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Full Court Press

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Transcript of remarks at a Parliament Hill reception for the Canadian Polish Congress (whose website is seriously worth a look) last night. A million Canadians have Polish ancestry, and Stephen Harper and Jason Kenney are not only making nice to Poles. But boy, are they making nice to Poles:

Mr. Jason Kenny:        Thank you Your Excellency. (Foreign Language) Ladies and gentlemen, welcome Polonia to Parliament Hill. Prime Minister, Your Excellency, Mr. Colkins and Parliamentary colleagues, let me single out for special recognition tonight the veterans, the Polish combatants, the heros of the liberation of Poland and Europe, please stand up please stand up all Polish combatants who are here tonight. Thank you. You all make us proud as true heros of human freedom. It is a great pleasure to join with you. This has been an evening that we have been looking forward to for a long time. I would like to thank in particular my friend Walter Slovizan and all of those involved in the Polish-Canadian Congress, all of the community organization leaders for coming here to celebrate this triple-anniversary in this very historic time.

We look forward with great anticipation to the visit later this week of his Eminence Cardinal (inaudible) who is going to bring to Canada with him the memories of the great Polish Pope who touched so many Canadians.

It is my pleasure and privilege to introduce our featured speaker and special guest this evening, the Right Honourable, the Prime Minister. This is a Prime Minister who has brought Canada-Polish relations to their most active and highest level in many, many years. This is a Prime Minister who took the right decision to lift the visa requirements so that Poles can come and visit their families in Canada. This is a Prime Minister who chose a significant and meaningful bi-lateral visit to Poland to demonstrate, to symbolize the close and growing friendship, bonds of friendship between Canada and Poland, and he is a Prime Minister who understands the deeply important role in the diversity of Canadian society played by Polonia.

Finally, let me thank and acknowledge his support for a project also being supported by the Polish Canadian Congress to erect here in our National Capital Region, a Canadian monument to the victims of Communism because this Prime Minister believes that we must remember these victims.

So, Mesdames et Messierus s’il vous plaît rejoint avec moi pour souhaiter la bienvenue a notre premier ministre, please join with me in welcoming to the podium our Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Stephen Harper.

Stephen Harper: Thank you, merci beaucoup. Thank you, first of all bonsoir Mesdames et Messieus. Thank you very much Jason for that kind introduction, and you know Jason gave me credit for all kinds of things, but the truth be known, he deserves a lot of the credit for these things. He works very hard on your behalf. I hope you appreciate him. Let’s give him all a big hand.

Greetings to you Ambassador, and thank you for joining us today. Greetings to my Parliamentary colleagues from both Houses, from all Parties. Greetings in particular to Blaine Calkins, a Member of Parliament for the Alberta riding of Wetaskiwin and new Chairman of the Canada Poland Parliamentary Friendship Group, and welcome again to Wladyslaw Lizon, who of course is the head of the Canadian Polish Congress.

Je suis… Give him a big hand.

Je suis ravis de me joindre à vous ce soir alors que nous célébrons trois points saillant qui unissent le Canada et la Pologne. I’m very pleased to join you tonight as we celebrate the three milestones that have been talked about by many speakers and the shared history that binds Canada and Poland together.

First, 2008 marks the 150 anniversary of the first Polish settlement in Canada, not far, just west of here in the area called Kazubi, in and around the Hamlet… Somebody going to correct me on that? Kashubi! I know that did not sound right, in and around the Hamlet, I’m still working on French, in and around the Hamlet as you know of Wilno. This year also marks the 100 anniversary of the birth of the Polish community in Windsor which played such a big role in building the Canadian auto industry there. These anniversaries remind us how much, we as Canadians have benefitted from Canadians of Polish descent. More than 800,000 strong in this country today, how much you have done to help build our country. Polish Canadians have made their mark in every walk of Canadian life. I was told I did not actually know this, a former Deputy Prime Minister Don Mazenkowski had some Polish ancestry, of course the late broadcaster, Peter Zoski, and soon to be Canada’s new Chief of Defense Staff Lieutenant General Walter Natynczyk is here. So give him a big hand.

Finally 2008 is as has been mentioned is the 75th anniversary of the Canadian Polish Congress. Throughout it’s history the Congress has been a strong voice for Canadians of Polish decent and a champion of closer Canada-Poland relations. Our government has been working closely with Wladyslaw and with the Congress on a number of issues, including, as Jason mentioned, the removal of visa requirements for Polish visitors to Canada. We also consulted on the agreement of the portability of pensions which was signed when I visited Poland in April and on the youth mobility agreements, we are now negotiation also with Poland.

The trip to Poland this year was my first. I had a number of very memorable events, I had a tremendous meeting and dinner with Prime Minister Tusk. We agreed on just about everything. I think we straightened out the world in just a couple of hours. I also had a meeting with one of my personal heros, and that was with former President Lech Walesa. That was a really interesting guy to talk to, and let me just relay a part of that conversation with you. I asked him whether you know, when he was leading the solidarity movement at the darkest days whether he thought they would succeed in their objectives, how confident was he of success, and he said he never had any doubt about it, never had any doubt at all. He said there were three things a an electrician he could see the changes in technology, they were going to make communist control harder and harder. He said second you had the arrival of a Polish Pope and the Polish church as a bastion against communism. And he said the third most important thing was he said the Polish people never had accepted and never had believed in Communism. In fact, he said the big difference of Poland to so many other countries, he said, in Poland even the Communist did not believe in Communism. But it is an amazing story how one man, simply taking a simple man taking a stand could lead to a series of events which would not just topple the Communist puppet regime, but ultimately lead to the fall of the Iron Curtain and the fall of the Soviet Union. What a tremendous legacy for any human being to have.

During our short trip, I saw the historic beauty and grandeur of Gdansk and the tremendous growth of modernization that is occurring in Krakow. We also, more somberly, we also visited the former Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz-Berkenau where tens of thousands of Poles were executed by the Nazis. It was a tremendously sad and moving experience.

La Pologne à eu plus que sa part de souffrance et d’oppression au cour du siècle dernier d’abord sur les Nazis, puis sur les Communistes. Mais la population polonaise a persévéré et aujourd’hui la Pologne est un leader en Europe de l’est modèle pour les pays qui luttent pour la liberté et la démocratie de marché libre, ouverte.

Poland endured more than its share of suffering and oppression during the last century, first under the Nazis, then under the Communists, but the Polish people have persevered, and now Poland is a leader in Eastern Europe, indeed it is becoming a leader in NATO, a leader in the world, a model for countries struggling to achieve freedom, democracy and open free market economies. And frankly, to see that transformation in Poland and the way the Polish people so, so deeply understand the gift that is freedom and democracy that we have come to take for granted is truly inspiring and the Poles are doing a great job (inaudible).

In any case, I know that the Canadian Polish Congress from the Canada Poland Parliamentary Friendship Group have provided stalwart support for Poland during all its difficult years and its years of transition. Let me assure you that our government whole-heartedly supports your efforts and we thank you for everything you have done, you are doing and that I know you will do to advance Canada-Polish relations. Thank you very much, happy anniversary, merci beaucoup, (Foreign Language).