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Friday, February 3, 2023

Secretary Antony J. Blinken Mexican Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard and Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly At the Signing of a North American Declaration on Partnership for Equity and Racial Justice

MR VELASCO:  Muy buenas noches a todos.  Good evening, everyone.  Welcome, Mr. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Madam Minister of Foreign Affairs of Canada Mélanie Joly.

(Via interpreter) (Inaudible) Mélanie Joly.  We are thankful for the presence of Marcelo Ebrard Casaubón, minister to foreign affairs in Mexico, and most especially, the attendance of the negotiators of this very important declaration that is the decisive action of these three countries to go forward to promote – in promoting the anti-racism, inclusive, and equal societies, most especially democratic societies.  And so let us listen to the message of Madam Minister of Foreign Affairs from Canada Mélanie Joly.

FOREIGN MINISTER JOLY:  (Via interpreter) Thank you.  Thank you for this kind presentation.

Thank you so much for being with us today and thank you for addressing these important topics on inclusivity, inclusion (inaudible).

(In English) Everyone deserves an equal opportunity to succeed, no matter their race, religion, gender identity, or orientation.  As leaders from Canada, the U.S., and Mexico, we have a responsibility to combat discrimination and hate in all its forms.  Today we are committing to doing just that.  By signing the declaration for racial equity and inclusion, we are pledging to uproot deep and longstanding inequalities.  We know we can’t change the past, but we can work towards a more just and inclusive future.

This declaration is a historic step in our work to eradicate deep and – deep-seated injustice.  Diversity is a fact, but inclusion is a choice.  How we choose to incorporate the diversity of our communities can mean the difference between a stagnant and thriving country and continent.  While we have certainly made progress, systemic racism and bigotry is still a daily reality for many.  It’s dehumanizing, humiliating, and above all else – above all else, unacceptable and it has no place in society.

That is why Canada has been taking action.  As we are engaged on the path of reconciliation, we have continued to tackle systemic inequities and discrimination against indigenous peoples of Canada.  We sat also down and listened to marginalized communities, incorporating their recommendations in the new Canadian anti-racism strategy.

The work to rid our societies of intolerance will not be easy, but it will be necessary.  Canada is by no means immune to intolerance.  Anti-indigenous, anti-black, anti-Asian, and anti-Semitic hate have sharply risen.  Muslim communities in Canada have experienced several horrific, deadly Islamophobic attacks in recent years.  That is why we must take further action.  In our upcoming action on combating hate, we will address this head on.

(Via interpreter) With both our friends, Mexico and the United States, Canada is committed to work together and to accept all people as they are without any violence, without any bias, and together.  Together we will use our leadership and use our platforms to change our attitudes and behaviors.

Merci.  Gracias.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

MR VELASCO:  Merci beaucoup, Madame Joly.

(Via interpreter) And now, Secretary Blinken.

(In English) Secretary Blinken.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Gracias, Roberto, and buenas noches a todos.  It’s wonderful to be here, to be here with some really extraordinary colleagues as well.  I’m really honored to be seated here with my friends Marcelo and Mélanie to sign what is an important declaration.  And you heard Mélanie address it so eloquently.  It goes to a common ideal that is at the core of our democracies: that we’re all better off when every individual in our societies enjoys equal rights and equal opportunities.  And it reflects a fundamental recognition that if we want to improve the lives of our citizens, it’s in our interest to ensure that all communities and individuals can reach their full potential – not just within our own countries, but across North America, across our hemisphere, across the world.

Like everything that we’re focused on at this summit, we’re more effective at delivering on this goal when we work together.  That is the entire premise of the North America Leaders’ Summit.  It’s animating the work that we’re doing together.  And the declaration that we’re signing today sets out three ways that we’re going to do that, so let me just briefly touch on them.

First, the fight for greater equity and inclusion begins at home.  It begins in Canada, it begins in Mexico, it begins in the United States.  In every nation, members of marginalized groups face discrimination.  They face barriers that prevent them from participating fully in society.  It’s a daily reality for people from indigenous communities and communities of African descent, women and girls, LGBTQI+ people, people with disabilities, religious minorities and others, including in the United States.

With this declaration, each of our nations acknowledges the responsibility to work with fierce urgency to knock down these enduring barriers and to try to stamp out the prejudice at their root.

On his very first day in office, President Biden signed an executive order advancing racial equity and support for underserved communities through the federal government, bringing our entire government together in an effort to address these challenges.

The willingness of each of our three countries to acknowledge that we all have significant work to do to root out discrimination and inequity at home shows that we’re willing to ask the same of ourselves as we’re asking of others.  And that’s vital to our legitimacy when it comes to pursuing the declaration’s second commitment: redoubling our collaboration to advance equity and racial justice around the world.  The United States, Mexico, and Canada have long worked together on this goal.  It’s at the heart of the commitment that our democracies made to uphold the Inter-American Democratic Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

At the State Department we’re committed to integrating this work across the entirety of our foreign policy.  Last June, I had the opportunity to establish our first special representative for racial equity and justice, who is charged with advancing the human rights of people from historically marginalized racial and ethnic communities around the world, and I’m very grateful to have our Special Representative Cormier Smith here with us today.  Thank you for the work that you’re doing every day.  (Applause.)

By making this a priority across our bilateral relationships, our multilateral relationships, we know it’s the right thing to do, but it’s also the smart thing to do.  It’s in our interest because more equal countries tend to be more stable, they tend to be more secure, they tend to be more prosperous partners.  That’s good for the United States.

Third, we’re better at advancing equity and inclusion when we draw on the knowledge, on the expertise, on the experience of leaders outside of government.  In that spirit, we’re establishing a trilateral racial equity and inclusion expert network to share knowledge, to share best practices for advancing equity and racial justice.

That’s just one way that we’ll integrate our citizens into this effort.  In April, the United States will host the first-ever Cities Summit of the Americas in Denver.  Diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility will be a key part of the discussions that we hold there, ranging from strengthening public health and good governance to fostering innovation in clean energy transitions.  And these discussions will incorporate not only local officials but also leaders from civil society, from the private sector, from youth groups, from academia.

We have a lot to learn from these groups.  Just take a look at our history.  So much of the progress we’ve made as societies has actually been driven by our citizens.  They put a spotlight on discrimination, on inequities.  They’ve led efforts that have inspired people not only in our own countries but across borders.

This is, simply put, one of our greatest strengths as democracies, that we trust our people.  We trust our citizens to help fix some of our most intractable challenges; to be part of the ongoing process of, as we like to say in the United States, trying to form a more perfect union.  That is at the heart of our national experience, of our national enterprise – this idea that it’s in the work that we do every single day to make our societies a little bit better, a little bit stronger, a little bit more inclusive.  That’s how we make progress.

In this, as in so much of what we do, we’re fortunate to have neighbors who share our highest ideals and a steadfast commitment to keep working to make them a reality.  It’s a pleasure to be with you.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

MR VELASCO:  Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary.

(Via interpreter) (Inaudible) and prior to giving the mike to Minister Ebrard, we recognize the attendance of the U.S. and Canada ambassadors, Mr. Clark – Graeme Clark – and the under secretaries Brian Nichols, David Morrison, and Michael Grant, who are here in attendance, as well as the Parliamentarian Secretary Sidhu and many high officers representing both countries.  Minister, you have the floor.

FOREIGN SECRETARY EBRARD:  (Via interpreter) Thank you in three languages.

It is a pleasure to see you here and to greet you.  The protocol we are about to sign today, we – the method is the other way around.  First we suggest an agreement and then each sees to it in their own countries, but this agreement came forth because we were at the same point exactly.  Interesting – three countries thinking exactly the same way in regard to our internal policies.  This is quite an opportunity and we are very lucky, because you don’t have to start convincing anybody about what is it we have to do.  Rather, we should start getting organized, which we are already doing.

In the case of Mexico, racism is something quite relevant.  For a long time, nobody spoke about racism in Mexico.  Many studies have been undertaken.  This is a very important topic.  We have visited our history in regard to slavery – nothing said in textbooks, at – in school about slavery in Mexico.  So you say, “Was there any slavery in Mexico?  Oh, unheard of.”  Many people came to Mexico in that regime without – without mentioning the colonial history, so racism is a current topic that has to do with the design of our society whether we like it or not.  Racism in Mexico is a synthesis of the inequalities – gender inequalities, many other inequalities, racial inequalities – and we’ve made great efforts so far to dismantle the culture of racism.

It’s culture.  This is no easy topic to deal with, but this is a fight we must lead to dismantle racism in Mexico.  We have 63 live languages, 63 indigenous communities in our countries.  President López Obrador requested us to make great efforts to revisit the historical sites in Mexico and the situations like the Yaquis in Mexico, where they were practically exterminated because they were defending their land and the water.  That community survived.  That was important.  So what we’ve done is go back – not only recognize that foe and ask forgiveness for what happened 200 years ago, but what can we do to do better in the society we currently have.  Same thing happened with the Mayans.

And I mentioned 63 languages, 63 ethnic groups.  Recently in the U.S., our president asked us that the consulates – Mexican consulates in the U.S. – when you call them on the phone, don’t force everybody to speak Spanish, because it’s not their maternal language.  If you’re calling the U.S., people speak Nahuatl, and they work in the U.S.  They speak Otomi, they speak Zapoteco.  And for the first time in our history, we’re taking phone calls in their maternal languages – well, only have three languages, but we need to cover all 63 languages.

Hence, when we see that in the U.S., the Biden administration has similar concerns based in the U.S. context, and Minister Trudeau, every time we meet, it’s a great concern of his – this is no discourse, this really moves him deeply.  And we tell the story I’m telling you now.  So let’s do something together.  So if we’re doing something in, say, along the same lines, let’s have a common cause.  This is not a – this is not a random situation, because we’re sharing values that are tied to and pursuing more equal societies, more inclusive, more just.

So, of course, I congratulate my colleagues and everybody that helped us realize that we are leading a common battle together, but we have the same cause.  We have the same motive to go on and to go forward.  (Applause.)

MR VELASCO:  (Via interpreter) Prior to signing this document, we need to recognize the presence of the Mexican ambassadors in Washington, Moctezuma, and our designate ambassador in Canada, Carlos Joaquin, and Claudia Morales, incumbent at the national commission to prevent and eradicate discrimination.  And now let us sign this very important partnership of North America for equality and racial justice.

(The declaration was signed.)

(Applause.)

MR VELASCO:  (Via interpreter) So the meeting stands adjourned.  Good evening, everyone.  The meeting is adjourned.

Official news published at https://www.state.gov/secretary-antony-j-blinken-mexican-foreign-secretary-marcelo-ebrard-and-canadian-foreign-minister-melanie-joly-at-the-signing-of-a-north-american-declaration-on-partnership-for-equity-and-racial-just/

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