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Opening Remarks: Peter Van Praagh, President, Halifax International Security Forum (2015)

Paris. Paris est la ville qui nous inspire.

Paris est la ville qui réveille nos sens et nos passions.

Paris est cosmopolite, el élégante.

Paris est une inspiration musicale et artisteque dans nos vies.

Paris est la gardienne de la culture.

Paris est la ville qui protège l’imagination du monde.

Il y a soixante-dix ans, les parisiens célébraient la libération de leur ville de la tyrannie des nazis.

Il y a sept jours, des parisiens ont été assassinés par un nouveau groupe de tyrans.

Quant ils attaquent Paris, ils attaquent la l’humanité toute entière.

Ministers, Members of the Congressional Delegation, Distinguished officers, Ladies and Gentlemen, my name is Peter Van Praagh, and on behalf of my board of directors and everyone who worked to put on this 7th Halifax International Security Forum, welcome to Halifax.

Seven decades ago, Paris was liberated from Nazi tyranny. Seven days ago, Paris was attacked by a new group of tyrants.

We meet today in the shadow of that tragedy. Last week’s attack on Paris will take all of us, in our different ways, time to heal.

I have a 3 year-old daughter, Elizabeth—Bizzy for short. And for whatever reason—probably because her brother and sister are Star Wars fans—Bizzy’s new favorite game is called, “Bad guys.”

It’s a simple game that largely consists of her pulling her bed covers over her head and yelling, “bad guys!” when her older brother or sister, or sometimes, her mother or father enter her room. “Bad guys!” Bizzy yells, always giggling and smiling.

In too many places, all too often, children have been put in fear of real bad guys.

After Paris, we are talking about the Islamic State.

After Paris, after the Russian Metrojet bombing over Sinai, after Beirut, after Ankara, after Mali just today – after so many tragedies– no serious person can ignore the threat that the Islamic State poses.

After seeing the pictures and hearing the stories from Paris, it is difficult not to feel a certain amount of despair. But we are by no means helpless.

It is vital that we acknowledge that this is a winnable war.

When nation-states coordinate to defeat terrorists andThe nations of the world must act in a way that is both coordinated and strategic. Every country must do its part to put an end to terrorism and rein in rogue actors, the Islamic State and its psychopathic followers are no match for our collective resources.

It is no longer acceptable to place the bulk of this responsibility on the G7Leading democracies, such as Canada and its traditional allies, France, the United Kingdom, and the United States together with NATO, and democracies represented in this room, must lead and coordinate global cooperation to ensure that, upon victory, the post-conflict environment in the Middle East takes on a trajectory toward lasting stability.
Strategic and tactical victories in Syria and Iraq will help to stop as well stopping those who terrorize our local communities is fundamental to success today..

However, ISIS is not the only test that democracies face.

70 years after the second world war, the global battle for a modern and democratic world continues.

The agenda for this weekend here at Halifax addresses the global challenges that our democracies are facing.

Today, Russia and China portray themselves as making steady gains. And yet, both UN Security Council members bend, if not break, international norms and laws to achieve their goals.

Human trafficking, drug smuggling, and money laundering and the accompanying government corruption affects our security indirectly—
if not directly.

Modern technology has the potential to change the way we prosecute our wars, but at the same time has the potential to lead us down a precarious path.

Also on the agenda, securing our energy resources and addressing the consequences of climate change.

The Muslim World continues to be a mystery. As President Gul of Turkey writes for our program, quote: “It is up to Muslims themselves to undertake a serious reappraisal of their place in history and their place today. And it is up to the rest of the world to question and reappraise their own shortcut perceptions about Muslims.” End quoute.

In too many parts of the world, children live in fear. A fear so deep, that parents risk everything – everything that they have—to leave that danger—behind.

We are witness to one the world’s largest mass migrations in history. Last year, more than 60 million people were displaced. From Syria, Afghanistan, Eritrea, Nigeria, Pakistan, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Gambia, Bangladesh, people are running for their lives.

Together, these are issues that we, in this room, must get right. Unlike my daughter Bizzy who is playing a game, we, as an alliance for democratic modernity entrusted with our children’s future, we cannot pull the blankets over our head.

Today, three hundred participants from over 60 countries are in Halifax to have a real conversation about international security and the challenges facing our nations now and into 2016.

In a moment, you will hear from Harjit Sajjan, Canada’s new Minister of National Defence and your host for the weekend.

But quickly: for those of you who have been here before, you already know that we take pride in creating an atmosphere that provokes serious conversation and debate. I encourage you to help your colleagues and new friends who are here for the first time in any way you can.

I’ve already touched upon the agenda—and I want to thank our Agenda Working Group who worked with us during the summer to ensure all major issues were addressed.

In this program, you will find short opinion essays by distinguished authors that set the stage for the plenary panels. They are meant to start the conversation and without exception, they are excellent. Please take time to read them.

This weekend would not be possible without you, our participants. Thank you for making the trip.

Thank you Senator Kaine, Senator Barasso for coming back to Halifax. Senator Murphy, it is a pleasure to welcome you for the first time. Together, your participation at Halifax is vital.

Bill McCaffrey, CEO of Calgary-based MEG Energy, founded the Halifax Canada Club 4 years ago to ensure that industry’s ideas for international security are included in the conversations here at Halifax. Thank you.

Thank you also Nancy Southern, CEO of ATCO Group for your unwavering support.

Thank you to the Government of Canada, the Department of National Defence, and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, ACOA, for your enthusiastic support. Thank you General Vance, Chief of the Canadian Defence Staff for the support of the Canadian Forces.

Thank you also to NATO and to Foreign Affairs Magazine, our media partner.

Finally, I want to thank members of our board of directors for their leadership and for being with us this weekend, Jonathan Weisstub, Jonathan Tepperman, David Kramer, and general counsel Dean Fealk.

Halifax International Security Forum began as an initiative in 2009 by Peter MacKay, when he was Minister of National Defence. Thank you, for your vision. And we look forward to presenting our Builders Award to you this evening.

As you all know, Canada has a new government and I welcome Minister of Defence Sajjan and Minister of Veterans Affairs Hehr and President of the Treasury Board, Minister Brison. Thank you all for your leadership.

I will end where I began:

Paris. Paris is the city that inspires us.
Paris is the city that dares us to see. To feel. To be passionate.
Paris is our aspiration for the role that art, and music, play in our lives.
Paris is the keeper of culture.
Paris is the city that protects the world’s imagination.

When they attacked Paris, they attacked civilization itself. Now civilization will show its resolve.

Ladies and Gentlemen, it is my privilege to welcome to the podium, the Honourable Harjjit Singh Sajjan, Canada’s Minister of National Defence, and your host for the weekend.

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