“But Canadians are not just engaged at home. Abroad, Canadian business leaders like Frank Giustra have done amazing work to make it easier for vulnerable migrants to find a place to live. Last November, Frank went to Lesbos in Greece and to help set up a reception centre to offer shelter for 1500 refugees arriving by sea. He went back just last March with members of Vancouver’s search and rescue team to help the local authorities save more lives.”
THE RIGHT HONOURABLE JUSTIN TRUDEAU (Prime Minister of Canada): Thank you very much Kate. Thank you all for being here today. It’s important that we’re all here and I know that you’re all very busy people with a lot of demands pulling you in very different directions. So I appreciate the time you took to be here, because not just the SDGs are important, not just the work we do in general here at the UN as leaders in civil society, but the business community plays an essential role in creating the success that we need in the coming years.
But to start off, I’m going to tell you that I’m going to spare you the full sales pitch, because if you’re in this room, you already understand the value of cooperation between business and government, and you know how important it is that the business community takes on its share of responsibility for building a better world. In 2016 building a better world means building a global economy that works for everyone, not just the wealthiest one percent and not just those who had the privilege of being born in a country like Canada. And it’s that focus on inclusion that I want to talk with you about today.
Last year my team and I went door-to-door all across Canada. We met with Canadians. We asked them to identify the things that were most important to them. And the one message we got during the political campaign more than any others is that they wanted a real and fair chance at success, real opportunities to build better lives for themselves and a better future for their kids. Well, eleven months beyond that election, I think we’re well on our way to making that positive vision a reality for more Canadians.
But we haven’t done it alone and I think that’s key. Every major policy initiative we’ve introduced, we’ve done in consultation with others, with other orders of government, with active and engaged citizens, and of course with the business community, because when your goals are as big as ours, when you want to do nothing less than strengthen and grow the middle class and build a clean and sustainable economy that works for everyone, you have to have business onboard. I’ll give you a few examples.
As a government, we can make historic investments in infrastructure, but we need the business community to translate those investments into good, well-paying jobs for Canadians. We can pursue more open trade. But again, we need business to be our partners if we’re to make the most of those expanded opportunities. And that connection — that shared responsibility is true even when it comes to the challenges that go along with responding to a refugee crisis like the one in Syria.
Last fall in response to a great and growing need, we proposed a very ambitious resettlement target for Syrian refugees and we knew that if elected it was something we were going to have to move on very quickly, not because it was politically expedient to do so, but because every delay meant lost opportunity. Lost opportunity for the Syrian families who wanted to rebuild their lives in a peaceful and prosperous country and for Canada too, which has always benefited from the resilience, ingenuity, and astounding work ethic that immigrants bring with them.
Et c’est vraiment important pour moi de donner aux Canadiens, aux citoyens et aux membres de la communauté d’affaires toute la reconnaissance qu’ils méritent pour ce qu’ils ont fait pour aider les nouveaux arrivants à se sentir chez eux au Canada. Notre gouvernement a fixé la cible mais nous avons atteint notre objectif en grande partie grâce aux Canadiens qui se sont rassemblés pour aider ceux qui étaient dans le besoin. Des voisins, des amis, des membres de même communauté religieuse et à plusieurs reprises des collègues de travail qui sont devenus des parrains privés.
At every step, Canada’s business community was there. At the corporate level, Canadian businesses donated tens of millions of dollars to relief efforts to help migrants still living in refugee camps, and millions more to other settlement, training, and education programs to help new arrivals to Canada. Our small business community stepped up too, raising funds, collecting winter clothing, providing meeting spaces for private sponsor meetings and so much more. From one end of the country to the other businesses have done what they can, leading in important, dignified, and touching ways.
In Surrey, British Columbia the owner of a grocery store chain who immigrated to Canada from Punjab as a child delivered free baskets of food to Syrian refugees as they arrived in honour of a kind neighbour who once did the same for his own family. In Fredericton, New Brunswick a local modular home manufacturer has offered training and employment to Syrian refugees so that they can fulfil their commitment to build homes for one of Canada’s First Nation communities. To help their new workers integrate, the business accommodates prayer schedules and other needs.
À Montréal, les immigrants issus de zones de guerre à travers le monde travaillent côte à côte dans une usine qui fabrique des meubles. Leur employeur, un immigrants lui aussi, donne aux arrivants un emploi stable en plus de les aider à s’intégrer dans leur nouvelle vie en leur offrant des cours de français. Chacun de ces exemples illustre un même objectif, celui d’assurer que ces nouveaux arrivants se sentent les bienvenus. Qu’ils se sentent valorisés et appréciés. D’assurer qu’ils s’intègrent plus rapidement pour qu’ils puissent à leur tour apporter une contribution positive et durable à notre pays.
But Canadians are not just engaged at home. Abroad, Canadian business leaders like Frank Giustra have done amazing work to make it easier for vulnerable migrants to find a place to live. Last November, Frank went to Lesbos in Greece and to help set up a reception centre to offer shelter for 1500 refugees arriving by sea. He went back just last March with members of Vancouver’s search and rescue team to help the local authorities save more lives.
If there’s a lesson to be learned from Canada’s experience, I hope it is this: that all parts of society must have a shared role in building a successful, inclusive world. It is up to each of us to do what we can, where we can to help migrants and refugees build better, more stable lives for themselves.
So thank you for all that each of you have done in your own communities and businesses to give migrants and refugees the optimism and the sense of belonging that is humanity’s collective birthright. Let’s keep up the good work. Merci.