Dimanche 26 Mai 2019  
 

N°82 - Deuxième trimestre 2008

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  M. / Mr Wilfrid-Guy Licari

Québec-France: a unique relationship

By Mr Wilfrid-Guy Licari, Québec’s Delegate General in France and the Premier’s Personal Representative to La Francophonie

This is a very special year for the diplomatic mission I have the privilege of leading: in 2008, we celebrate the 400th anniversary of the founding of Québec City by Samuel de Champlain. Today, four centuries later, we continue to reap the benefits of his great adventure.1608 was a milestone for Europeans in North America - not only was it a year of landmark encounters between Old World settlers and the First Nations, but it was also the year in which French explorers came into contact with the land we now know as Québec. Indeed, those events laid the foundations of who we are today. As we mark this historic occasion, we are paying tribute to four centuries of unbroken friendship between Québec and France - a celebration of the past, the present and the future.Building on this shared history, Québec and France have developed a wide range of cutting-edge partnership initiatives - a dynamic testament to our enduring friendship. More and more, our peoples are combining their efforts in the service of technological, scientific, economic, social and cultural progress. Québec and France’s unique relationship is strengthened and enriched by this sense of partnership, which extends to all areas of human endeavour.Just over 40 years ago, the Québec government created a department dedicated to international relations; in so doing, it became one of the first sub-national jurisdictions in the world to develop a structured programme of international action. This bold step was made necessary not only by the scope of the government’s responsibilities, but also by Québec’s unique place within the Canadian federation, as well as within the North American context. The extensive diplomatic network that Québec has since developed has been instrumental in stimulating prosperity and in promoting its interests around the globe. In 2006, International Relations Minister Monique Gagnon-Tremblay unveiled Québec’s new International Policy, which establishes a framework for international action across all government departments and agencies.Relations with France are a central pillar of Québec’s International Policy, reflecting shared ties of history, culture, language and economic cooperation. Indeed, this pattern of mutual exchange and influence extends to virtually every aspect of scientific, economic, cultural and social affairs.Québec’s Government Office in Paris was founded in 1961; under the terms of a 1964 agreement, its diplomatic status is comparable to that of an embassy. It is also the largest office in Québec’s diplomatic network and is divided into various departments, including francophone and multicultural affairs; political affairs; cooperation; media and public affairs; cultural services; economic affairs; Investment Québec; and immigration.Québec and France’s unique relationship is also maintained by means of a diplomatic mechanism under which bilateral communications are overseen directly by France’s Consulate General in Québec City and Québec’s Government Office in Paris. In addition, a series of initiatives have been implemented with a view to bringing together political representatives on a regular basis and furthering bilateral cooperation.Following Prime Minister Raymond Barre’s official visit to Québec in 1977, the French and Québec governments decided to undertake annual missions headed by the Québec Premier and the French Prime Minister on an alternating basis. This political initiative is another direct and powerful symbol of Québec and France’s unique relationship.This unique relationship also translates into an array of concrete and dynamic initiatives involving civil society. Each year, 4,000 French citizens move to Québec, while 12,000 more come over as students, interns or temporary workers; nearly 2,000 young people from Québec and an equal number from France take part in exchange programmes organized by the Franco-Québec Youth Office (OFQJ), which will be celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2008. These are but a few examples of the close bonds uniting our two societies. Based on a common set of core values, Québec and France’s unique relationship is more solid than ever before. While encouraging respect for differences, both governments are committed to defending their respective francophone identities and preserving and promoting key cultural values.But Québec City’s 400th anniversary is more than just a commemoration of the past and a celebration of the present: it is also a bridge to the future, extending beyond the festivities themselves. As evidenced by the large number of high-level visits this year, there is a genuine political will to continue forging the bonds that unite us - bonds that are a source of great pride and promise for us all.On July 3, French Prime Minister François Fillon attended the official ceremony marking the 400th anniversary during an official visit under the auspices of the heads of government meetings. In addition, French President Nicolas Sarkozy is scheduled to attend the 12th Francophonie Summit from October 17-19 in Québec City. On the agenda at these events will be two innovative proposals aimed at promoting and reinforcing harmonious bilateral relations.The first of these proposals dates back to July 2007, when President Sarkozy and Premier Charest decided to pursue an agreement that would fully recognize the qualifications of individuals engaging in certain regulated professions or trades - the first such agreement involving Europe and North America. Under this agreement, workers would be granted equal access to regulated professions and trades in both Québec and France; their entry into the labour market would also be facilitated. In addition, the staffing needs of companies on both sides of the Atlantic would be met more effectively. The process is on schedule and significant progress has been made on the basic principles of the framework agreement; the signing is scheduled for October 2008.The second proposal pertains to a new Canada-Europe economic partnership, which would serve to strengthen economic ties between Québec and France. Premier Charest is an enthusiastic proponent of this project, which builds on Québec’s reputation as a leader in the area of provincial trade liberalization. The economic partnership would cover various areas in which progress is feasible from a sustainable development and a social welfare perspective. As natural allies of Europe, Canada and Québec can thus provide the European Union with opportunities to expand its presence in North America.The 400th anniversary of Québec City - the oldest and most durable symbol of France’s presence in the New World - will also be marked by the 12th Francophonie Summit, which will be attended by 68 heads of state and government in October 2008. For Québec, La Francophonie is a vital forum at which stakeholders from French-speaking countries and regions can discuss key issues facing the world, particularly the developing nations, and set forth a programme of coordinated action based on common values. It is Québec’s hope that, in both form and substance, the Summit will continue the reform process begun two years ago by the International Organization of La Francophonie (OIF), spearheaded by Secretary General Abdou Diouf. In a spirit of solidarity, stakeholders will discuss four main issues - governance, democracy, the French language and the environment - while affirming their common desire to foster sustainable development and promote respect for human rights. In addition to being a milestone year, 2008 is sure to give new impetus to Québec’s international relations. A number of groundbreaking initiatives lie ahead for Québec, both bilateral, in partnership with France, and multilateral, as a member of La Francophonie. As it celebrates its 400th anniversary, Québec is facing the future with confidence and determination.

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