Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I am pleased to be joined by my colleagues, the Honourable Christian Paradis, Minister of International Development and La Francophonie, and the Honourable Lynne Yelich, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Consular.
We have seen important progress towards policy coherence since the 2013 amalgamation of the three key functions of our department: diplomacy, trade, and development. We've also seen the growing complexity of today's geopolitical landscape. Threats to international security are taking on many different forms. Insurgency and asymmetric warfare waged by ISIL and its affiliates is one example. Iran's sponsorship of Shia sectarian militias and proxies, like Hezbollah, is another. Of course, Russia's hybrid warfare in eastern Europe is yet another example among many.
As a result, the amalgamation is now allowing foreign service officers to advance Canadian values and interests on files with unparalleled complexity, using a wide range of knowledge that they didn't have access to before, delivering better results for Canadians. The need for this kind of effective policy and program coherence is most evident in the Middle East, where many of our latest security challenges are concentrated. In recent months the world has seen the rapid growth of violent extremist groups, including the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. In Syria and Iraq, this has led to the largest humanitarian catastrophe of this century.
Although these threats stem from far abroad, they are felt here at home. Recent terrorist-inspired or terrorist-led attacks here in Canada and abroad remind us of the truly global threat of terrorism. They've carried out attacks on Canadian soil that claimed the lives of two of our Canadian Armed Forces personnel.
Canada has responded to this crisis with strength and compassion. We are working to halt ISIL's advance and assist vulnerable populations. With our allies in the global coalition against ISIL, Canada is pursuing five lines of effort: one, military assistance; two, humanitarian support; three, stemming the flow of foreign fighters; four, disrupting ISIL's financing; and finally, countering ISIL's depraved ideology. Iraq and Syria exist along the fault line of a broader sectarian war being waged across the region.
We also have grave concern that Russia's illegal invasion of Crimea and its destabilization of eastern Ukraine through hybrid warfare are stark reminders that traditional security threats have not disappeared. Canada will never recognize the illegal annexation of Crimea. We will continue to stand against Russian aggression as long as the Russian-sponsored insurgency continues.
Canada actively supports the Ukraine's democratic integration into Europe, as well as a potential integration with Europe security-wise.
We have imposed a broad range of sanctions against more than 270 Russian and Ukranian individuals and entities. We will do more as long as pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine continue to violate the February Minsk agreement.
Beyond sanctions, Canada has provided non-lethal assistance to Ukraine. Canada has provided radar images to help Ukranian forces monitor their border. Canada is supporting the OSCE special monitoring mission to monitor, track, and ultimately hold Russian aggression in Ukraine to account. Canada is providing bilateral development assistance to strengthen democracy and promote economic growth. Since January 2014, development assistance has gone up by more than $132 million.
All of these measures are integral to Canada's ongoing assistance to Ukraine's efforts to stabilize its new government, restart its economy, and re-establish its territorial integrity in the face of escalating Russian aggression.
When Prime Minister Harper welcomed Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko to Canada last September, they discussed the steps needed to restore Ukraine's territorial integrity and ensure the country's sovereignty in light of Russia's occupation of Crimea and its continued military aggression in eastern Ukraine. The Prime Minister also announced a $200-million loan to promote economic and financial sector reforms in Ukraine. This loan was followed by a second $200-million loan in January 2015. The more we can integrate Ukraine with the market-based economies of the world, the better the chance for Ukrainians to chart their own sovereign future.
Colleagues, support for Israel, especially its right to live in peace and security with its neighbours, has remained central to the core of our government's Middle East policy. We will not hesitate to speak out against those who seek to delegitimize Israel and to isolate it internationally. Israel has the right to defend itself. By itself, and in order for peace to be a possibility, the Palestinian Authority's unity government must recognize the State of Israel in order for a comprehensive peace solution to be reached.
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Canada is committed to strengthening its ties with Israel through a strategic agreement, reaffirming that commitment just a few months ago.
Canada continues to advocate for the resumption of direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians as the only viable path to a two-state solution.
Canada's security is inextricably linked to our principled leadership and defence of our values. Free, open, and democratic societies that respect human rights and the rule of law are constructive and effective partners in the promotion of security and prosperity. As the Prime Minister has announced, Canada is poised to welcome Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the first official bilateral visit in over 40 years. This can transform the Canada-India partnership towards mutual prosperity and the security of both our countries.
My department's commitment includes broad international engagement to support human rights and the dignity of all persons, including the freedom of religion. The Office of Religious Freedom has set the global standard for advocating for religious freedom, and is establishing a global contact group to strengthen religious freedom.
Freedom of religion and conscience is under attack all over the world. The recent and tragic attacks against Jewish communities in France and Denmark only highlight the importance of continuing to denounce anti-Semitism and other forms of religious intolerance while promoting Canada's values of pluralism and tolerance.
The 2015-16 estimates before you will place the department on sound footing to deepen and widen Canada's horizons. Our department is committed to being fully integrated and aligned in order to advance Canada's interests and values. The men and women who serve in our foreign service abroad must feel confident that they have the tools, knowledge base, and responsibility they need to assure our future prosperity as a country, to keep Canadians safe at home and abroad, and to promote freedom and democracy overseas.
We will continue to build and leverage our relationships based on shared values that also advance prosperity, security, democracy, and the rule of law in the world.
I look forward to discussing these issues further with you.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.