Members of Parliament play an active role on the international scene through parliamentary diplomacy. Their international activities serve a number of purposes: they further Canada's interests at international conferences and meetings and promote democracy, economic and social ties with developing nations.
The Parliament of Canada hosted the following official visits by foreign Speakers and delegations during the year:
Photo: © House Of Commons/
As part of their diplomatic function of receiving world leaders, the Speaker of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Commons welcomed the following distinguished guests:
In addition to these visits, the Speakers of the Senate and the House of Commons cultivate parliamentary relations with other countries by conducting courtesy calls with newly accredited Ambassadors to Canada and Ambassadors leaving the country. The Speaker of the House of Commons held 68 such courtesy calls in 2006-2007.
The Speaker and Members are regularly invited to visit other legislatures to discuss common issues, foster relationships, and share knowledge and expertise. In January 2007, Speaker Milliken led an all-party delegation of Canadian Parliamentarians to Benin, Burkina Faso and Mali. Offering a seminar on the Canadian experience of parliamentary democracy, members of the delegation engaged their counterparts in discussions on topics of mutual interest, such as the independence of Parliament from the executive, the role of women in politics, the funding of political parties and the representation of minorities. Speaker Milliken also traveled with parliamentary delegations to Mongolia, South Africa and the Russian Federation.
Such foreign visits allow Parliamentarians to share ideas with their counterparts from around the world, to explore common concerns, and to learn from each other. These discussions also promote cooperation and reinforce Canada's relationships with other countries. Frequent topics of discussion include Parliamentary democracy, international security, agriculture, immigration, trade and investment, environment and international development.
The Parliament of Canada is also a member of various parliamentary associations. Each of these associations holds conferences, seminars and meetings. These events offer Canadian Parliamentarians further opportunities to promote Canada's interests abroad, and to maintain bilateral and multilateral relationships with other countries.
Photo: © House Of Commons
For example, in March of 2007, the Canadian Section of the Inter-Parliamentary Forum of the Americas hosted a Hemispheric Trade Knowledge Network Seminar with Parliamentarians from North and South America. This was a timely and important event given the ongoing negotiations on trade-related issues in the region. In April of 2006, the Canada-United States Inter-Parliamentary Group participated in a conference entitled "Canadian-United States Border: A Unified Focus," which enabled Canadian Parliamentarians to share Canada's views on this sensitive issue. Finally, the Canada-Europe Parliamentary Association attended, in its capacity as an observer, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) to participate in discussions on the Canadian seal hunt. By informing Europeans of the reality of the hunt and of its significance to the economic life of maritime communities in Canada, the delegation's objective was to ensure that Canada's position on the subject was well understood.
Information and reports on these events are available on the Parliament of Canada Web site (www.parl.gc.ca) under "Interparliamentary Affairs."
Photo: © House Of Commons
The Parliament of Canada regularly hosts international conferences for Parliamentarians. In April 2006, the Speakers of the Senate and the House of Commons hosted the 12th General Assembly of the Asia-Pacific Parliamentarians' Conference on Environment and Development in British Columbia. The theme of the conference was "Natural Disasters: Prevention and Response," and over 140 parliamentarians from 20 countries discussed ways to strengthen legislative activities surrounding sustainable development. Parliamentary staff developed a policy on making parliamentary conferences more environmentally friendly and received the 2006 Partners for a Green Hill Environmental Award.
In November 2006, the Canadian Branch of the NATO Parliamentary Association hosted the 52nd Parliamentary Assembly in Quebec City. The association is the parliamentary arm of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and consists of delegates from 26 member states. This assembly provides a critical forum for international parliamentary dialogue on security, political and economic matters. The Secretary General of NATO, the Speaker of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Commons and representatives of Cabinet addressed the 600 delegates.
Photo: © House Of Commons
Parliamentary Associations - The Parliament of Canada belongs to five bilateral associations and seven multilateral associations.
Interparliamentary Groups - Interparliamentary groups strengthen relations between Canadian parliamentarians and their counterparts from other countries. These groups promote cooperation and understanding between nations. The Parliament of Canada is involved in official interparliamentary groups with Germany, Ireland, Israel and Italy. The activities of these groups are supported financially through the membership fees from individual parliamentarians.
Parliamentary Exchanges - Exchanges enable parliamentarians to enhance relations with other countries to share ideas, knowledge and common interests. These exchanges can take several forms: visits to Canada by Speaker-led foreign delegations; delegations of Canadian parliamentarians abroad headed by the Speaker of the Senate or the Speaker of the House of Commons; and the Parliamentary Officers' Study Program, which enables senior parliamentary staff from foreign legislatures and other Canadian legislatures to learn about the workings of the Parliament of Canada.