During the G7 foreign ministers’ meeting on 22–23 April 2018 in Toronto, my colleagues and I had very good discussions about the state of the world and the important role that the G7 countries must play as partners in our post-war [societies] to help meet the challenges we face. One of these challenges comes from those who question the value of the norms, rules and institutions that have ensured peace and prosperity in the world for more than 70 years.
Despite the challenges that exist within the present system, the solution is not and cannot be its dissolution. On the contrary, we must renew or even strengthen the post-war multilateral order. That is why Canada is demonstrating constructive leadership in the multilateral arena to promote peace, security and prosperity around the world, and why we look forward to taking advantage of our G7 presidency in 2018 to advance the priorities that we share with our partners.
Peace and prosperity go hand in hand. A core pillar of our government’s mandate has been to present new ideas to Canadians about the economy and about how to create good middle class jobs in the 21st century. When we make concerted efforts to create opportunities for everyone, we create the economic security that is essential for our countries to grow and thrive together. When we create opportunities for everyone, we learn that the forces that bind us together are much stronger than the forces that pull us apart.
Canada is a living, growing testament to that fact. And it is with this in mind that the G7 foreign ministers have … focused on the opportunity to show strong, united leadership in the face of today’s major political, economic and security challenges. As a group, we share a common desire to uphold democracy, human rights and the rule of law and to strengthen the rules-based international order, including rules-based trade.
My colleagues and I agree that as our democratic institutions come under increasing threat, we must use meetings such as this one to provide international leadership that will serve as a bulwark against these trends. This meeting … has been a chance for us to clearly state once again to the world that the G7 countries are committed to preventing, stopping and responding to foreign interference. And to be very clear, there are consequences for those who seek to undermine our democracies and otherwise harm the open, pluralist and prosperous societies we have built.
Naturally, we spent a considerable amount of time talking about Russia, whose actions continue to challenge the rules-based international order. We all share deep concerns about what we agree is a wide pattern of unacceptable behaviour, including the despicable nerve agent attack in the United Kingdom, one of our partners in the G7; Russia’s continued complicity in the crimes of the Assad regime; the illegal annexation and occupation of Crimea; Russian-led fighting in eastern Ukraine; support for civil strife there as well as in Georgia, Moldova and other countries; and interference in elections and disinformation campaigns.
The countries of the G7 are united in our resolve to work together to respond to this continued flaunting of international norms and standards. I was pleased that Pavlo Klimkin, the foreign minister of Ukraine, was able to join us here in Toronto as a guest at the breakfast I hosted at my house … Ukraine is all too familiar with the very real consequences of Russian misbehaviour and the countries of the G7 will continue to provide support to Ukraine through the upcoming national elections, in the face of ongoing aggression, as well as with much needed anti-corruption and economic reforms.
As a group, we must be united in our steadfast commitment to address instability wherever it may occur. Over the two days [of meetings], we spent time discussing Myanmar and what we can and must do to address the humanitarian and security crisis in Rakhine state and Bangladesh. We must take action in a unified way, working with regional partners to deliver humanitarian aid for the monsoon season and crucially to seek accountability and justice for survivors, particularly the survivors of sexual violence.
Finding solutions to conflict
On Syria, we remain gravely concerned by chemical weapons attacks against civilians. Conversations will continue in Brussels … about carving a path towards genuine, durable and humane solutions to the tragic conflict, focusing on a political solution.
Building on conversations we had at the Summit of the Americas in Lima, and at the Commonwealth in London, we also addressed the crisis in Venezuela and the important role the G7 can play to address the deepening political humanitarian and economic crisis that President Maduro and those close to him have created. And as one of the two western hemisphere countries in the G7, I want to thank my colleagues in the G7 from the rest of the world for their solidarity with us and their focus on the Venezuela issue.
With respect to North Korea, we agreed that a peaceful diplomatic solution to the crisis is both essential and possible. The Canadian government will continue to follow developments closely … and support South Korea and Japan, our key partners in the region, and of course, the work of the United States. More broadly, the ministers gathered here in Toronto discussed what it means to defend the rules-based international order and democracy.
As G7 foreign ministers, we pledge to do everything in our power to protect human rights and to ensure that those responsible for crimes committed are held accountable. We also agree that it is particularly important that gender dimensions are fully integrated in our thinking on the entire spectrum of foreign policy, including conflict resolution and prevention.
[On 22 April], I was delighted to welcome women foreign ministers from outside the G7 from Croatia, Jamaica, Ghana, Panama, Colombia, Guatemala and Ecuador for an outreach session. And Federica [Mogherini, the European Union’s high representative on foreign affairs] and I announced that we will co-host a meeting of all the women foreign ministers in the world in Canada in September. I think that will be a great event and a great moment in Canada’s G7 presidency.
It is our duty to combat gender-based discrimination that slows down women’s leadership, to break down the barriers that women face. The preservation of this multilateral global order and the resolution of international conflicts pass, among other things, feminism.
This is not an exhaustive list of the topics covered. We have been very hard at work over the past couple of days, but I wanted to give you a sense of how much ground we’ve covered.
Closing remarks by the Honourable Chrystia Freeland, minister of foreign affairs, after the G7 foreign ministers’ meeting in Toronto, 23 April 2018.