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'New World, New Europe, New deal?' - A Glendon Lecture by Former French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin

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French senator and former prime minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin (pictured left) gave a lecture on February 20th , co-hosted by Glendon, the Vari Foundation and the Consulate General of France in Toronto. The lecture was delivered in the presence of Daniel Jouanneau, Ambassador of France to Canada, Philippe Delacroix, Consul General of France in Toronto, prominent philantropists Mr. and Mrs. Vari, former federal Cabinet Minister and Glendon Distinguished Fellow David Collenette, former Ontario Finance Minister and currently Member of the Provincial Parliament Greg Sorbara, Ontario Minister of Culture and Francophone Affairs Madeleine Meilleur, and York University President Lorna Marsden. Many students and faculty members also filled Glendon’s elegant Senate Chamber to capacity.

Glendon principal Kenneth McRoberts offered a warm welcome to Raffarin and his wife, Anne-Marie, who are currently on a private visit to this country. Mr. and Mrs. Raffarin “are two great friends of Canada”, said McRoberts, “who represent the importance France places on Ontario, where over 100 inter-university agreements are in existence today.”

A second enthusiastic welcome was offered in French and English by Mrs. Helen Vari, Honorary Governor for Life on York University’s Board of Governors and President of the Vari Foundation, a major benefactor of York University. Established by Helen and George Vari, the Vari Foundation supports the development of Canada’s national identity in a number of areas, notably the environment, education, new immigrants and the promotion of cultural relations between France and Canada. Mrs. Vari declared that Raffarin is “one of the most respected statesmen in the world”, and added that “friendship, dialogue and understanding between nations are of primordial importance”.

Raffarin asserted his close ties to Canada, which he visits often. “Canada is a country with a conscience and a deep awareness of humanity’s needs”, said Raffarin. He noted great changes in the world in the past fifteen years, with many new, emerging countries, new problems, new international situations and new threats. He focussed on two of the major influences on world politics today, the emergence of China and the new face of Islam. Raffarin outlined the enormous development taking place in China, which causes many problems but also offers great opportunities, not just in business and trade, but in establishing alliances for greater world cooperation and the hope of lasting peace. In his view, strong alliances with China also offer the West an opportunity to make firm demands on issues of corruption, democratic process and human rights.



Above: Jean-Pierre Raffarin (far left) speaks at Glendon's Senate Chamber. On his left, York University President Lorna Marsden, Philipe Delacroix, Consul General of France in Toronto and former Minister of Transport David Collenette

Raffarin next turned to the subject of Islam, its reawakening and fundamentalization. “The 1 billion 200 million Muslims in the world wield enormous power, a power that needs to be channelled into other perspectives than violence”, he declared, adding that “France joins the U.S. in wishing to protect the world from violence, although it does not always agree with its methods”. Touching on the current turmoil concerning the cartoons caricaturing Muslim characters, Raffarin took the stance that in a highly volatile world situation such as the one today, it would be wiser to self-limit the freedom of expression on certain sensitive subjects. He went on to explain France’s decision to ban head-scarves in the schools as a manifestation of the country’s republican history and an attempt to ensure that all of France’s children are considered equal in school.

Finally, Raffarin asserted that Europe, and France in particular, is ideally situated for bringing some solutions to the challenges presented by the emergence of these two major political forces. “Europe has the important mission of providing a location where these powers can meet and learn to co-exist in peace”, concluded Raffarin. “A network between France and Canada could be very useful in creating such a space, because Canada has the “élan”, the youthful energy needed for this process”.


More About Jean-Pierre Raffarin:

Jean-Pierre Raffarin studied law at the University of Paris II - Panthéon-Assas and later graduated from the Ecole Supérieure de Commerce de Paris. A publicist at the outset, Raffarin embarked on a political career in 1977 as municipal councillor for the city of Poitiers. He went on to hold increasingly higher public office, first as councillor and then president of the Regional Council of Poitou-Charentes. M. Raffarin was elected Member of Parliament for the European Union in 1989, and senator for the District (Département) of Vienne in 1995. He was appointed Minister of Small and Mid-Size Business in the same year. Jean-Pierre Raffarin became Prime Minister of France in 2001, a position from which he finally resigned in 2005. Currently, Raffarin is once again a senator for the District (Département) of Vienne, and a member of the France-Québec Interparliamentary Group. He is Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur and holder of the Grand-Croix de l'ordre national du Mérite (National Order of Merit).

This article was submitted by Glendon’s communications officer, Marika Kemeny


Published on February 27, 2006