by Perrin Beatty
The following remarks were given by the Honorable Perrin Beatty at the conferment ceremony for the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star on July 21, 2022.
Ambassador Yamanouchi, distinguished guests, friends.
Let me start by thanking you, Ambassador, for your hospitality today and by expressing my sincere gratitude to everyone who has taken the time and, in many cases, come a long way to be here today. I’m deeply honoured.
I also want to welcome you to your new responsibilities here in Canada. This is our first opportunity to meet in person, although I’m well aware of your distinguished career in the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Like many of the guests here, I’ve also seen the viral video in which you demonstrate your skill with a guitar. You’re a man of many talents.
While the primary responsibility of ambassadors is to represent their nations’ interests in the countries where they are posted, they also serve by promoting the bilateral relationship within their own countries. It is good to have you as our advocate.
This is a bittersweet occasion. I’m very grateful for the government of Japan’s decision to confer the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star on me. I’ve been greatly looking forward to this day, but the joy is dimmed by the tragic loss of former Prime Minister Abe just two weeks ago.
I was privileged to meet him both on his visit to Ottawa in 2013 and later when he hosted the leaders of the B7 for dinner in Tokyo in April of 2016 and I attended the luncheon Prime Minister Trudeau held for him in 2019. He was a friend of Canada who was visionary in his policies, forthright in his views and gracious in his hospitality. Under his leadership, Japan discovered new confidence and offered a strong and clear voice in support of democracy, international engagement and open trade. Of the international leaders I’ve met over the years, Prime Minister Abe stood out because he did not just respond to global events, but shaped them for the better.
Visionary, principled leaders are always in short supply, and the need for them has seldom been greater than in the troubled and often tragic times in which we live today.
Let’s take a moment to reflect on this point. A ceremony like today’s should of course be a time to celebrate what we have achieved together, and there is much in Japan’s relationship with Canada to celebrate. But we should also consider why the relationship is important and how much more we can achieve through an even deeper partnership.
The past two and a half years have been cruel. We have experienced the deaths of millions of people from a pandemic that refuses to end, repeated climate-related disasters, the loss of Afghanistan and the brutal ongoing invasion of Ukraine, mounting threats to international security from nuclear or near-nuclear regimes, record inflation, a global retreat from internationalism and deepening fissures within the democracies.
Three years ago, I gave a talk I called “Canada Adrift in a World without Leaders.” I noted that major problems around the world continued to grow and that we lacked the leadership and the well-functioning international institutions needed to solve them. The pace of these disturbing events has only accelerated since then. For a country like Canada, the threat is severe.
My generation and those born here since have never known anything but peace and relative prosperity. Too often, we regard peace, prosperity and democracy as our birthright. But our good fortune is not the result of our efforts. We were born in an orchard where you simply hold out your hand and an apple falls into it.
The greatest mistake would be to simply close our eyes and hope for the best. People in other countries can’t take such blessings for granted. They know from experience that these blessings aren’t possessions that can somehow be owned but must instead be carefully tended and nurtured. We need to preserve the values and the institutions that mean so much to us.
What does this mean for Canada and for Japan? It means, first, that we must understand how much we have at stake. There is no room for blindness or complacency. Second, neither of us can stand alone in the world. Our two countries require functioning global institutions, open markets and geopolitical stability to preserve our ways of life. And, while other nations turn inward and regard the rest of the world as a threat, our interests are best served by engaging others and developing closer relationships with one another.
Despite worrying incidents in each of our countries in the last few months, they are both solid democracies whose citizens believe in the rule of law. When I was in government, I understood the importance of the rule of law as a principle, but as a businessperson, I have learned how important it is in practical terms. Investment flows across borders like light through glass. It is attracted to jurisdictions where contracts have meanings, where governments respect rights and where the law is not changed at the whim of an individual.
Like our political relationship, Canada’s economic relationship with Japan is solid but underdeveloped. In Canada, Japanese businesses are considered ethical and committed to quality. I believe that Japan regards Canada’s businesses in much the same way. Given the complementarity of our economies and the needs of our societies, there is so much more we can do together in digital technologies, in agriculture, in the successful transition to net zero, in strategies to deal with an aging society, in critical minerals, in energy security and in a host of other areas. The relationship is performing well below where it needs to be.
Finally, let me add a personal note about what I have learned from my experience with Japan. It reflects not only the similarities I’ve noticed between our two countries but also the differences between our still young nation and yours, which is as much a civilization as it is a country.
Over the years, I have watched Japan transform into a bulwark of peaceful democracy and have admired how its industry moved from producing low-quality commodities to exemplifying quality. And I am fascinated by the Japanese obsession with perfection, even in the small things to which Canadians give little attention.
The Toyota production system, which has been studied and copied around the world, is one example of this constant drive for ever-higher quality. So is the fact that in 2020, Tokyo had more Michelin-starred restaurants than any other city in the world – 226 of them, to be exact, while the runner-up, Paris, claimed only 119. And any North American who takes a train in Japan comes away amazed by its cleanliness, speed and precision.
Our similarities provide the foundation on which we can build a solid structure but the differences between us make the project that much more interesting.
Given the challenges Canada, Japan and the other industrialized democracies face today, it would be easy to be pessimistic, but our histories are replete with challenges overcome and of opportunities seized. And we can achieve so much more together.
When Prime Minister Abe opened the B7 in 2016, he reminded us of the words of the French philosopher, Émile-Auguste Chartier, who said, “Pessimism comes from the temperament, optimism from the will.”
Working together, Japan and Canada have the opportunity to ensure our citizens lives of greater security and prosperity. All that we need is the optimism to believe in a better future and the will to make it a reality.
The Honourable Perrin Beatty, PC, OC, is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, Canada’s largest and most representative national business association. Perrin was first elected to the House of Commons as a Progressive Conservative in 1972. During his 21 years in Parliament, he served as Minister in seven different portfolios, including Treasury Board, National Revenue, Solicitor General, Defence, National Health and Welfare, Communications and External Affairs. In 2020, the Government of Japan awarded Perrin the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star, in recognition of his many distinguished achievements in international relations and advancements in Canada-Japan business relations.