Hon. Amina Gerba: Honourable senators, when asked a few days ago about the reduction of Western aid to African countries and the potential impact this could have on the ties between those countries and Russia and China, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, the Honourable Chrystia Freeland, replied that democracies can only be defended by people who are “prepared to die for their democracy.”
Although Minister Freeland has already apologized for this, I decided to speak out today because her statement raises some serious issues.
To start, I believe it is only fair to say that the preservation of democracy in a country must rest first and foremost with its citizens, their beliefs and their determination. It is also true that democracy, the universal values it represents and its embodiment in a country are a national issue, an issue of national sovereignty. Therefore, it is important to distance ourselves from any interference in this area, except under exceptional circumstances.
Canada is one of the oldest democracies in the world. Our democratic values and institutions are exemplary. We’re available to share our experience with any country in the world that so desires. To that end, we’ve participated in a number of multilateral initiatives through major institutions, such as the World Bank, the Commonwealth and la Francophonie.
Colleagues, I believe that Canada needs to modernize and expand its diplomatic efforts to support human rights and democracy at a time when democratic gains are in jeopardy in some countries in Central and West Africa — countries that are our friends.
If we fail to do so, others will, as demonstrated by the return of dictatorships and authoritarian regimes to the continent.
I sincerely hope that democracy will prevail in these difficult times.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!