'It doesn't seem important. It is.'

The prepared text of Michael Ignatieff’s speech to the Canadian Club this afternoon.

I’m here today to talk to you about Canada’s place in the world—how we’ve lost it and how we can get it back.

The world is changing, and Canada has to change with it.  Our identity as a people will be defined by the place we find in the world that is taking shape on the other side of this global recession.

Canada was born inside two Empires, the French, the British, and we have matured beside the most powerful nation in history, the United States.

What happens to our identity, our place in the world, when the centre of gravity shifts to Asia? When India and China become the powerhouses of the global economy?

We should have nothing to fear from the rise of these new powers. A new world creates new opportunities for Canada. Opportunities to trade, to learn, and to create the global architecture of security for this emerging new world. But only if we have leadership that seizes these opportunities.

Ce que nous faisons à l’étranger contribue à nous définir. C’est le reflet de notre personnalité. C’est le reflet de ce que nous pouvons apporter au monde pour qu’il soit meilleur. C’est le prolongement de ce que nous sommes comme peuple.

By and large, Canadian politicians scarcely utter a word about Canada in the world on the hustings.  It doesn’t seem important. It is.

After the last four years, it’s hard to remember how much Canada once mattered.

Nous avons aidé à créer les grandes institutions qui sont l’architecture du monde d’aujourd’hui. La Banque mondiale, le Fonds monétaire international. Le GATT, maintenant l’Organisation mondiale du commerce. L’OTAN.

Multilateralism was the Canadian mantra. In 1956, Lester Pearson found a way out of the Suez Crisis and made peacekeeping our vocation. When he won the Nobel Peace Prize the next year, the Nobel committee said “he’d saved the world.” We cheered.

In the post-war era, we became the world’s leading peacekeepers. Up to 1988, there was not a single mission that we didn’t join. At the same time, we went to war in Korea, the Persian Gulf and Kosovo. We went to war when we had to. We kept the peace when we could. Blue helmets became an emblem of our identity.

En 1950, nous étions là pour le Plan de Colombo qui a mis en place le premier programme d’aide international. C’était Pearson qui avait proposé que les pays les plus riches du monde s’engagent à verser point-sept pour cent de leur richesse à l’aide internationale. En 1975, nous avions fait la moitié du chemin. Et à Kananaskis en 2002, nous avons pris un nouvel engagement envers l’Afrique.

An engaged, muscular internationalism was not the exception for Canada; it was the rule. It was us.

What we did in the world wasn’t about one party or one policy. Under both Liberals and Progressive Conservatives, Canada led proudly on the world’s stage.

Pierre Trudeau a ouvert ses bras à la Chine. Jean Chrétien a fait la promotion de l’Afrique. Paul Martin s’est fait défenseur du G-20. John Diefenbaker a accru l’aide internationale et Brian Mulroney s’est fermement opposé à l’apartheid en Afrique du Sud. Par le passé, il y avait un consensus entre les partis sur le rôle du Canada dans le monde.

Malheureusement, mes amis, ce consensus s’est envolé. Pour le gouvernement conservateur de Stephen Harper la scène internationale n’existe que pour scorer des points sur la scène domestique.  Et notre crédibilité sur la scène internationale s’affaiblit en conséquence.

The Conservatives are giving up Canada’s place in the world.

We have a prime minister who thinks so little of foreign affairs that he changes foreign ministers the way he changes shirts. We’ve had four in just three-and-a-half years. They come and go with the seasons.

Our friends abroad see this revolving door. They note our silence in international councils and ask: Where is Canada?

Under Stephen Harper, we are no longer the world’s leading peacekeeper; we aren’t even in the top thirty. We are no longer among the world’s ten leading donors. Worse, the Conservatives have abandoned Africa,.

Quand nos services étrangers ne sont pas ignorés ou insultés, ils sont muselés. Nos budgets à l’international ont été coupés. Nous nous sommes même retirés de la diplomatie culturelle en laissant tomber la promotion de nos artistes, de nos acteurs, de nos auteurs à l’étranger. C’est notre âme que nous abandonnons.

Stephen Harper has so diminished our stature that we are struggling to win a seat on the Security Council of the United Nations—the seat we’ve held every decade since the founding of the UN.

Nous ne défendons même plus les droits des Canadiens à l’étranger. Ce sont nos concitoyens. Mais si elle s’appelle Souad Mohammed, notre gouvernement l’abandonne. Ce que moi je dis, Mesdames, Messieurs, c’est qu’un Canadien est un Canadien est un Canadien.

We were once the world’s great mediators. Now, in the Middle East, in Africa and in Sri Lanka, we have ceded our place to others.

Sous la gouverne des conservateurs, le Canada a renié sa signature au bas du protocole de Kyoto. Et qui peut dire jusqu’où nous descendrons si ce sont les Conservateurs qui nous représentent à la prochaine conférence sur les changements climatiques en décembre à Copenhague?

Under this government, Canada is becoming the country that dares not speak its name.

We still have the world’s finest diplomats. Louis Guay and Bob Fowler remind us just how tough and courageous our best can be.

We still have the world’s bravest soldiers, one hundred and thirty of whom have died in Afghanistan.

Aujourd’hui, nous rendons hommage au soldat Patrick Lormand, mort lors d’une mission hier, à Kandahar.

We still feed the hungry and treat the sick around the world.

Our diplomats, soldiers, aid workers—still distinguish themselves and our country every day, in every corner of the world.

They deserve a government that does the same.

Nothing seems to matter to this government—not the ascent of China and India, not the rights of our accused compatriots, not a seat in the United Nations, not the threat of global warming. Anything goes.

This is tragic. More than ever, Canada must see itself as a nation of the world, at home in the world. The world must live in Canada and Canada must live in the world.

To reach our potential our government must catch up to what Canada has already become: one of the most international societies on earth.

Nearly twenty percent of our people were born in another country. Nearly two million of us work and live abroad at any given time. We speak all the languages of the world.

Instead of lamenting these facts, instead of insinuating that someone who has lived overseas is somehow less of a Canadian, we should celebrate all our citizens. We should be more international, not less. More open to the world, not less. More adventurous, not less.

We need a government that catches up with the Canadian people’s own internationalism and inspires it to further heights.

This means asking more of our government and ourselves, not less. Raising expectations of our performance overseas, not lowering them.

Let me set out the elements of a Liberal strategy for a big Canada, an ambitious Canada, a Canada that leads by example.

Our Canada will champion an agenda of international governance reform. Our priority, as the host of the G-8 summit next year in Huntsville, will be to expand the G-8 to include the countries of the G-20.

And to ensure a truly inclusive global forum, we would offer to host and fund a permanent G-20 secretariat in Canada.

Our Canada will lead the world in rethinking financial regulatory reform. Our banking system, born of Canadian prudence, is the envy of the world. Our central banker, Mark Carney, is an exemplary public servant. We can take the lead here.

Our Canada will renew our relationship with the US. At a time when Europe is tearing down its borders, North America is raising fences between friends.  The number of visitors to Canada from the United States has fallen to its lowest level in a generation. The impact on cross border trade will hurt the United States as much as it hurts us.

Our Canada will engage with the Americans in strengthening not weakening the North American economic space.

Notre Canada assumera un rôle en Afghanistan après 2011. Un rôle différent. Ça veut dire un engagement humanitaire pour aider à construire ce pays et consolider les progrès durement accomplis.

Our allies have appointed high-level envoys to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Stephen Harper has refused. We need to be fully part of the effort to restore stability. Our troops have done us proud. Now we must commit our full diplomatic muscle to the same ends.

Notre Canada renversera la décision de ce gouvernement qui a renoncé à demander la clémence pour des Canadiens condamnés à mort à l’étranger. Si nous n’imposons pas la peine capitale chez nous, pourquoi devrions-nous accepter que pareille sentence pèse sur des Canadiens à l’étranger?

Our Canada will assert our sovereignty over the Arctic, not only by bolstering our air and naval presence, but also by investing in Northerners—their communities, their economic development, their health and education.

We must re-engage with the Arctic Council and foster closer ties with all of the Arctic peoples. Military defense of sovereignty is not enough. We must partner with our Arctic neighbours to guarantee progress for our Arctic peoples, a concerted response to climate change and orderly development of northern resources.

Our Canada will take our place as a Pacific power. We will engage with China and India, where Stephen Harper has turned a cold shoulder. We will harness the strength of our own diversity to strengthen our ties. And a Liberal government will bring back the Team Canada Trade Missions—which were so successful under Prime Ministers Chrétien and Martin.

Our Canada will make ending poverty a top priority, which means returning our focus to Africa, which the Conservatives have deserted.

Notre Canada, nous le voyons comme un représentant de la bonne gouvernance dans le monde, capable de montrer le chemin de la paix, capable d’enseigner le fédéralisme et la bonne entente entre les nations, capable de proposer des codes de conduite et de superviser des élections libres. À ces fins, nous établirons un Secrétariat de la paix, de l’ordre et de la bonne gouvernance.

The responsibility to protect was, in part, a Canadian idea—and central to that vision is prevention. With our record in peace, order and good government, Canada can resume its leadership in conflict prevention.

These are only some of the things we will do to return Canada’s voice in the world.

It isn’t Canadians who are the problem. Canadians are out there. The problem is this government.

Le gouvernement conservateur a perdu la foi. Il ne croit plus à l’action internationale.

Mais les Canadiens, eux, sont présents dans le monde. Ils voyagent et étudient à l’étranger en nombre record. Ils s’inscrivent dans des programmes internationaux ici et à l’étranger comme jamais. Ils sont nombreux à fonder ou à militer dans des organisations non gouvernementales. Ce monde, c’est celui des Canadiens, mais ce n’est pas celui de leur gouvernement.

Our lobstermen in Prince Edward Island want to sell their catch in Macau. Our forestry workers, farmers, and entrepreneurs want us to be conquering new markets in Asia. They are quicker and smarter than their government.

It is time that government caught up with them. It is time for the world to be at the centre of our national conversation, not the margins. It is time that we embraced a view of the world worthy of the country we love, the country I remember from my father’s time, the country we can yet be again.

We can do better – and we will.

Thank you.