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Speech By Marc Lortie, Canadian Ambassador To France, at the Press Conference to launch the 400th Anniversary of the Founding of Quebec City

Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine, Paris
Monday, October 8, 2007

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Prime Ministers,
Minister Kouchner,
Minister Gagnon-Tremblay,
Minister Couillard,
First Vice-Chair of the Executive Committee of the City of Quebec,
Chair of the 400th Anniversary Corporation,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

On behalf of the Government of Canada and the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Status of Women and Official Languages, the Honourable Josée Verner, I wish to thank the French authorities for welcoming us this morning to this magnificent shrine to architecture and heritage, the Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine, and in particular I wish to applaud their splendid commitment to celebrating with us in 2008 the 400th anniversary of the founding of Quebec City .

Our thanks go first to the President of the French Republic, Nicolas Sarkozy, whose friendship and personal attachment to Canada are well known. Our thanks also to you, Sir, as Minister of Foreign Affairs, and to you, Madam, as Minister of Culture, who are working through Cultures France to create magnificent projects that will dazzle Quebec a few months from now.

Jean-Pierre Raffarin: I also wish to congratulate you in a special way for the enthusiasm and energy you have contributed to the anniversary preparations. Your imagination and creativity and the many things you have done will enable France to unquestionably be a central participant in the events that will mark Quebec City’s 400th birthday in 2008.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a genuine pleasure to see all the partners in this great endeavour gathered here this morning to mark the launch: France, the Government of Canada, the Government of Quebec, the City of Quebec, the 400th Anniversary Corporation and our partners. We realize the importance and the impact the anniversary promises to have for Quebec City and the relations we all maintain with France .

This quadricentennial is in fact a major event for all Canadians, from Vancouver to Newfoundland, who are preparing to celebrate it, since the founding of Quebec City—the historic founding of the oldest city in North America—marks the founding of the Canadian state. Indeed, few cities in North America can celebrate such a history. But it also marks the founding of a new culture, a culture of our own, shaped by the exchange of ideas and the discovery of one another. It was on that date that we truly began to become what we are today.

The exchanges and mutual discovery of bygone days, between the first French emigrants and the First Nations of Canada—and I am delighted to note, in that connection, that the Aboriginal peoples are involved in the anniversary preparations. The exchanges and mutual discovery of today between Canadians and all those, from every corner of the Earth, who put a younger face on our country and enrich that diversity to which Canada—like France—remains so deeply attached.

I am especially happy—and moved—to see among us so many of those who, both in Quebec City and in France, particularly in the regions, have found inspiration in the 400th anniversary of Quebec City for many splendid gestures. Allow me to thank you, our valued partners, for all you have done. Your numbers convince me that well into the future, your projects will strengthen the French fact and enrich relations between Canada and France .

Make no mistake: with Quebec City’s 400th birthday, it is the worldwide French community—La francophonie—that we are preparing to celebrate together. As Prime Minister Stephen Harper remarked a few weeks ago in his speech to the Australian Parliament, our country was born in French.

We shall be paying tribute to the French fact at the peak of the 2008 season with the Francophonie Summit in Quebec City, but also throughout the year, by celebrating the language we share, Canada’s founding language.

Prime Minister Harper likes to remind us that all Canadians should have an attachment to two cities: their own, and Quebec. Seeing how many and how enthusiastic you are this morning, I have no doubt that you already do. Personally, I am from Beauport, a few leagues distant from Quebec City , of which I have always been very fond. So today I open my heart to Paris !

Happy 400th, everyone! Thank you.


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