Responses from Stéphane Dion, Canada Minister of Foreign Affairs, to questions from Chugoku Shimbun in written interview

Question) How many times have you visited Hiroshima? If you’ve visited Hiroshima before, when did you visit the city? What were your impressions of the city?
Answer) Although my previous trips to Japan have taken me to Tokyo and Fukushima, this will be my first visit to Hiroshima.

Q) What do you hope to experience in Hiroshima this time?
A) I am looking forward to my visit to Hiroshima, a city with a long history, which is renowned for its natural beauty, cultural heritage and delicious food, including its famous Okonomiyaki. I am also looking forward to seeing firsthand the strong grassroots connections that exist between Hiroshima and Canada.

We enjoy a vibrant and multifaceted relationship, including business linkages, academic partnerships and longstanding people-to-people ties.

There are many active partnerships between Hiroshima and Canadian businesses, especially in the automotive, aerospace, building materials, and food products sectors.

As an academic and former university professor, I am pleased at the growing number of educational linkages between Canadian and Hiroshima-based institutions. One recent development of note was the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding on Education Cooperation between the British Columbia Council for International Education and the Hiroshima Prefectural Board of Education in November 2014. This has led to subsequent student mobility agreements between the Hiroshima Board of Education and school districts in British Columbia, as well as teacher training programs. There are also numerous partnership agreements between Canadian and Hiroshima universities, as well as sister-school relationships between our secondary schools.

Another key driver of our people-to-people relationship is the Hiroshima-Canada Association, founded in 1988. This proactive, 400-member-strong association meets several times a year, plans social events and missions to Canada, and publishes a regular newsletter.

Canada has had an Honorary Consulate in Hiroshima since 1996, which assists with consular affairs, bilateral business promotion and grassroots connections with individuals of all ages.

On a personal level, I find it particularly rewarding to visit a city that has been twinned with my hometown of Montreal since 1988. Indeed, the City of Hiroshima has celebrated an annual “Montreal Day” event during the month of July since 2001, featuring cultural performances and exhibitions.

Q) What hopes do you have for the upcoming foreign ministers’ meeting?
A) Canada looks forward to a constructive dialogue with our G7 partners on a wide range of pressing international security issues. Canada and Japan have been like-minded partners on many issues within the G7 and we look forward to working with Japan during its presidency year. Japan’s G7 agenda and priorities align well with our own. We hope to advance our common interests on international security objectives such as terrorism and countering ISIL, maritime security, nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, tensions on the Korean Peninsula and Russia/Ukraine. We are particularly pleased to also be discussing women, peace and security and cyber at this upcoming Foreign Minister Meeting.

What would you like to discuss to advance peace in the world?

I am proud of the Government of Canada’s ambitious domestic and international agenda. Early major initiatives have included the refocusing of Canada’s contributions to the Global Coalition against ISIL and the effort to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees in Canada. As of March 1, over 26,000 Syrian refugees had arrived in Canada.

We will advance Canada’s values and interests through leadership and engagement on key global issues, including at the UN and other multilateral institutions. Among other measures, we will increase support for peace operations, mediation, and conflict-prevention and continue advancing global non-proliferation and disarmament efforts aimed ultimately at the complete elimination of weapons of mass destruction.

We are also working to promote the values of inclusive and accountable governance, peaceful pluralism and respect for diversity, and human rights, including the rights of women and refugees, which in our view are key to achieving greater peace and security in the world. Canada sees the G7 as a key forum for like-minded partners to work together to provide leadership on these issues.

What suggestions would you like to make to overcome obstacles toward realizing this peace?

As North Korea’s recent nuclear and ballistic missile tests demonstrated, further progress in preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and their means of delivery is needed to create the conditions for global peace. Canada strongly values existing non-proliferation and disarmament instruments such as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, the Biological Toxins Weapons Convention, and the Chemical Weapons Convention which play important roles in reducing the global threat of WMD. The international community must work with conviction and in concert to ensure universal adherence and compliance with these treaties and conventions, including holding accountable those responsible for using chemical weapons in Syria. Canada is also actively pursuing the negotiation of a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty, which would ban the production of materials used to create nuclear weapons. Canada strongly believes in the importance of constructive dialogue as an avenue for overcoming obstacles to global peace, and we are determined to engage constructively in that regard.

Q)Do you support “a world without nuclear weapons”? What should be done to realize such a world?
A)Canada actively supports a world without nuclear weapons and is fully engaged in achieving this goal by encouraging practical and politically viable approaches to nuclear disarmament that are inclusive of all stakeholders.

We advocate a step-by-step approach to nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament that halts the spread of nuclear weapons, reduces existing stockpiles and ultimately eliminates them. This approach includes a universalized Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, fully in-force Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty and verifiable Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty. In support of this approach, Canada is actively participating in the International Partnership for Nuclear Disarmament Verification, which is aiming at developing the necessary verification tools that will be required to verify multilateral nuclear disarmament. We are also participating in the Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG) established by the UN General Assembly in the fall of 2015 to “substantively address concrete effective legal measures, legal provisions and norms that will need to be concluded to attain and maintain a world without nuclear weapons.” We believe that the step-by-step approach provides the best path to succeeding in verifiably eliminating nuclear weapons worldwide.

Q)Do you have any suggestions as to what the youth of Hiroshima can do to promote peace?
A)Youth are playing a critical role in the world today, particularly in promoting peace. In Canada, our goal is to engage youth in a dialogue about being involved in their communities, in their country and in the world.

In Canada, our Prime Minister is not only our Head of Government, but has chosen to also serve as the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and Youth. This means that ‘youth’ are now part of the Prime Minister’s portfolio, for the first time in Canadian history.

I encourage young people to explore Canada and Japan’s shared program known there as a bilateral working-holiday program and here as International Experience Canada. The program allows up to 6,500 young individuals of each country to travel and work in each other’s country. Japan’s Kakehashi project is another example of youth exchange initiatives that bridge people from different countries. I understand that, through this program, a group of Canadians visited Japan last autumn and, in the opposite direction, young Japanese visited Canada this winter.

Youth are the key to building peaceful, pluralistic and resilient societies. Their contributions to peace in their own communities help build peace and security elsewhere.