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Forum President Peter Van Praagh Opens the 2019 Halifax International Security Forum
November 22, 2019

*Check Against Delivery*

Ministers, Members of Parliament, Members of the Congressional Delegation, Distinguished officers,

Ladies and Gentlemen, colleagues and friends:

Welcome to Halifax.

Before I say anything further, I want to give a special ‘welcome back’ to Canada’s Minister of National Defence, Harjit Sajjan.

As many of you know, between last year’s Forum and today, a general election was held in Canada (in fact it was only last month) and Minister Sajjan was reelected in his riding of Vancouver South: Congratulations Minister.

Vancouver, British Columbia, for those of you who are not familiar with Canadian geography, is on the other side of this continent– over 6,000 kilometers away. Just for perspective: the distance between Halifax and Vancouver is greater than the distance between Halifax and Berlin, Germany.

In any case, Minister Sajjan was re-elected last month in Vancouver South, and reappointed as Defence Minister just this week and I am proud to welcome him back to Halifax International Security Forum as your official host for the weekend. Minister: welcome back! And thank you for being present.

Minister Sajjan, and others who have joined together in this room anytime in the past 11 years know that here at Halifax, we work hard to project today’s issues into the new year to give you– policy-makers, and influential leaders – the information and the insights you need to make good decisions; to make good policy.

For those of you joining us for the first time, please note: you will be hearing from many people on this stage much better equipped than I to do just that.

And despite this, that truth hasn’t yet stopped me from making a few remarks here, at the top of the weekend.

Last year, from this podium, we marked the 100th anniversary of the end of the Great War. The War to End All Wars.

Today in November 2019, one year later, we mark the anniversary of the Treaty of Versailles. Despite historian David Fromkin much later describing Versailles as “the Peace to End All Peace”, at the time– in 1919– many people thought that our job was done.

Seventy-five years ago this past summer at D-Day, Canadian, British and American troops landed in France to push Nazism out of Europe by force. Many people thought that our job was done.

Thirty years ago this month, the Berlin Wall came down and Soviet communism crumbled. And many people thought that our job was done.

But our job wasn’t done in 1919.

Our job wasn’t done in 1944-45.

And our job wasn’t done in 1989.

The threats that limited freedoms of millions of people on every continent were real and confronting them, defeating them, required real purpose.

This year’s agenda begins in just a few minutes with a panel called: Revolutions of Our Time: Freedom Without US.

Or, perhaps, Freedom without the US.

But people everywhere in the world have been inspired by the successful American story of freedom and its pursuit of justice and dignity for individuals.

It is a story that is infectious. And it is a story that resonates today throughout the world.

With that type of global influence, that type of power, comes significant responsibility.

I am grateful to Senator Tim Kaine who is here with us again together with Senator Barasso: welcome back.

And I am proud to welcome Senator James Risch, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Mr. Chairman: welcome.

Senator Angus King, Representative Seth Moulton and Representative Jim Banks. Welcome. Thank you for being present.

There are some people who say Washington doesn’t work.

Well, Washington is here, and although we have Senators who disagree with each other on a whole host of issues, they share core universal values.

They can talk with each other and more important listen to each other and, when the listening, when the hearing is at its best, they can get somewhere, move an issue forward.

Just this week, the Senate unanimously passed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act. This is an example to the world of American leadership.

For the first time at Halifax, we have with us Ambassador Robert O’Brien, President Trump’s National Security Advisor.

I am grateful to you Ambassador O’Brien, that together with so many American political leaders, American military leaders, and American experts joining this meeting, you are signaling to the world that America is, indeed, present.

I think of the Halifax agenda as an LP, as a story with an arc to it and our closing panel on Sunday, “Revolutions and their Remains” looks at the intended and unintended consequences of popular movements.

Between now and Sunday, we will be looking at China, looking at the importance of democratic alliances and asking if our institutions, created seven decades ago, are up for the task of defending freedom and democracy through this century. We will look at the role of government and of the private sector in protecting our civil rights when we’ve already become dependent on technology. And we will look at the Arctic, where—as a direct result of climate change—the world’s major powers are staring at each other.

And we will study leadership and the role of women in making the world a more secure and peaceful place. That panel on Sunday, “Security Solutions: Women’s Contributions” will be different from what you might expect—and deliberately so.

I am very proud to welcome the 2019 class of the Halifax Peace With Women Fellowship. Senior Officers from Germany, Australia, New Zealand, Norway, France, the Netherlands, Lithuania, the UK, the US and Canada are concluding their 3-week study-tour with us at the Forum this weekend. The 2018 class of the Fellowship joins us here this weekend as well.

You will hear more about the Fellowship at dinner tonight.

Jonathan Weisstub, our Chairman, announced the Peace With Women Fellowship at the 2017 Forum. In 2 short years it has become an important tool for Allied militaries, something that we are very proud of.

Fellows: Welcome to Halifax. We feel your presence.

You will find that the agenda is most importantly, relevant. And I want to thank our Agenda Working Group who worked with me during the summer to ensure all major issues were addressed.

This program is not only beautiful. In this program, you will find short opinion essays by distinguished authors—many of whom join us this weekend. They set the stage for the plenary panels. They are meant to start the conversation and without exception, they are excellent. Please take time to read them.

Although we did not announce it formally here at Halifax, over the course of the past year, we’ve held meetings several times in London, and I am grateful to Lady Pauline Neville Jones for hosting us at the House of Lords throughout the year. Thank you Pauline and thank you for being present.

Pauline, if I’m not wrong, these London dinners were intended to address what we viewed as the world’s most pressing problems and they didn’t start off dedicated to addressing issues related to China.

But, China is what this dinner series became about.

In a moment of clarity in what is indeed a complicated subject, Pauline told the table at one of the dinners that what was needed was a coherent and comprehensive strategy with regard to China that the United States and Canada and their European and Asian allies could sign up to.

So that is what Halifax is going to do. Over the course of the next 12 months, we will be talking to you, talking to others and crafting a coherent, comprehensive strategy for China that the United States and Canada, and their European and Asian allies can sign up to.

The strategy paper we release will recognize China’s significance as an economic power, while stressing the primacy of our democratic values.

China is a country that is arbitrarily detaining two innocent Canadians known now in international diplomatic circles at the two Michaels. They are Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig and I urge the international community to raise their detainment and demand their release at every meeting with your Chinese interlocutors.

China is a country that is methodically re-educating its Muslim minority population against their will. If the 20th Century taught us anything, it should have taught us what that means. And what is on the horizon.

Indeed, it is no longer a secret that Xi Jinping’s China is working to make the world safe for authoritarianism. It is time for a comprehensive China strategy for the US, Canada and their allies that make the world safe for democracy.

We’ve done it before. With purpose, we can do it again.

The strategy paper will be released at the 2020 Halifax International Security Forum, 2 weeks after the US Presidential election.

At this point in my remarks I want to thank the people who make this weekend work. The true secret of our success is this gorgeous venue and the warmth of the people who work here.

We also have many local volunteers from the community. They are identifiable by their white lanyards and I know are looking forward to helping you.

Tonight at the Gala Dinner we will be honoring Nancy Southern, CEO of ATCO, for her unwavering support of the Forum’s mission and its work.

Canadians like to say that the world needs more Canada, the idea being that Canadians are strong, warm-hearted, and that they do the right thing.

I can’t say if that is true of all Canadians, but it is most certainly true of Nancy Southern.

Nancy thank you. And thank you for being present.

Bill McCaffrey, founder of Calgary-based MEG Energy, founded the Halifax Canada Club 8 years ago to ensure that industry’s ideas for international security are included in the conversations here at Halifax. Bill, Welcome Back. Thank you for being present.

Mr. Ahmet Çalik, Chairman of Istanbul, Turkey-based Calik Holding, welcome back. Thank you for being present.

And Sir Michael Arthur, President of Boeing International, welcome to Halifax. I look forward to your panel tomorrow morning. Thank you for being present.

Together, the Halifax Canada Club ensures that the work we do here this weekend, and throughout the year, will continue. In short, without them, there would be no Halifax International Security Forum.

Nancy, Sir Michael, Ahmet, Bill and senior members of their teams will be identified this weekend by their gold lobster lapel pin: when you have a chance, please thank them for their very generous support.

Like this: Thank you for your very generous support.

Thank you also to NATO. Your support since the beginning has been fundamental and I’m glad to have Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoanna with us this weekend for the first time

Thank you IPSOS for your generous cooperation.

Thank you Foreign Affairs Magazine, Foreign Policy Magazine, our media partners.

Thank you to CAE, CADSI and Pansophico for your very significant support.

Thank you to the Government of Canada, the Department of National Defence, the Canadian Forces and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, ACOA, for your enthusiastic support. Your agencies have believed in what we do since the beginning and we are very grateful.

Deputy Minister of Defence Jody Thomas, thank you.

General Vance, Chief of Canada’s Defence Staff, thank you for your confidence in us, too. Thank you both for being present.

As well, for everyone’s situational awareness, you need to know that I’ve again given my word to General Vance that the Forum will run on time this weekend. That means: on time.

Of course, none of this would be possible without you, our distinguished participants and speakers. Thank you for making the trip.

Please use social media to convey your thoughts throughout our on-the-record sessions. Our hashtag is #HISF2019.

Please don’t use social media during our off-the-record sessions.

I want to thank our Board of Directors. Our Chairman, Jonathan Weisstub and our Vice Chair, Jonathan Tepperman have been with us since 2011 and I am grateful for their longstanding service.

Ahmet Tacyildiz, from Istanbul recently joined the Board and serves as Treasurer and I am grateful to you, Ahmet for your firm commitment to our mission.

I am proud to announce two new members who joined our Board this year. First, Major General Tammy Harris. Tammy retired from the Canadian Forces in 2018 as Deputy Commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force. Tammy was the first woman to command a major Canadian Armed Forces base and throughout her distinguished 30-year military career, Tammy has been a trail-blazer for women in the military. We are so proud to have her as Director of Halifax International Security Forum. Tammy: thank you for your confidence in us.

And Cindy McCain. Cindy has dedicated her life to improving the lives of those less fortunate both in the US and around the world. Cindy has traveled to every corner of this earth, including during conflict, to support vulnerable civilians. She is a tireless humanitarian and having her agree to be on our Board of Directors is the most rewarding signal we could have that Halifax International Security Forum’s work is having an impact. Cindy: thank you.

To all of our Board Members: Thank you for being present.

As many of you know, Halifax International Security Forum was a close friend to Senator John McCain.

In 2017, we inaugurated the John McCain Prize for Leadership in Public Service.

In 2018, Cindy presented the first John McCain Prize to the People of Lesbos, Greece.

Tomorrow morning, we are so proud that Cindy will present the 2019 McCain Prize for Leadership in Public Service to the People of Hong Kong.

It is altogether fitting that Halifax International Security Forum be the first major organization to recognize the people of Hong Kong with a prize that bears Senator McCain’s name.

Of course, there will be some—perhaps many—that criticize or even attack us for commending individuals who stand for freedom. Who take risks for freedom. Who demand freedom.

Sometimes it feels as though Freedom is a new, insurgent, idea. And that those who demand it are somehow demanding just a little bit too much.

This is not the National Basketball Association.

This is Canada.

This is the United States of America

This is Halifax—where representatives of the free peoples of the world and those who aspire to be free come together.

Freedom and the demand for freedom is an idea that is as old as Moses.

Demanding freedom and dignity is never too much.

Senator McCain taught all of us this simple truth thru his life’s work.

His memory here at Halifax gives people everywhere the courage to stand for freedom.

This year, in your packet, you will have received pencils. Inscribed on the pencils are the words: Present, Not Permanent.

We know all too well from the history of the past century that freedom and democracy are fragile. Freedom and democracy can not be taken for granted in any country at any time.

This weekend, be present. Make your presence felt so that, like Senator McCain, our work contributes to making the ideals we treasure as permanent on earth as they can be.

Thank you.

Once again, Minister Sajjan, Thank you for your leadership and your commitment to our mission to strengthen strategic cooperation among the world’s democracies. Thank you for being present.

Ladies and Gentlemen: Canada’s Minister of National Defence, Harjit Sajjan.

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