Joint press conference

with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada

  • 15 Jul. 2019 -
  • |
  • Last updated: 16 Jul. 2019 11:01

(As delivered)

JUSTIN TRUDEAU [Canadian Prime Minister]: Bonjour tout le monde. Je veux d’abord remercier le secrétaire général de l’OTAN, Jens Stoltenberg, d’être des nôtres aujourd’hui.

 It was wonderful to welcome you to Ottowa last spring Jens and it’s great to see you again today. This is an important time for NATO, and your leadership has been a real force for good.

Before I go any further, I also want to take a moment to remember one of Petawawa’s own: Bombardier Patrick Labrie, who was killed last month. His brave service will not be forgotten, and I know that all Canadians are thankful for his unwavering commitment to our country.

We owe every member of our armed forces, past and present, a debt of gratitude. Because no matter where you serve, from the Canadians I met on the UN Peacekeeping Mission in Mali, to the troops I talked to on the frontlines of NATO’s presence in Latvia, you serve with professionalism and dedication. In fact, earlier this month, when President Zelenskyy was here in Canada, we talked about the Canadians who are helping with the security force training in Ukraine. That work is critical. And the President said, ‘Thank you so much for the support.’ Grâce à vous, nos alliées et nos partenaires savent qu’ils peuvent compter sur nos femmes et nos hommes qui portent uniforme. Le Canada est reconnu à travers le monde comme étant un pays qui défend nos valeurs communes et ces jours-ci, c’est plus important que jamais.

Today, Secretary General Stoltenberg and I discussed NATO’s enduring importance and Canada’s commitment to this Alliance and its values. After all, NATO was built on a very Canadian idea that we are stronger together, standing shoulder to shoulder in defence of our common interests and in service of our citizens. And it’s not enough to stop at calling out acts of aggression. Those who threaten our security won’t stand down just because we ask politely. To protect peace and democracy and the rule of law, we need a strong, modern military. After a decade of neglect under the previous government, it was time to make sure our soldiers had the support they deserve and our military the tools it needs.

 That’s why our government increased Canada’s defence budget by more than 70 percent. Whether our soldiers are leading UN efforts to prevent and end conflict, or contributing to NATO’s work on women, peace and security, Canada now has not just the will, but the capacity, to make a positive difference. I know Brigadier General Carignan is here today and will be assuming command of NATO Mission Iraq for the next year. She joins an impressive team of Canadian women serving in senior NATO leadership positions. We have Standing NATO Maritime Group Commodore Josée Kurtz and Lieutenant General Christine Whitecross, head of the NATO Defence College. And of course,  Clare Hutchinson, the NATO Special Representative for Women, Peace and Security.

Quand nos alliés avaient besoin de quelqu’un pour aider à assurer la sécurité des pays Baltes, on était prêt et on a répondu à l’appel. L’été dernier, on a annoncé que le Canada allait encore une fois diriger le groupe tactique dans le cadre de l’opération réassurance. On a aussi réintégré le programme système aéroportuaire d’alertes et de contrôle de l’OTAN, un programme que le gouvernement précèdent avait délaissé. Parce qu’on sait à quel point c’est important d’être là pour nos alliées. When our NATO partners in Iraq needed someone to help the country transition to lasting peace and security, we were there. Canada took initial command of the NATO Noncombat Training Mission and will continue to lead its efforts next year. At the NATO summit last summer, I talked about how results speak for themselves.

Our Allies look to Canada because they can depend on us to stand up, not just for our own citizens, but for everyone who dreams of a brighter tomorrow. That is the promise of the maple leaf that our soldiers so proudly wear and it’s a promise that we will always defend. Encore une fois, je tiens à remercier au secrétaire général Stoltenberg d’être ici aujourd’hui. Je vais maintenant céder la parole au secrétaire général avant de passer aux questions. Jens my friend, please.

JENS STOLTENBERG [NATO Secretary General]:Thank you so much Prime Minister Trudeau, my friend Justin,

It’s really great to be back and thank you for your warm welcome.

Many thanks for your strong leadership and commitment to NATO, to our transatlantic Alliance.

Under your leadership, Canada has stepped up its contributions to our NATO Alliance.  Including with forces for NATO missions and operations, and increased defence spending, after years of  reducing defence investments, defence investments is now going up.

I am particularly pleased to be with you at Canadian Forces Base Petawawa.

It is always an honour to meet with the women and men of the Canadian Armed Forces, who serve their country and the NATO Alliance so well. 

Since NATO’s founding 70 years ago, Canada has made essential contributions to international peace and security.

And your membership has also strengthened your own security.

NATO unites Canada with 28 friends and Allies, who represent half of the world’s military might and half of the world’s economic might.

NATO also enables Canadian troops to work seamlessly with their peers – the finest armed forces in the world.

We are safer when we stand together.  And together, we defend our shared values:

Democracy, individual liberty, and the rule of law.

In an uncertain world we need strong multilateral institutions now more than ever.  NATO is stronger with Canada.  And Canada is stronger in NATO.

We just had an excellent discussion about current security challenges.

Including NATO’s work to strengthen our deterrence and defence.

Canada is leading by example. Your command of NATO’s multinational battlegroup in Latvia helps to keep the peace in Europe, deterring any possible aggression.

When I visited the Canadian troops there, I was impressed by their commitment to preserving our collective security so far from home.

And I thank all those who have served in this vital mission.

This sends a clear message: NATO Allies never stand alone.

Allies also stand together in support for Ukraine, which continues to face Russia’s aggression.

Canada is among Ukraine’s closest friends, providing much-needed training and funding.

And NATO supports Ukraine in many ways, including with:

  • Training and exercises;
  • Enhanced presence in the Black Sea region;
  • And millions of dollars to improve command and control, cyber defence and medical rehabilitation.

So Prime Minister Trudeau we discussed the fight against terrorism.

Training local forces is one of the best weapons we have in this fight.

And Canada plays a key role by leading NATO’s training mission in Iraq.

Helping to prevent the return of ISIS.  And increase stability in the region. 

So I welcome your recent announcement that Canada will continue to command our mission for a second year.  And also the fact that you are sending a female commander highlights the leadership you show on woman, peace and security.

We also discussed burden-sharing, which will be an important topic when NATO leaders meet in London in December.

And I want to commend Canada for investing more in defence.

After years of decline, we are now in the fifth consecutive year of rising defence spending across Europe and Canada. And I encourage you to redouble your efforts.

This is about fairness. But more importantly, it is about our security in a more unpredictable world.

Today I also commended the Prime Minister for Canada’s commitment to keeping gender equality high on the NATO agenda.  Including with female commanders leading NATO deployments. And through the work of Clare Hutchinson from Nova Scotia, my Special Representative for Women, Peace and Security.

As we mark NATO’s 70th anniversary this year, Canada continues to prevent conflict and preserve peace.  As part of the most successful Alliance in history.

So Prime Minister Trudeau, many thanks and thank you for your strong commitment to our Alliance.

JUSTIN TRUDEAU: Thank you Jens.

QUESTION: Good morning Prime Minister, Secretary General. Prime Minister, is Canada open to any role? You’ve already discussed the Iraq mission. Any additional role in the Persian Gulf? Tanker escort, maritime patrol, anything else you might be asked to step up in?

JUSTIN TRUDEAU: We have, for some time now, had two ships in the region. Also some aerial surveillance that is part of, mostly, our focus on Iraq. But, of course, we are working with our allies as necessary, given the newer challenging context with Iran, which we are calling for de-escalation. Ça fait un bout de temps qu’on a des navires dans la région et qu’on a de la surveillance aérienne. On continue d’avoir une emphase sur notre mission en Iraq. Mais nous sommes là pour travailler avec nos alliées. Nous espérons et nous appelons pour une descalation des tensions présentes avec l’Iran.

QUESTION: And about espionage. I want to ask you a question: that Canada is often mentioned as a target of industrial espionage and we know there’s an aggressive effort around the world by China. We haven’t seen arrests in Canada we haven’t seen a lot of public investigations. Why is that? And are we looking at a more aggressive effort to counter that?

JUSTIN TRUDEAU: I can assure you that our security and intelligence agencies work extremely hard and work extremely successfully in countering many threats to Canadians on an ongoing fashion. Perhaps they are not often as publicised as they are elsewhere around the world, but I can tell you that the work that the women and men in our security agencies are doing on an ongoing basis to keep both Canadians safe and our intellectual property and our economic interests safe is, is something we take very seriously. Je peux vous rassurer que le travail que font nos agences de sécurité et d’intelligence pour protéger les Canadiens, pour protéger les intérêts Canadiens sont exceptionnels et continuent tout le temps.

QUESTION: Prime Minister, over the weekend President Trump tweeted out that four women members of Congress should go back to the countries they came from. Your counterpart in the UK, Prime Minister May has denounced them as being highly inappropriate. I’m wondering what you thought of the comments and whether you consider them to be racist?

JUSTIN TRUDEAU: I think Canadians, and indeed people around the world, know exactly what I think about those particular comments. That is not how we do things in Canada. A Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian, and the diversity of our country is actually one of our greatest strengths and a source of tremendous resilience and pride for Canadians. And we will continue to defend that. Je peux souligner que, c’est que les gens savent très bien ma perspective sur les enjeux comme ça. Ici au Canada nous reconnaissons que la diversité est une source de force, une source de résilience et nous allons toujours reconnaitre qu’un Canadien, c’est un Canadien.

QUESTION: Secretary General, over the weekend here in Canada, in Winnipeg, we learned of an investigation into possible espionage at a Level 4 Virus Laboratory, Chinese espionage. I wondered what threat Chinese spying presents to Western nations and their security?

JENS STOLTENBERG: It’s not for me to comment on that specific case, but what I can say is, say in general, is that we have seen increased efforts by other nations to try to spy on NATO Allies in different ways. This is partly about industrial espionage, something which is dealt with partly also by civilian intelligence, but also, of course, it affects our military forces and also military intelligence. So this is something we take very seriously. That’s also the reason why we have strengthened the cooperation within NATO when it comes to intelligence and how to also counter efforts to try to undermine our democratic processes, and conduct espionage against our nations. We have established a new intelligence division. We have improved the way we share intelligence and the way we understand and analyse intelligence. And we also increased awareness among Allies, especially, for instance, when it comes to cyber, where we have, also with the support of Canada, significantly stepped up our cyber defences, and the way we are improving our ability to react when we see attempts to interfere in our cyber networks. So we do a lot to help to improve the resilience of NATO Allies when it comes to cyber espionage and other efforts to meddle in our domestic processes.

MIKE BLANCHFIELD [Canadian Press]: Hi, Mike Blanchfield, Canadian Press, for Secretary General and the Prime Minister, following on cyber and NATO’s well-documented research on Russia’s threats of hybrid war, what assistance is NATO able to offer Canada as it heads into a federal election to ward off cyber threats and meddling in Canadian democracy? And to the Prime Minister, what are you learning from NATO about the latest threats and getting Canadians safely through this next period?

JENS STOLTENBERG: So, what we do is that partly we increase awareness among NATO Allies and we share experiences, we share information. So we help each other, NATO Allies, to understand the threats and how to react and how to protect our democratic processes our institutions and also, of course, our cyber networks. Because we have seen many attempts to try to meddle in democratic processes, not least by different ways of going into our cyber networks. We have conducted big exercises. We have a Centre of Excellence where, again, we share knowledge, experience, best practices, but also where we have conducted the biggest exercises in the world when it comes to how to protect ourselves against different attempts to go into our networks and to meddle in our democratic institutions. This is also about attempts to spread disinformation. And there are many ways to protect ourselves against that. Again, awareness is one part of it, but I think that the most important thing we can do is to make sure that we have a free and independent press that is able to understand when there are attempts to spread disinformation, to check that. So, so what we need is critical journalists who ask the difficult questions, who check their sources. And that’s the best way to be able to protect free and open and democratic processes. The best response to propaganda is not the propaganda, but the best response to propaganda is the truth, and a free and independent press is an extremely important part of that.

JUSTIN TRUDEAU: We have, over the past years, engaged strongly with all of our allies, particularly NATO Allies on the issue of foreign interference in our electoral processes. That is one of the reasons why our Minister of Democratic Institutions Karina Gould has come forward with significant measures to counter interference in our elections. At the same time as we rely on and support an independent free press to continue to inform Canadians on the truth, we have also put in place a commission of top civil servants who will be charged with overseeing that our country is not subject to foreign interference during the election process. In terms of what we’ve learned from NATO, other than the excellent collaboration. Cooperation with NATO and its member Allies, there have been significant conversations with countries like, like the Baltic states, that have been subject to significant amounts of foreign propaganda in their communities, in their electoral processes, and some of the things that they’ve done to counter foreign propaganda is certainly things that we’ve learned from.

MIKE BLANCHFIELD [Canadian Press]: And just a follow-up. Secretary General, what’s at stake if Canada doesn’t get this right? They’re a major NATO contributor, as you just said today, please discuss that and Prime Minister, if you want to weigh in?

JENS STOLTENBERG: Well, NATO is, is an Alliance based on some core values: democracy, the rule of law. And, of course, to protect democracy and the rule of law, we need strong democratic institutions. But I’m very confident that Canada is able to do that, to protect these institutions. You are one of the founding members, you have a strong democratic institution, you have a free and independent press. But to make sure that you are able to protect that also in the future, we have to be aware of the challenges and the threats, and Canada is actually . . . is aware of that. And Canada is taking the necessary measures to be able to protect your institutions. And actually, Canada is also helping other Allies, you help other Allies with improving and strengthening their cyber defences, with sharing your experiences, so Canada is contributing to the protection of the whole of NATO with your expertise, with your knowledge, also when it comes to cyber.

JUSTIN TRUDEAU: On top of our institutional protections of our democracy from foreign interference, there is one element that I have tremendous confidence in and that is Canadians themselves. We are a country of thoughtful, reasonable, positive people who are always there to lean on each other and work hard and we’re deeply committed in our values to democracy and to democratic processes. We know there are people out there who want to break down our democratic systems and our confidence, collectively and individually, in those democratic systems. And I know that trusting Canadians and empowering Canadians with the tools they need to continue to have confidence in our institutions is going to be an important part of keeping our elections, and indeed our democracies, strong. Nous avons annoncés plusieurs différentes façon de protéger l’intégrité de nos élections, que cela soit en appuyant la liberté de la presse, que cela soit avec les mesures que la Ministre des institutions démocratiques a mis de l’avant, que cela soit le groupe de fonctionnaires haut placés qui vont veiller à la non-interférence dans nos élections. Mais ultimement, je pense qu’on peut tous avoir confiance dans les Canadiens eux-mêmes : des gens raisonnables, des gens positives, des gens qui sont engagés profondément dans l’idée de la démocratie, dans les valeurs qui soutiennent la démocratie. J’ai confiance que nous allons avoir des bonnes élections parce que j’ai confiance dans les Canadiens.

TONY GRACE [Pure Country 96.7 and CTV]: Tony Grace with Pure Country 96.7 and CTV here in the Upper Ottawa Valley, locally. Welcome to where we live. First of all, Secretary General and Prime Minister, what is your message to the troops from here in Petawawa, who certainly did play a heavy role in Latvia in one of the most recent rotations, about why you chose to hold your meeting here today and what the roadmap ahead looks like for that bigger job of monitoring aggression in Eastern Europe? I mean, is this going to be a multigenerational thing?

JUSTIN TRUDEAU: Well, I think one of the things that we saw and we see from Canadians right across the country when we talk about our military is, first of all, the deep gratitude that all Canadians feel towards the women and men who serve in our Armed Forces and put their lives on the line and make tremendous sacrifices to defend the values that we hold dear. And that is certainly something that, across political lines, I can say is very, very clear: that we will always support the women and men of our Canadian Armed Forces. Canadians also expect Canada to be playing a positive role on the world stage, to make a difference where we can make a difference and to do the work that we can and should be doing to keep the world safe and make it a better place. And obviously, our role in Latvia, our role in Iraq, our leadership role in various places around the world, are examples of Canadians stepping up to ensure the kind of stability, peace and prosperity that we are tremendously grateful for here at home. We will always look to how Canadians can best help around the world. And that’s why working with NATO leadership, working with multilateral leadership around the world, to look at how Canadians can help bring about better outcomes for people around the world is something we’re always going to do. Now, the nature of the missions will change over the long-term, as the nature of peacekeeping has changed, as the nature of NATO operations have changed. But as we change towards more training, towards better targeted interventions and operations, you can be assured that Canadian leadership will be at the heart of thinking about how we can best help in the world. D’abord, nous devons remercier, comme toujours, les femmes et hommes des forces armées Canadiennes qui servent notre pays avec tant de courage et de bravoure, et de valeurs. Nous savons que nous avons un consensus à travers le pays dans toutes les différentes parties politiques et chez tous les Canadiens qu’on est profondément, on en doit énormément aux femmes et hommes qui servent dans nos forces armées. Evidemment, les Canadiens s’attendent aussi à ce qu’on soit là pour faire une différence positive dans le monde. Et on va toujours chercher différentes façons de le faire, de la meilleure façon possible. C’est souvent, c’est même toujours en collaboration avec d’autres alliées, avec d’autres partenaires. L’OTAN est extrêmement importante. Mais nous allons toujours être la de différentes façons aussi et on va aussi participer à l’évolution de ces missions dans le besoin tant qu’on voit évoluer les crises et les défis dans le monde. Nous allons toujours être là pour essayer de penser comment on peut mieux y répondre, reconnaissant toujours que la façon qu’on faisait les choses dans le passé n’est pas nécessairement la façon qu’on va faire les choses dans les années à venir.

TONY GRACE [Pure Country 96.7 and CTV]: What might be some concrete signs that this mission would shift from monitoring aggression into something else? And that we’re making progress in some way with it?

JENS STOLTENBERG: The main, the main purpose of that mission is to deter conflict, is to deter any attack. And NATO has been extremely successful in doing exactly that for 70 years, by sending a clear message to any potential adversary that if one Ally is attacked the whole Alliance will respond. And by doing that, we are able to prevent conflict, to prevent an attack. So we are not there to provoke conflict, but were are there to prevent conflict. And, and the strength of the NATO presence in the Baltic countries, and then the presence in Latvia led by Canada, is that it’s a multinational presence. So we have many different nations, and also North America, Canada in Latvia, United States in, in Poland, and by having a multinational presence, we are sending the message that if Latvia is attacked, then the whole NATO Alliance will be there, and by sending that clear message we deter and deterrence is the best way to prevent any conflict.

JUSTIN TRUDEAU: And I am certainly looking forward to going to talk with some of the troops who came back from Latvia here in Petawawa. I look forward to a little bit of lunch and some moment to thank them personally for their extraordinary service. Merci beaucoup tout le monde.