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Prime Minister Stephen Harpers remarks at 75 Anniversary of the

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					Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s remarks at 75th Anniversary of the Canadian
Polish Congress and the 150th anniversary of the first Polish settlement in
Canada event




I'm very pleased to join you tonight as we celebrate the three milestones that have
been talked about by many speakers in the shared history that binds Canada and
Poland together. First, 2008 marks the 150th anniversary of the first Polish
settlement in Canada. Not far, just west of here in the area called Kaszuby, in and
around the hamlet of Wilno. This year also marks the 100th anniversary of the birth
of the Polish community in Windsor, which played such a big role in building the
Canadian auto industry there. These anniversaries remind us how much we as
Canadians have benefited from Canadians of Polish descent, more than 800 000
strong in this country today, how much you have done to help build our great
country. Polish Canadians have made their mark in every walk of Canadian life. I
was told that former Deputy Prime Minister Don Mazankowski had some Polish
ancestry. Of course, the late broadcaster Peter Gzowski, and soon-to-be Canada's
new Chief of Defence Staff, Lieutenant General Walter Natynczyk is here, so give
him a big hand. Finally, 2008 is the 75th anniversary of the Canadian-Polish
Congress. Throughout its history, the Congress has been a strong voice for
Canadians of Polish descent and a champion of closer Canada-Poland relations. Our
government has been working closely with Władislaw and with the Congress on a
number of issues including the removal of visa requirements for Polish visitors to
Canada. We also consulted on the agreement on the portability of pensions, which
was signed when I visited Poland in April, and on the youth mobility agreements
we're now negotiating also with Poland.




Prime Minister Stephen Harper                Prime Minister Stephen Harper and
                                             Canadian Polish Congress President
                                             Wladyslaw Lizon

The trip to Poland this year was my first. I had a number of very memorable events.
I had a tremendous meeting and dinner with Prime Minister Tusk. We agreed on
just about everything. I think we straightened out the world in a couple of hours!




I also had a meeting with one of my personal heroes, and that was with former
President Lech Wałęsa. That was a really interesting guy to talk to, and let me just
relay a part of that conversation with you. I asked him whether when he was
leading the Solidarity movement at the darkest days, he thought they would succeed
in their objectives, how confident was he of success? And he said he never had any
doubt about it, never had any doubt at all. He said there were three things, as an
electrician he could see the changes in technology that were going to make
Communists' control harder and harder. He said second, you had the arrival of a
Polish Pope and the Polish Church as a bastion against Communism, and he said the
third most important thing was, he said, the Polish people never had accepted and
never had believed in Communism. In fact, he said the big difference in Poland and
so many other countries, he said in Poland even the Communists didn't believe in
Communism. But it is an amazing story, how one man, a simple man taking a stand
could lead to a series of events which would not just topple the Communist puppet
regime, but ultimately lead to the fall of the Iron Curtain and the fall of the Soviet
Union. What a tremendous legacy for any human being to have.




During our short trip, I saw the historic beauty as well, and grandeur of Gdansk and
the tremendous growth and modernization that's occurring in Krakow. We also
visited, more sombrely, the former Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau
where tens of thousands of Poles were executed by the Nazis. It was a tremendously
sad and moving experience.




Poland endured more than its share of suffering and oppression during the last
century, first under the Nazis, then under the Communists, but the Polish people
have persevered, and now Poland is a leader in Eastern Europe. Indeed it is
becoming a leader of NATO, a leader in the world, a model for countries struggling
to achieve freedom, democracy and open free market economies. Frankly, to see that
transformation in Poland and the way the Polish people so deeply understand the
gift that is freedom and democracy that we have come to take for granted is truly
inspiring, and the Poles are doing a great job around the world.




In any case, I know that the Canadian-Polish Congress and the Canada-Poland
Parliamentary Friendship Group have provided stalwart support for Poland during
all its difficult years and its years of transition. Let me assure you that our
government wholeheartedly supports your efforts, and we thank you for everything
you have done, you are doing and that I know you will do to advance Canada-Polish
relations. Thank you very much. Happy anniversary. Merci beaucoup. Dziynkuja.

				
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