Address by President of the Republic of Finland Sauli Niinistö at the State Dinner in Ottawa on October 9th, 2014

Let me start by extending my warmest thanks to the Canadian Government for all the superb hospitality extended to me, my wife and the Finnish delegation during my state visit to Canada.

It feels very pleasant and almost at home to travel to Canada, which in so many ways resembles my own country. I recently came across a poem written by the late Canadian poet Rosanna Eleanor Leprohon and it really struck me how similar our two countries are. Let me read you a part of that poem:

“Have you not witnessed our glorious nights,
So brilliant with gleaming northern lights,
Quick flashing and darting across the sky
While far in the starry heavens on high
The shining moon pours streams of light
O’er the silent earth, robed in dazzling white.”

The poem is called Winter in Canada but it might as well be called Winter in Finland.

In Canada as well as in Finland our northern climate has a profound impact on our lives. Although Canada is enormous in size compared to Finland and most Canadians live further south than us Finns, we essentially share a similar climate.

But Finns and Canadians also share the same values of democracy, rule of law, good governance, equality, liberty and respect of human rights. Both Finland and Canada are market economies that adhere to the principle of free trade. In addition, both Finland and Canada are bilingual countries.

I have been told that Finns and Canadians very easily find a common tone, that we have a similar mentality. One thing is certain. Canadians and Finns share the passion for ice hockey. And if I may say so, this is not a bad basis for a friendly relationship between our people also outside the rink.

Our bilateral relations also have an important historic element. In the late 19th and the early 20th century Canada was one of the main receiving countries for Finnish emigrants. Nearly every Finnish family has an ancestor who immigrated to Canada in those days.  Also the emigrants felt that passion for ice hockey unites the two countries. In 1950 the Finnish Ice Hockey association received a gift from the Canadian-Finns living in Ontario. They had organized a fundraiser and gathered enough money to buy a huge, 17 kilogram, trophy cup. And every year since then this cup, called the Canada cup, is given to the team that wins the Finnish ice hockey championship.

Today there are some 137 000 Canadians with Finnish ancestry. Over 15 500 of them still say they speak Finnish. The largest Finnish communities are in the Greater Toronto area, in Thunder Bay, Sudbury and Timmins and also in British Colombia.

The Finnish language and culture chair at the University of Toronto is the largest of its kind in North America.

Despite the many activities in the cultural field, it seems that trade relations between Finland and Canada are working only at half speed. It seems that the potential of our markets have not been fully grasped.

The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement represents a new standard and level of ambition for trade agreements. It will offer numerous new trade and investment possibilities for both Finnish and Canadian companies.

Growing economic activities in the Arctic region combined with global warming offer new kind of challenges, but also possibilities for those with arctic know how – snow how.

Finland does not have a shoreline on the Arctic Ocean. Nevertheless, Finland is an Arctic country. Of all the people living above the 60th parallel, every third is a Finn.

We have long traditions of seafaring and shipbuilding. Finnish polar explorer Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld was the first to cross the North East Passage. The Azipod propeller and other solutions which have advanced icebreaker technology have been developed in Finland.

The skills to find solutions to overcome harsh conditions have evolved out of necessity. Today this is our strength. To illustrate this, as many as 60% of all polar icebreakers in the world are built in Finland.  In fact the new Canadian icebreaker, the Diefenbaker, under construction in British Columbia, will be built using Finnish expertise.

But it is not only the sea areas that matter. Many of the northern and Arctic opportunities lie on land. Extracting energy and minerals demand infrastructure. Finland can offer a safe operating environment, expertise on energy technology, transport and logistics and maritime solutions for Arctic conditions.

Finnish Arctic expertise also covers other areas such as waste treatment, district heating, water technology, forestry, nanotechnology, health care, meteorology and ICT-based services.

This state visit is results oriented. Its aim is to encourage Finnish and Canadian businesses and entities to develop their co-operation. I expect that my visit will open new doors for Finnish and Canadian companies, and hopefully also for investments.

Also this visit seeks to encourage Finnish–Canadian cooperation in science, research, education and innovations.

As you can see from the guests attending this grand state dinner, I have traveled to Canada accompanied by a high level business and science and research delegation in order to encourage them to work more closely with their Canadian counterparts to achieve results. We would also welcome a Canadian business delegation to Finland in the near future.

I would like to finish by welcoming your Excellency to make a State Visit to Finland. Hopefully you will find the time to visit us in a not too distant future. I wish you most warmly welcome.

May I suggest a toast to our hosts, and for Finnish-Canadian friendship.