Speech by President of the Republic of Finland Sauli Niinistö at the dinner held on 7 February 2023 in honour of the State visit by Governor General of Canada Mary Simon

Photo: Matti Porre/Office of the President of the Republic of Finland

Madam Governor General, Ladies and Gentlemen

It has been a great pleasure and honour, for me and my wife, to welcome you and your delegation on your state visit to Finland. We have fond memories of our own state visit to Canada in 2014.

Since then, the cooperation between Finland and Canada has become ever deeper. We share the same values, the same interests, and the same pragmatic mindset. As we have discussed today, it would be hard to find issues where we disagree.

Last November marked the 75th anniversary of our diplomatic relations. Unfortunately, this past year has not exactly been a time for celebrations. Russia’s war of aggression has cast its shadows on all of us.

For Finland and Canada, there are specific reasons to feel particularly strongly about it. For you, your large Ukrainian diaspora. For us, our own long border with Russia.

On the positive side, the war has united the whole transatlantic community in its support for Ukraine. Finland, together with Sweden, has also embarked on a historic change in our foreign and security policy. Our NATO membership is still two ratifications shy of being completed. But we will never forget the fact that it was Canada who opened the floodgates – as the very first NATO ally to ratify our accession protocol.

We may not disagree on much. But there is one field of healthy rivalry where we can have different goals. As it happens, we have a common pond hockey tradition here in Helsinki. Every year, the team that I play for plays against the team of the Canadian Embassy. That has always been a good opportunity to meet Canadian diplomats and civil servants. Also those ones that I have not encountered before – or after, for that matter. Far be it from me to suggest that there would have been a special entry draft involved.

By the way, we invited Saku Koivu also to this dinner, but unfortunately he was not capable of arriving today. This year’s game is scheduled for this coming Saturday. We are again ready for the challenge.

As two Northern nations, Canada and Finland both care deeply about the Arctic – the protection of its unique environment and the well-being of its peoples. It is therefore only natural that the final day of your state visit brings us together to the Arctic Circle.

In Rovaniemi on the day after tomorrow, we will take a deeper dive into climate change, education and security from an Arctic perspective. I sincerely hope that those conversations help us identify further avenues to intensify our cooperation in the future. As partners, as allies.

Please allow me to propose a toast in your honour, and to the friendship between Finland and Canada. So, ajuinnata!