Stéphane DION

DION, The Hon. Stéphane, P.C., B.A., M.A., Ph.D.

Personal Data

Party
Liberal
Constituency
Saint-Laurent (Quebec)
Birth Date
September 28, 1955
Website
http://stephanedion.liberal.ca/en
PARLINFO
http://www.parl.gc.ca/parlinfo/Files/Parliamentarian.aspx?Item=6bde42a3-d07c-4c1f-b9d4-9e14a124f465&Language=E&Section=ALL
Email Address
stephane.dion@parl.gc.ca
Profession
author, professor of political science

Parliamentary Career

March 25, 1996 - April 27, 1997
LIB
  Saint-Laurent--Cartierville (Quebec)
  • President of the Queen's Privy Council (January 25, 1996 - December 11, 2003)
  • Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs (January 25, 1996 - December 11, 2003)
June 2, 1997 - October 22, 2000
LIB
  Saint-Laurent--Cartierville (Quebec)
  • President of the Queen's Privy Council (January 25, 1996 - December 11, 2003)
  • Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs (January 25, 1996 - December 11, 2003)
November 27, 2000 - May 23, 2004
LIB
  Saint-Laurent--Cartierville (Quebec)
  • President of the Queen's Privy Council (January 25, 1996 - December 11, 2003)
  • Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs (January 25, 1996 - December 11, 2003)
June 28, 2004 - November 29, 2005
LIB
  Saint-Laurent--Cartierville (Quebec)
  • Minister of the Environment (July 20, 2004 - February 5, 2006)
January 23, 2006 - September 7, 2008
LIB
  Saint-Laurent--Cartierville (Quebec)
  • Minister of the Environment (July 20, 2004 - February 5, 2006)
  • Leader of the Official Opposition (December 2, 2006 - December 9, 2008)
October 14, 2008 - March 26, 2011
LIB
  Saint-Laurent--Cartierville (Quebec)
  • Leader of the Official Opposition (December 2, 2006 - December 9, 2008)
May 2, 2011 - August 2, 2015
LIB
  Saint-Laurent--Cartierville (Quebec)
October 19, 2015 -
LIB
  Saint-Laurent (Quebec)
  • Minister of Foreign Affairs (November 4, 2015 - )

Most Recent Speeches (Page 4 of 460)


December 1, 2016

Hon. Stéphane Dion

Mr. Speaker, I share my colleague’s view that today the official opposition wants to carry on a debate that is not warranted. We should all strive to help the Cuban people achieve reconciliation and work together to provide a better future for their children, rather than stir up old conflicts surrounding Fidel Castro. I completely agree with that.

As for the problem she just raised, I am well aware of it, Canada contributes 10% of the budget. There was a rather serious financial crisis a few months ago. It appears to have subsided, and Canada will be there to make sure that things go smoothly.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
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December 1, 2016

Hon. Stéphane Dion (Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, let us imagine for a moment that we are November 16, 2016, at the university of Havana.

The room is full of students and professors, president Raúl Castro is in attendance, and the scene is broadcast on radio and television, reaching Cubans and other Latin Americans beyond. All are hanging on the words of our prime minister. What is he talking about? He is talking to them about universal rights, diversity as a source of enrichment, the emancipation of youth, and good governance.

I would like to give the reaction of a Cuban human rights activist, as quoted by the CBC. Her name is Miriam Leiva Viamonte, and her husband was imprisoned by Fidel Castro. I will cite her words, not in Spanish, but in English:

I think the young people who go to these events will always listen to what the guest has to say, and even if the government doesn't want them to be influenced by it, some of them will be, and when they leave there, they'll talk about it.

Then she added, “Canada has had an attitude that's been discreet, but not absent. I think it's important that they maintain this connection with the Cuban government”.

I think that says it all, not just on our prime minister’s leadership, but also on our policy of engagement with Cuba and other countries and on the reasons why we will vote against this motion. The Prime Minister has criticized the Cuban regime, but he carefully chose his words in doing so, to keep the lines of communication open and to open Cuban minds to the idea of change.

If he had launched a personal attack on Raúl Castro right there at the university of Havana, some of us may have been happy for it, but it would not have been in the interests of the Cuban people and would have considerably undermined Canada’s capacity to accompany Cuba down the road to reform. That is what diplomacy is. It is not about letting off steam for one's own selfish pleasure, no matter the consequences to others. I am talking about responsible diplomacy, not megaphone diplomacy, which was too common in Canada under the previous government and which the official opposition seems to miss so much.

We should not resign ourselves to simply shooting from the sidelines—the sterile diplomacy of bellicose belligerents.

Let us turn to the day that Fidel Castro died.

It is both respectful and appropriate to make positive remarks about someone's passing, regardless of whether that person is a family member, a friend, a foe, an acquaintance, or a public personality. Numerous other official statements from world leaders on the passing of former Cuban president Fidel Castro reflected this approach.

Of course, Fidel Castro was a dictator, but hardly anyone felt the need to say so on the day of his passing. Instead, our Prime Minister and others focused on the positive, such as the significant progress Cuba has made in the areas of education and healthcare.

As for the Cuban people’s transition to freedom, democracy and the rule of law, I am sure that this is supported by all of us in the House, but I would argue that the best way to help this happen is to engage in the responsible diplomacy that I just described, not megaphone diplomacy.

The best way to help the Cuban people is not to encourage them to stir up old conflicts, but instead to encourage them to work together for a better future. After all, this is how other countries successfully transitioned to democracy. Look at countries from the same cultural era, such as Spain and Chile. They turned to the future and built their democracies. We must wish the Cuban people the same good fortune. Despite the very different opinions they may have of Fidel Castro, they must work together to provide a better society for their children.

As Canadians we must help them. We are in a position to do so, precisely because we never turned our back on Cuba.

Canada, along with Mexico, was one of the only two western hemispheric countries that did not sever its relations with Cuba following the revolution of 1959, a revolution that was both preceded and followed by significant human rights abuses.

In fact, the relationship between Canada and Cuba dates back to the 18th century, when Atlantic Canada began trading codfish and beer for Cuban rum and sugar. Canada has managed to build a strong relationship with Cuba because our approach over the past half-century has been based on a policy of constructive engagement. Engagement is not agreement. If I say it twice maybe the opposition will understand. Indeed, engagement is not agreement. In fact, we needed to engage precisely because we profoundly disagreed with the kind of regime that ruled Cuba. For the sake of the Cuban people, Canada was there and must stay there with the right approach. We have consistently advocated against the U.S. economic embargo and policies that lead to the isolation and impoverishment of the people of Cuba.

Thanks to this consistent policy of engagement, Cuba trusts Canada. Cuba trusts our Prime Minister. This principled and pragmatic policy has delivered strong results for Canadians. It has allowed us to engage proactively with Cuba in all domains, including human rights issues. During all these years, we have encouraged Cuba to take measures to improve freedom of expression and of the press, to improve transparency and due process in its judicial system, and to implement international agreements on civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights.

Our policy of constructive engagement has allowed Canada to work with a wide range of Cuban partners and to support a number of local initiatives within Cuba that promote dialogue and diverse opinions.

Over the last few years, while Cuba has slowly and rather timidly, it is true, started down the path to reforms, Canadians have been there to assist them in all areas—and I do mean all. For example, it was Canada that provided the first optical fibre to the University of Havana for its internet connections. The Internet develops pockets of freedom.

Canada is there to promote independent cultural spaces, human rights publications, university conferences by Internet, and diversity. As Cuba is entering a historic time of transition wherein it is revisiting and updating its economic and governance systems, it needs and sees Canada as a trusted partner and possible model in some areas of governance. For example, Cuba has a great interest in the cooperative models of banking and agrifood business in Quebec.

Canada has built a strong development cooperation program in Cuba, through which we support, among other things, sustainable economic development, greater food security, and women's rights.

Now, let us look at the economic ties. Through our policy of engagement, Cuba has become Canada's largest export market in Central America and in the Caribbean, worth an estimated $495 million per year. Canada is the second-largest foreign investor in Cuba.

As Cuba looks to grow its trade and investment with the world, Canada is working with it to identify opportunities to promote mutual prosperity. Canada has the knowledge and technology needed to meet the needs of Cubans in a wide of range of sectors, particularly agrifood products; infrastructure; and sustainable technology, including renewable energy, and life sciences.

As Cuba continues to promote reform of its economy, and the Cuban middle-class expands, there is significant potential for growth in trade and investment.

Beyond trade, we have also built strong people-to-people ties. Just as Cuban Canadians have made an immeasurable economic and cultural contribution to Canada, Canadians make up more than 40% of foreign tourists to Cuba, who represent an important source of income and employment for the Cuban people.

One of the aspects of Cuba that Canadians admire is how passionately Cubans celebrate life and culture. The many Canadians who visit Cuba every year can attest to the spirit of the Cuban people and their love of music in particular.

Next year, during the 150th anniversary of Confederation, Canada will share our own culture with Cuba, as we are featured as the country of honour at the Havana Book Fair.

Our engagement has also positioned us to co-operate with Cuba on common challenges to safety and security. The Caribbean is a region where millions of Canadians travel every year, which has impacts on their safety and security, in the form of transnational organized crime and narcotics trafficking. It happens that Cuba has the lowest level of crime and violence in the Caribbean. During his recent visit, our Prime Minister took the opportunity to strengthen our co-operation with Cuba to address illicit trafficking of drugs—

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
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December 1, 2016

Hon. Stéphane Dion

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister went to Cuba to speak about rights, the necessity to move to moderate reforms and to give the support of Canada for these reforms to be sure that universal human rights would be respected in Cuba. It is what he did and it is what we will do. It is the approach we take.

However, I understand what my colleague said at the beginning of his statement and the words he used may be a way for him to express his feelings, but it is not the way to help the people of Cuba to go ahead, to reconcile themselves, not to forget about the past, but to move toward the future instead of antagonizing them about the past. It is what we need to do now all together in choosing the best approach, which is sound diplomacy as is described in my speech.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Full View Permalink

December 1, 2016

Hon. Stéphane Dion

Mr. Speaker, it is very difficult to be able to predict what will happen, but all of us have hope. It is more than hope. The motion speaks only about hope. We have a duty to act because it is in our interest to see the Caribbean stabilized and to be democratic, but it is also a tribute about what we owe to our own Cuban community in Canada, which is so vibrant and helping Canada. We need to be there in Cuba. We have a strong capacity to help the country precisely because over decades we have had an approach of engagement and some diplomacy, not the megaphone diplomacy it would seem that some of us in the House would like to adopt that would do no good. We will see how step by step and as speedily as possible, Cuba will become a respectful democracy like Chile and Spain, and so many other countries that have been successful in reconciling themselves and focusing on the future, whatever the disagreements about the past.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
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December 1, 2016

Hon. Stéphane Dion (Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, in processing parliamentary returns, the government applies the Privacy Act and the principles set out in the Access to Information Act. As such, the requested information has been withheld on the grounds that its release could be expected to be injurious to the conduct of international affairs; threatening the safety of Canadians, employees, or property of the Government of Canada.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Questions on the Order Paper
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