Address by Alice Wong, Member of Parliament for Richmond and Minister of State for Seniors, to announce funding for UNICEF in the Philippines

August 10, 2014, at Pinoy Fiesta in Vancouver, British Columbia

Check Against Delivery

Good morning/afternoon.

Friends, I am pleased to join you today on behalf of my colleague, the Honourable Christian Paradis, Canada’s Minister of International Development and for La Francophonie.

Minister Paradis regrets that he cannot be here for the Pinoy Fiesta.

He has asked me to convey his sincerest thanks for inviting him to attend.

Last fall, the Minister travelled to the Philippines, as the sun was finally rising to reveal the full destruction that Typhoon Haiyan had left behind.

It was—for Minister Paradis—an opportunity to survey the damage.

And to get a full sense of what role Canada could play to help meet the humanitarian needs of the millions of people who were affected in some way.

If the Minister was so quick to jump on a plane and go into that disaster zone, it was because of the long-standing friendship that exists between Canada and the Philippines.

Our bilateral relations are strong and friendly, and marked by close cooperation in many areas.

Canada is actively engaged with both the Government of the Philippines and civil society in the promotion of democratic governance, human rights, media freedom, peace and security, trade promotion and development.

Our long-term development program promotes sustainable economic growth by improving the investment climate and advancing economic opportunities for the poor.

These are the very hallmarks of Canada’s principle-based foreign policy.

We believe in dignity for all people—that freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law are the values upon which pluralistic societies are built, and the values to which all human beings are entitled.

We know we have a responsibility to help the global community reach its full potential.

And we understand that our global reputation as a nation steeped in philanthropic engagement positions us well to offer assistance and expertise in areas of the world that need it.

That is why on June 27, Minister Paradis announced that Canada is reinforcing its commitment to eradicating global poverty by focusing 90 percent of its bilateral programming in 25 developing countries of focus, which now includes the Philippines.

It is why we were so quick to contribute to the relief and recovery effort in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan.

And it is why, today, I am announcing Canadian support to mitigate another crisis: in this case, to help address the immediate needs of thousands of conflict-affected families on Mindanao island.

Decades of ongoing fighting on Mindanao Island have caused far too many people to suffer unimaginable consequences.

At the height of the conflict, clashes between the rebels and the armed forces of the Philippines left more than 200 dead, displaced more than 120,000 people, and destroyed at least 10,000 homes.

The many displaced, conflict-affected women and children are at an increased risk of disease, malnutrition and danger, including child trafficking and sexual and gender-based violence.

Canada wants to help address that.

That is why we are providing UNICEF with $500,000 in humanitarian assistance funding.

This contribution is going toward activities that are addressing the immediate needs of women and children on Mindanao island.

It will help to improve access to safe drinking water.

Make sanitation and hygiene facilities easier to find and use.

And help to improve nutrition for lactating women and children.

Our assistance will also help to provide child-friendly spaces and temporary learning tents for conflict-affected children.  

Few rewards are greater than knowing that our assistance will make a difference in the lives of so many.

It has long been Canada’s commitment to provide appropriate, timely and effective humanitarian assistance in response to conflicts, natural disasters, and situations of food insecurity requiring a humanitarian response.

We do it to save lives, alleviate suffering, and maintain the dignity of those who are affected.

With today’s announcement, Canada proudly reaffirms this commitment in the Philippines.

And more specifically, to the people of Mindanao island, who bear the scars of years of conflict in the region.

May this funding help them find their way, and overcome the challenges they face.

Thank you.