Canadian beef burgers and carved Canadian beef roasts were the culinary stars of the Canadian Embassy’s national day reception on Friday, July 1, as Ambassador Pierre Alarie and his wife Catherine Alarie welcomed colleagues and friends to celebrate their nation’s 149th birthday.
“Usually, on this anniversary, we look back on what we have achieved over the last year (in terms of bilateral relations),” Alarie said at the start of the event, which was held in the embassy’s garden patio.
“But this time around, I have more than enough material [to talk about] from just this last week.”
Alarie was making reference to the outcome of last week’s two-day North American Leaders Summit (NALS) between Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, U.S. President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, during which Ottawa agreed to abolish Mexican visa requirements as of Dec. 1 in exchange for the lifting of a decade-long ban on Canadian beef imposed by Mexico in 2003 over fears of mad cow disease.
Alarie praised the opening of the Mexican market to Canadian beef, saying that “commerce, investment and a commitment to open markets are still an essential part of the Canadian-Mexican relationship.”
“After all, we are still each other’s third-largest trade partner,” he said.
“I was happy to hear President Peña Nieto announce this week that Mexico will open its borders to Canadian meat. That, too, is testimony to our great friendship and fantastic news for our Canadian ranchers.”
The ambassador went on to make specific reference to his government’s new provision to eliminate visa requirements for Mexican nationals, which led to a resounding round of applause from his Mexican guests.
He reminded them, however, that the new regulations would not take effect for five months, and until then, they would need to get a visa in order to visit the Maple Leaf Nation.
The much-delayed NALS conference (it was originally slated for February 2015, but was cancelled by then-Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper due to mounting tension with the United States over the proposed Keystone XL pipeline), which is often colloquially referred to as the Three Amigos Summit and which has been seen as a key turning point in helping to reset the Mexican-Canadian relationship, also included constructive discussions on immigrant and indigenous community affairs and a three-nation reaffirmation of commitments to lower environmental emissions by guaranteeing that at least 50 percent of all their electricity will come from clean energy sources by the year 2025.
“Now, more than ever, it is clear that Canada and Mexico are strategic partners,” Alarie said, speaking alternately in English, Spanish and French.
“We are neighbors committed in this great community of North America and, more than anything else, we are friends. Our association [of cooperation] extends to all areas that are priorities for our respective governments.”
Alarie also spoke about the importance of protecting human rights and the dignity of indigenous peoples.
“[During the summit, our leaders] signed an ambitious agreement to cooperate on indigenous affairs and we are eager to begin work on that accord as soon as possible,” Alarie said.
He said that he hoped to help promote indigenous rights by fostering local cottage industries, promoting educational opportunities and establishing twinning agreements between Canadian and Mexican native communities.
“Diversity and inclusion are the cornerstones of our pluralistic societies, and Canada will continue to defend the rights of all our people,” Alarie said, adding that one week earlier, several members of the embassy and more than 75 Canadian nationals had participated in Mexico’s LGBT Pride Parade to celebrate sexual diversity.
“As responsible neighbors, we are committed to protecting our continent and planet,” the envoy said.
“It is the legacy that we shall leave to our children and grandchildren, and we take that responsibility very seriously.”
Alarie said that, in recent years, there have been a number of accords related to climate change, including the one reached during the North American Leaders Summit, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
He said that, in addition to complying with the commitments agreed to during the 2015 Paris International Climate Change Conference (also known as COP-21) to reduce emissions, North America will assume a leadership role in helping to slow global warming.
Alarie said that Canada and Mexico are now working together both in bilateral and multilateral forums to make their economies more competitive and more integrated, as evidenced by the Trusted Traveler Program, which fast-tracks pre-vetted business travelers through immigration and customs.
“We will lead the rest of the world by example, eliminating obstacles to commerce and mobility, fighting against protectionism and xenophobia, promoting sustainable development and gender equality, and bringing our people ever closer to one another,” Alarie said.
“We are tearing down walls; not building them.”
The last comment was an obvious jab at U.S. Republican presumptive presidential candidate Donald Trump, who has gained Mexico’s ire for his repeated references to building a wall along the Rio Grande border to curb illegal migration.
Alarie concluded his speech by saying that two-way relations will continue to grow in the future, with a series of slated high-level visit exchanges over the next 12 months.
Canada Day, Canada’s official national day, celebrates the creation of the dominion of Canada through the British North America Act of July 1, 1867, uniting three British territories, the Province of Canada (composed of southern Ontario and southern Quebec), Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, into a single federation.
However, Canada was not completely independent from England until 1982.
The Dominion Day holiday was officially established in 1879, but it wasn’t then observed by many Canadians, who considered themselves to be British citizens.
Dominion Day started to catch on when the 50th anniversary of the confederation rolled around in 1917.
The country’s 100th anniversary in 1967 saw the growth of the spirit of Canadian patriotism and Dominion Day celebrations began to take off.
Although many Canadians already called the holiday Canada Day (Fêtes du Canada), the new name wasn’t formally adopted until October of 1982.