same thing. And the American replied: I hope that is true.

That is the way that the Canadians responded, to send a very clear message to our American friends. As I said, and I repeat, I told them do not despair. You are not alone; we are with you. The whole world is with you. This morning President Bush asked me, again, to thank Canadians. And, on his behalf, I want to thank everyone here who has been part of this national wave of sympathy and support.

Canadians also understand that beyond sympathy and support for the victims there must be a firm and just international action. The attack was not just against the United States. The cold-blooded killers struck a blow at the values and beliefs of free and civilized people everywhere in the world. The world has been attacked. And the world must respond.

But I must tell you that this will be a long struggle. Against criminals willing, indeed anxious, to die in the commission of their crimes and to use innocent civilians as shields and as tools. There are no easy solutions. Our actions must be guided by patience and wisdom.

By a commitment to do what works in the long run, not what makes us feel better in the short run. Our actions will be ruled by resolve. But not fear. We will change laws that have to be changed. We will increase security to protect Canadians. We will remain vigilant.

Today, I had a very good meeting with President Bush at the White House. I offered him the fullest support of Canada in the difficult times ahead. The United States and Canada will work together to combat the menace of terrorism, and to protect the security of our citizens. We talked about the need for doing what will work in the long term, not merely what might make us feel good in the short term.

We also talked about the importance of making sure that our economies continue to work well. In particular, we agreed that movement of goods across our border should be normalized as quickly as possible. This is very, very important. Twenty-five percent of their exports come to Canada and 87 percent of our exports go there. So the free flow of goods has to be restored very quickly, and we agreed to do just do that.

We talked about other problems because, as the President mentioned, life has to continue, and we talked about softwood lumber industry. And Madame Chair, the President is well aware of the support Home Depot is giving to the Canadian industry. He even mentioned Home Depot and he didn't know that you were to be the Chair tonight. But when I was in Atlanta, your counterpart in the United States made it very clear that Canadian wood is needed in United States. For some parts of the building it's better, according to the president of Home Depot.

Ladies and gentlemen, and my friends, I want to tell you another thing that is very important. Canada is a nation of immigrants. People from all nationalities, all colours and religions. This is what we are. And let there be no doubt: we will not allow the terrorists to force us to sacrifice our values or traditions.

We will continue to welcome people from the whole world and offer refuge to the persecuted. Last Friday I visited a mosque. And I sensed the sadness of the Muslims at the fact that Islam has been tarnished by this mass murder. I turn my back on those who, in response to the attacks, have committed acts of hate against Muslim Canadians or other minority groups in Canada. This is completely unacceptable. The terrorists win when they export their hatred. They stand not for any community or religion. They stand for evil. For evil and nothing else. It is a struggle against terrorism, not against any one community or faith. Because, ladies and gentlemen, we are all Canadians.

There is no denying that we are living through difficult times. But democracies have always demonstrated resolve and resilience when democratic values have been threatened. And these times are not different. There is absolutely no doubt that we'll have to devote energy - and a lot of energy - to deal with the threat of terrorism. And we will. But there is equally no doubt that the only way that the terrorists can win is if we do not get on quickly, as well, with our daily lives and daily business.

It is no accident that we have a high standard of living in Canada and the United States. It is because of the strength, the confidence and the resilience of our citizens and of our business community. Their belief in a better future, and their determination to build it.

There are a lot of business people here tonight. The words and actions of the Canadian and American business communities in the days and weeks ahead will determine how well our economies perform. All of us have an obligation to demonstrate both resolve and confidence in the future. To see beyond these tragic events. Business confidence breeds consumer confidence, and consumer confidence breeds business confidence. Both are essential for economic growth.

Before September 11th the global economy was slowing more than private sector forecasters had expected. The events of September 11 will weaken it further. We need to be realistic. The last two quarters of this year and the beginning of next year will be more difficult. But we also need to be realistic about, and have confidence in, our medium-term prospects.

Our economic fundamentals are better - much better - than they have been for over 30 years. We have low inflation, we have had four budgets with surpluses, and probably this year there will still be a surplus. The current account is in huge surplus at this time. We have lower personal and corporate taxes than we had before. And we paid down more than $37 billion of the national debt over the last four years. All of which has permitted the Bank of Canada to dramatically lower interest rates and lower the cost of doing business, and stimulate consumer demand.

All of us have to work through the immediate challenges, but also look beyond. The strong economic fundamentals we have spent years building have not changed in the past two weeks. It would be wrong to make business decisions or government decisions based only on the outlook of the next two quarters. We must look further ahead.

And just as I challenge the business communities to plan and act beyond the immediate short term, I can assure you that the Government of Canada will not be diverted from its overall agenda. I was discussing that with President Bush today. How it was important that we keep the confidence of the business community in Canada and in United States. And that both governments have a very important role to play in order to assure that. And I can assure you that in order to achieve it, Canada will not divert from its overall agenda.

Of course, we will adjust to changing circumstances. Of course, we will do what is required to meet our immediate security needs. But just as the long-term security of business depends on investing in the future, so does the long-term security of a country like Canada depend on its investment for the future.

Our government will continue our longer-term agenda to build a stronger economy and society. We will focus our investments on targeted priority areas. We will continue to invest in skills and learning. In research and post-secondary education. We'll continue encouraging excellence and ensuring all children a good start in life.

We will continue to invest in health care. We will better target our current spending on improving the lives of aboriginal Canadians.

Clean air and water are no less of a priority because of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. Addressing climate change remains a global challenge to all countries around the world that has to be met.

All of these priorities must be addressed in the context of fiscal responsibility. We have demonstrated a firm commitment to achieving and maintaining the fiscal health of the nation, and we will not put the fiscal integrity of Canada at risk. I am very proud of the record of our government over the past eight years in helping build a stronger economy and society. In achieving a balance between investment in social and economic priorities. It is a balance we will continue to strike in the years ahead.

Ladies and gentlemen, there is one thing that is sure: we will not be defeated by terrorism. We will not go in hiding. We will fight them. We have values in Canada that we're so proud of. I referred to what happened in the days following the eleventh of September. When in Halifax, when in Gander, in St. John’s, in Moncton. The people were receiving the visitors who were obliged to stay there. Some of my Members of Parliament spent two days with them in the schools or at the airports, offering support and comfort.

You know, this is the Canadian way. This is the way that we've built a nation. We know that it is possible to have different faiths, different colours and different languages, and to live together. That’s what is needed around the world. This ability that we have demonstrated in Canada. That we can be different and equal at the same time.

These values that we are defending are values that are needed around the world. When people will understand that whatever the religion, the colour of the skin or the language you speak, we're all human beings. We have to care for each other. We have to make sure that there is room for everybody in the society. That the weakest in society, like we do in Canada, are a preoccupation not only of government but of all the citizens.

I see thousands and thousands of volunteers that are working in Canada in all the villages, in all the cities and all the towns, and in the metropolises of their country. Thousands of them spend long hours showing concern and comfort for those who have less in life. This is the Canadian way -- this is the way that I love so much. That is why I have been so proud that you gave me the occasion for 38 years and a half to devote my time to try to make this country better.

Because there is one thing that I know. When I go abroad and they realize that I'm the Prime Minister of Canada, they look at me with envy. They know that Canada is an example to the world.

There are millions and millions of people around the world who would give the last penny they've got to come and have the Canadian passport. To have the privilege to say that they are Canadians. You have only to go to a ceremony in all the cities of the land when you have hundreds of people who have the occasion to become Canadian citizens. You see them with different colours, different religions, different languages, and the minute that they become Canadian citizens they are so happy.

And that is the way that Canada will remain. An open country that welcomes people from all over the world because we have understood that it is through generosity, through trust, through open mind that a society flourishes – like Canada has been flourishing for the past and will be continuing to do that in the years to come.

Vive le Canada! Thank you very much.


©2001 Government of Canada.