Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member for Calgary—Nose Hill giving me a portion of her time.
In the past week, Canada and the world have witnessed an unprecedented level of political change and civil turmoil in Egypt. Today, to our sadness, we learned that the formerly peaceful demonstrations had turned violent, resulting in more than 400 injuries, some serious, and at least one death. We deeply regret the loss of life and our condolences go out to the family and friends of those injured in these violent clashes. The violence that has occurred is unacceptable.
The people of Egypt have spoken out and demanded profound political change. While hearing the change demanded by the Egyptian people, the world has an interest in ensuring Egypt remains stable and secure.
Egypt has been an important partner for Canada in particular, not just in our bilateral relationship, but also in the pursuit of our shared interest in peace, stability and security in the Middle East and beyond.
As the Prime Minister said yesterday:
Canada reiterates its support for the Egyptian people as they transition to new leadership and a promising future. As Egypt moves towards new leadership, we encourage all parties to work together to ensure an orderly transition toward a free and vibrant society in which all Egyptians are able to enjoy these rights and freedoms, not a transition that leads to violence, instability and extremism.
Egypt is at another crossroads in its long and vibrant history. The choices the Egyptian people and their government make in the coming days will be important for the country, the region, and the world. Egypt matters, and Canada is pushing for political and economic reforms that will allow Egypt to continue to play an increasingly positive and constructive role in the world. This global engagement means that the entire international community has an interest in ensuring that Egypt remains a stable and peaceful presence on the world stage, particularly in the Arab world where Egypt’s positive influence has been perhaps most strongly felt.
From the onset of our bilateral relationship when Canada and Egypt opened embassies in Cairo and in Ottawa, our two countries have worked together in support of regional stability and prosperity. Egypt, a key Arab and African partner, has been a key factor to stability in the Middle East. A shared commitment to a just and comprehensive peace in the region is one of the core elements of Canada’s bilateral relationship with Egypt.
It is in its relations with Israel where Egypt has proven to be a moderate force in the Arab world. Where other countries avoided a politically difficult decision, Egypt’s far-sighted leader, Anwar Sadat, took a principled stance toward peace and stability. He became the first Egyptian president to visit Israel and, in 1979, signed a historic peace agreement based on the Camp David accords. This decision to normalize relations with Israel and advocate for peace in the region is something that Egypt continues to do to this day.
The pursuit of this ideal came at an extremely high price as Egypt lost Sadat to hate-filled extremism. It is up to the international community to ensure such a visionary commitment to peace and stability continues to prevail in Egypt over extremism and an ideology of hate.
It is also important to realize that Egypt’s role in the region has brought economic benefit to its people. Partnership with Israel yielded $500 million in bilateral trade between the two countries. The peace accord has been a positive factor for both countries since, for example, the absence of a major military threat from Egypt has allowed Israel to cut its defence spending from nearly a quarter of its gross national product in the 1970s to less than 10% today. For over 30 years both countries have been free of the devastating social and economic threat and associated costs of war.
Today Egypt also sells a considerable amount of natural gas to Israel. In 2005 the neighbours signed an agreement to ensure that the arrangement continues for the next 20 years. The pipeline is run by East Mediterranean Gas, an Egyptian-Israeli joint venture. The presence of an agreement has also promoted a great deal of foreign investment in both countries. Clearly, this serves as an example for others in the region to follow, one which can unlock the true potential of a troubled region, a region constantly under threat by extremist elements.
Egypt also plays a role in maintaining stability along its southwest border with Gaza despite relentless efforts by extremist groups to destabilize it. Continuing Egyptian co-operation on limiting arms smuggling into Gaza is essential for regional security.
It is clear that the Egyptian people have made a profound decision. They are insisting on choosing their rules, defining their system of government, and defining the values behind that government’s policies, both domestic and foreign. We sincerely hope that in this time of political change both the people and their government will remain true to those values and actions that have made Egypt a positive force in the region and one that has upheld its commitment to peace, stability and security.
Terrorism cannot prevail. Extremism cannot prevail. Hate cannot prevail.