Remarks With Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird After Their Meeting

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Lester B. Pearson Building
Ottawa, Canada
October 28, 2014


President Obama and Secretary Kerry were among the very first world leaders to show their solidarity after the attack here in Ottawa. And John, you are the first to make a journey to do so in person, and that is recognized and greatly appreciated by all Canadians. On behalf of the Government of Canada, as a member of parliament from Ottawa, I want to thank you for that.

In Ottawa, like in your home state of Massachusetts in 2013, our people showed our resiliency in the face of adversity. A year after the Boston Marathon bombings, the next race was the second largest in its history. Here, we thought it was important to get back to work in the House of Commons the very next day and to quickly resume the sentry duty that Corporal Nathan Cirillo dutifully carried out, just as many others have done before him. The countless throngs of people who came out to watch the guards taking their position made it clear to the world that, as Prime Minister Stephen Harper said, we will never be intimidated. And I want to thank you personally for requesting to be able to go and show your personal condolences and those of the United States of America.

Corporal Cirillo’s family described his spirit with some incredibly powerful words. He had a strong and unwavering devotion to duty. He understood what it meant to sustain freedom. He was fearless. He would’ve done his duty even if he knew this tragedy was coming. I think these words resonate with the whole country and with our history – the true north, strong and free.

You may not know this, but our National War Memorial is also called “The Response.” It represents and honors the sacrifice of Canadians who stood up and responded to the call alongside our American allies in two world wars and in the Korean War. And we will gather at that very spot in just two weeks for what will be an incredibly emotional annual Remembrance Day.

These attacks were no loss of innocence, as some have described. While we are overall a remarkably safe nation, we are unfortunately not strangers to terrorism. But we will always – we have and always will overcome. I thought the actor and comedian Mike Myers put it well on Saturday night when he said, “Don’t mistake our civility for weakness. You do so at your own peril.” Canada has been blessed and – by being geographically isolated from many of the world’s great problems. And, as I like to say, we got the first pick in neighbors. But as an outward-facing nation in an increasingly interconnected and interdependent world, we know that our security is linked to global security and stability. We are certainly looking at what more we can do to tackle this threat, both here at home and abroad.

This is something that I think we have a remarkably successful partnership with the United States on. As friends, as partners, and as allies, Canadians and Americans are in this together. We cooperate on an extraordinary level, and we do so very effectively, I might also add. We share the longest and busiest border in the world, and yet no terrorist has ever been successful in attacking the United States from Canada – or, frankly, vice versa. We also stand shoulder to shoulder in our response to the great challenges around the world.

John, as I said to you on Wednesday, these attacks only make us and our resolve stronger to do our part in the global fight against terrorism. Canada is a part of an international U.S.-led coalition helping Iraqi and Kurdish forces to fend off a brutal advance of the terrorist army that is ISIL. We cannot allow there to be a safe haven for this medieval savagery or a launch pad for attacks on our home soil. At the same time, we will continue to do whatever we can to help those who have already suffered at the hands of ISIL, including through humanitarian aid to refugees and efforts to deal with the terrible sexual violence that is happening there.

We also stand together in solidarity with the Ukrainian people as they seek freedom, a future with democracy. The latest parliamentary elections over the weekend are another encouraging step forward. But we are clear that the Russian Federation’s contined occupation of Crimea and its violent provocations in eastern Ukraine are completely unacceptable in the 21st century. Canada will continue to stand with Ukraine, with the United States and our allies in taking a robust response to these reckless actions, including through sanctions and reviewing how we can strengthen energy security.

Aside from security issues, we also discussed our cooperation on the international response to the worrying spread of Ebola. And I want to once again thank you for your personal leadership and for the leadership of the United States on this security challenge. And we also, of course, discussed ways to further strengthen our bilateral relationship, especially on cross-border trade. America is Canada’s biggest trading partner, and Canada is America’s biggest trading partner. It is a dynamic relationship that benefits both of us immensely.

And as I conclude, just to once again thank you for coming. John.

SECRETARY KERRY: (In French.) It’s an honor for me to be here, a privilege for me to represent President Obama, the United States of America, and all American citizens in expressing our deep solidarity with our country’s closest ally. Just as you have so often stood with us, we’re proud to be here, standing with you today.

As John mentioned, 18 months ago in my hometown of Massachusetts two young men placed bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. And they stole the lives of three people and wounded or maimed hundreds more. The goal of the perpetrators was to instill terror. Instead, they brought together a diverse city, an entire commonwealth, and all of us in America and, indeed, our friends and allies around the world. In storefront windows, on tee shirts, and athletic fields across our continent, the words of defiance were proclaimed: “Boston Strong.” This week, with an equal measure of sadness mixed with resolve, the echoes can be heard here in Canada: Ottawa Strong, Quebec Strong, Canada Strong.

The question that our adversaries want us to ask is: Is there nowhere safe? And that is a question to which we firmly reply, no, there is nowhere safe for those who would pervert the teachings of a great religion, murder the innocent, betray their neighbors, and line up on the side of such pernicious groups as ISIL and al-Qaida.

I have come here to Ottawa today as a friend in a time of mourning, representing a nation that is grateful each day that Canada is our neighbor. We offer our heartfelt condolences and our prayers to the families of Corporal Nathan Cirillo, a young father who died while serving his country with bravery and honor. We mourn the loss of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, a 28-year veteran of the Canadian Forces, a former military firefighter, and a man who will be remembered for his long and distinguished service and his dedication to his fellow veterans.

We extend our sympathies also to those who were injured or wounded, and we commend the tremendous work of the first responders and the law enforcement officials whose quick action shielded government officials and members of the public from harm. Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers’ selfless action to protect his colleagues and those at Parliament Hill demonstrates what public service is all about: defending our people and our institutions in the moments of greatest need. I will personally remember calling John in the near aftermath of that and John explaining to me that he was literally in a room right door with a group of parliamentarians, with the prime minister, feet away from where these events unfolded.

A few minutes ago, I affirmed to my friend, the foreign minister, that President Obama, the State Department and our entire Administration pledge to work even more closely with your leaders at every level in order to deter and prevent terrorist attacks. As Prime Minister Harper said, Canada will not be intimidated and Canada will not hate, for fear is not the answer to any question, and hate is not the solution to the challenges we face.

Together on this side of the Atlantic and where necessary overseas, we will defeat the advocates and practitioners of terror, expose their hypocrisy, and we will win the battle of ideas. In so doing, we will be true to our own principles and values, which we share so closely with our neighbor, Canada. And that is the only sure path by which to find the outcome that we all seek.

The events of recent days are a grim reminder of how robust – it came out of a grimness, but it’s a good reminder of how robust the relationship is between the United States and Canada, and not only, may I say, in the fight against extremism. Our two countries are NATO allies. We are leaders together in the fight against Ebola. We have stood shoulder to shoulder in Afghanistan, Africa, the Middle East, and we are both champions in supporting internationally recognized human rights, and we are partners particularly in standing up for a sovereign Ukraine.

I again congratulate the people of Ukraine on Sunday’s elections, a bold and clear choice for democracy, for reform, and for European integration, which is their right to choose. I am concerned, however, at plans for another so-called local election in eastern Ukraine on November 2nd, which Russia has said it will recognize. This would be a clear violation of the commitments made by both Russia and the separatists that it backs in the Minsk agreements. And the United States, along with the rest of the international community, will not recognize so-called separatist elections, unless they happen within the framework of the special status law passed by Ukraine’s parliament and signed by President Poroshenko. We continue to support Ukraine in its efforts to promote reform, fight corruption, pursue a peaceful resolution to the conflict in the east, and ultimately end the occupation of Crimea.

Let me just say a quick word about the special relationship that we are privileged to share with our neighbors to the north. For almost three decades, on my work to – on my way to work each day as a member of the United States Senate, I would drive past the Embassy of Canada, the diplomatic mission closest to the United States Capital and the seat of our democracy. That closeness is a purposeful and appropriate symbol of the relationship between our two countries, not only in geography but in spirit.

Great nations, like great individuals, are those who are made stronger by the hardest tests of life. In the past week, the world has been witness to Canada’s strength, to your unity, your courage, your resolve. And that is the message that I wanted to deliver personally to my colleague, Foreign Minister Baird, and through the media to the people of Canada. It is a message that I will repeat a little later to Prime Minister Harper, and it is my message, the message of President Obama and the United States of America: a message of deep friendship, admiration, and commitment that I deliver today on behalf of the people of the United States to all the people of Canada.

Thank you, John.


MODERATOR: Everyone, we’ll take a question from Canadian media and from American media. (In French.) We’ll start with Canadian media, Meagan Fitzpatrick with the CBC.

QUESTION: Hi, Secretary, Minister. In relation to Wednesday’s attack – and the investigations obviously are ongoing, looking into the gunman’s background, trying to determine maybe if there was some mental illness at play, whether he was radicalized – how would you characterize the gunman, the attacker? Was he a terrorist? Was he a lone wolf? And if he was, what can really be done to guard against those kinds of attacks from happening again, either in the U.S. or in Canada?

And in the wake of what happened on Wednesday, are there any changes that need to be made in the U.S.-Canadian relationship as it pertains to counterterrorism, security, border security? Obviously, our two countries cooperate closely already, but in the short-term immediate, is there – are there any changes? Was that discussed at today’s meeting?

Minister Baird, if you could answer in French, and Secretary of State Kerry, it was nice to hear you speak French at the beginning. Please feel free to answer in French as well. No pressure, no pressure. (Laughter.)

FOREIGN MINISTER BAIRD: Do you want to go first or --


FOREIGN MINISTER BAIRD: I think it’s tremendously important that French Canadians can understand what I say, so – (laughter) – maybe I shouldn’t speak in French. (Laughter.)

SECRETARY KERRY: There you go. We won’t hold that against anybody.

Let me just say this: There’s an investigation going on, and I don’t want to – I’m not going to draw final conclusions here, standing here today, as your authorities appropriately undertake this investigation. Clearly, anybody who walks up in a premeditated way with a rifle and attacks somebody in uniform and then purposefully goes to a parliament is committing, by common sense standards, a terrorist act. And how your law enforcement authorities and others characterize it in the long run is up to them, and I do not want to prejudice that.

But it is clear that it has touched everybody in Canada. It has touched people around the world. We, just a moment ago, were talking in our meeting about how in many ways each generation is tested and tested differently. And our parents and the Greatest Generation were tested in World War II and the Cold War, and now we’re facing this radical religious extremism that is pushing against modernity and challenging rule of law and challenging the stability and the sanctity of national borders and of daily life that everybody wants to enjoy. It is clearly a challenge for our generation, and Canada and many other countries are rising to that challenge, which is why we are standing up to ISIL, together with countries in the Middle East and elsewhere, in a more than 60-nation coalition.

We are always looking at ways to cooperate more, and Canada and the United States are now in discussions, not with any sense that things weren’t done or that there’s some information that we didn’t somehow share or have, but rather with a view to making certain that every possible stone is turned over, every possible policy is reviewed, because our obligation is obviously to protect our citizens. And so we will continue to have vigilance and aggressively take every step possible to do that. And we will continue to intensify our law enforcement, border protection, and intel-sharing relationship and efforts to do that.

But we will work quietly and carefully in the next days and months, both of us together in the same fashion that we work on almost every challenge that we face together. And I’m confident that we will come up with some tweaks, some changes, some additions that will promote even greater security than we have today.

FOREIGN MINISTER BAIRD: There’s no doubt that the events on Wednesday were not just an attack on one soldier, an attack on one building, they were an attack on our democracy – they were a terrorist attack. I think, as John said, it’s only common sense to label it that.

I do believe that Canadians would expect us to make – ensure that we’re doing everything we reasonably can do to keep Canadians safe, and that a 21st century challenge deserves a 21st century solution. I agree with everything John said about how we can work closely together as friends and allies, from the Government of Canada to the Obama Administration. I also think we’ve got to attack terrorism in other ways. We had a long discussion on going after the financing of terrorism, tackling the challenge that is radicalization.

This is in many ways a battle of values, and the evil and brutal regime committing barbaric attacks in large swaths of Syria and Iraq must be – that challenge must be responded to. And that’s why Canada – Canadians, our government, are prepared to do our share of the heavy lifting in that regard.

(In French.)

MODERATOR: And the American questions from Laura Koran of CNN.

QUESTION: Thank you. Secretary Kerry, General John Allen said that ISIS needs to be fought online, which is exactly where so many of the so-called lone wolves are being radicalized, as well as the foreign fighters that are going to Syria. Could you expand a little bit on what a strategy for fighting ISIS online looks like? Is this is a matter of countering their arguments, or are you talking about a cyber-offensive that’s being considered? And then what steps additionally are the U.S. and Canada taking to tackle the threat posed by these lone wolves and foreign fighters specifically?

And then secondly, if I could just ask if the Keystone XL pipeline --

FOREIGN MINISTER BAIRD: I think that’s four (inaudible). (Laughter.)

QUESTION: -- if the Keystone XL pipeline is something that was discussed during your meeting. If so, Foreign Minister, what was your message on this? And Secretary Kerry, when can we expect something new on the Keystone XL pipeline?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, let me – General John Allen is absolutely correct; it is part of our strategy. I am not going to lay out for you today because I don’t intend to lay out for them what that strategy is, except to say to you that we’ve just had a conference that has taken place in the Middle East. The Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy Rick Stengel was there working with all of our allies in order to begin to activate a global response through internet and cyber to the appeals that are made by ISIL, and also to the financing that takes place through the internet.

So we’re looking at every single line of effort that is critical to begin to reduce the ability of ISIL to be able to grow its ranks and grow its coffers in order to fund its operations. There will be a major conference taking place very, very shortly in Bahrain with respect to foreign financing. We have a great deal of cooperation taking place now between the Treasury Department of the United States and other finance ministries and treasuries of various countries looking at how to move on the financing. We’re taking specific steps with respect to foreign fighters regarding travel, passports, visas, access to banks and various other things.

So there are a great many avenues here, all of which are being structured within the confines of an overall strategy. But we will leave no effort untested with respect to our efforts to shut down the ability of these people to propagandize, to lie, to deceive, and to have a – whatever influence they may be able to have on young minds or other minds anywhere in the world. That’s already going on.

We also have a major effort undertaken at this moment to engage religious communities around the world to delegitimize ISIL’s claims with respect to any Islamic foundations that their actions may have. The grand mufti of Saudi Arabia has said that there is nothing Islamic about them whatsoever; that in fact they are an order of Satan, I think was the language he used. And in fact, the council that issues fatwas, the only council authorized to do so in Saudi Arabia, has declared that they are in fact terrorists and have nothing to do with Islam.

So there is a major effort going on on all these lines of effort. General John Allen and our Assistant Secretary Brett McGurk are coordinating this effort, but we’re working very closely with our friends and allies in that effort.

Regarding Keystone, indeed, of course it came up. And I made it clear, as I have consistently, that there is a process underway within the Department which requires me, ultimately, to make a decision, and we will pursue our due diligence with respect to that. And it will happen when it is appropriate for that to happen because the due diligence has been done and I’m prepared to do that. I certainly want to do it sooner rather than later, but I can’t tell you a precise date.

FOREIGN MINISTER BAIRD: We strongly believe that there has to be. We’ve got to take the battle on ISIL to try and ensure that we win the hearts and minds of people not, frankly, just in Syria and in Iraq, but to try to fight against the propaganda and myth that they seek to perpetrate. Some of that has to be on the religious side and psychological side, but I think Canada has taken great efforts on digital diplomacy in tackling the regime in Tehran. And we had a good discussion on the challenge and what needs to be done, and we appreciate the leadership of the United States in that regard. Obviously, the – to underline again, the financing is tremendously important. And obviously the airstrikes are playing a very important part, but the financing is important.

I think the American leadership, particularly in getting not just one or two but a good number of Sunni Arab regimes in the region as part of this coalition is tremendously important and sends a very powerful message to the Sunni communities in both Syria and Iraq.

And with respect to Keystone, we had a good discussion. We highlighted how impressed we were with the science and the conclusions in the Department of State’s report and that – and we look forward to resolving this challenge. It is obviously an important one for Canada.

MODERATOR: You want to repeat in French?

SECRETARY KERRY: I beg your pardon?


MODERATOR: Thanks, everyone.


MODERATOR: That concludes the --

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you very much, everybody.