Canadian HC Perry Calderwood
Perry J. Calderwood, High Commissioner of Canada in Pakistan talks to SouthAsia’s Hafiz Inam in this exclusive interview.
How has been your experience of serving in Pakistan? Assalam-o-alaikum. Thank you very much for the opportunity to meet with you. I have been in Pakistan for nearly six months now and am very much enjoying my stay here. I am new to this part of the world as most of my career has been in Africa and Latin America. So it’s very exciting for me to come to Asia and to Pakistan specifically. This is my third visit to Karachi. I’ve been to Lahore, Swat, Multan and Bahawalpur. I am very much enjoying the great diversity of your country and its rich culture. We have been received very well by the people we have met.
Keeping South Asian politics in mind, how important is Pakistan for Canada?
Pakistan is an important partner for Canada. It’s a relationship that covers a very broad range of activities, such as trade and investment relations which are growing, development and a cooperation programme that dates back several decades and continues to be an important part of the relationship. We have ongoing political dialogue with the government on a wide range of issues and have cooperation in the area of security. There is a large community of Canadians of Pakistani heritage and many Pakistani students in Canada. It’s a very broad relationship and a positive and dynamic one. In 2015, around 12,000 Canadian resident visas were issued to Pakistanis. How are Pakistanis contributing to the Canadian economy?
We receive about 300,000 immigrants a year from around the world. In recent years, Pakistan has been one of our top five source countries for immigrants. We have a community of Pakistani Canadians of about 300,000 people - nearly one percent of the population. South Asians are very well-represented in the Canadian population. We regard multiculturalism and diversity as our strength and we are delighted we have all races, religions and many languages spoken. We think all this enriches our country. Pakistani Canadians in particular, are very well-integrated in Canada. Many Pakistani Canadians have been successful in different areas. Several members
of parliament and senators were either born in Pakistan or are of Pakistani heritage. In the private sector, there are many successful Pakistani businessmen and women. Our universities have many distinguished Pakistani academics. It is a community that is integrated very well and really contributes and enriches our country.
There is a huge difference between the education standards of both the countries. Can the Canadian government work on improving the quality of education in Pakistan?
Canada does have a Development Cooperation Programme in Pakistan and we focus on five different areas. We provide funding aimed at teacher training in Pakistan, especially at the primary level. We have what we call a swap arrangement in place whereby Pakistan, instead of paying back development loans to Canada, invests these funds into teacher training. The programme was launched in 2008 and will end this year but it has been worth about $130 million CAD. So it’s a large investment. But I think your point is important. Any country, in order to develop and achieve its full potential, must offer quality education for everyone. It’s a challenge that many countries around the world face. We have a strong public school system in Canada. Over 90% of the children are in the public school system. There are very few students in private schools and many of the private schools are of a particular religious denomination rather than “elite” schools. Thus, in our country we see the vast majority of children receiving roughly the same quality of education. I think this contributes to our country being a predominantly middleclass and relatively egalitarian society where everyone has the opportunity to achieve his or her potential and where we don’t have the extremes of wealth and poverty that are present in some parts of the world.
Can Canada focus on Pakistan’s underprivileged areas in this respect?
It is of course the responsibility of Pakistan to provide education to its people. As a friend and partner of Pakistan, Canada has been providing some support as I have just described and we will continue to look for ways to be as helpful as possible. Pakistan is a large country with some 200 million people and providing education to all of the children is expensive. So I am not suggesting that it will be easy to provide quality education for all in the short term. But I am encouraged that political leaders at the federal and provincial leveI whom I have met are committed to education. I am also encouraged to see many very dedicated teachers and school administrators, sometimes working in difficult circumstances. Canada will continue to be supportive.
Both Canada and Pakistan ratified the Paris Agreement on Climate Change last year. How are they working on countering climate change?
Canada was very active in the negotiations which concluded in the Paris Agreement. Canada is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Canada and to supporting developing countries to achieve greener economies. Specifically, our government has announced that it will provide over $2.6 billion CAD to assist developing countries adapt and mitigate the consequences of climate change. Also, the International Development Research Centre, an institution funded by the Canadian government, is undertaking valuable research on issues related to climate change as they affect developing countries, including Pakistan. How are Pakistani immigrants doing in Canada? As I have mentioned, we have a large and growing community of Pakistani-Canadians in Canada and we also have many Pakistani students studying at Canadian educational institutions. Pakistan is just a 15-hour flight away and many Pakistani-Canadians maintain close ties with Pakistan. This community is playing a very important role in promoting trade and other ties between our two countries. They know Canada and they also know Pakistan. They speak Urdu and other Pakistani languages. In the years ahead, Pakistani-Canadians and Pakistani students will continue to play a very important role in strengthening the relationship between our two countries.
How do you see the impact of Trump’s travel ban on some Muslim countries?
Canada is a multicultural society and we are proud of it. We have a strong commitment to immigration and welcome above 300,000 immigrants a year. Last year Canada admitted about 40,000 Syrian refugees and we are welcoming more this year. The government obviously plays a role, but we have seen communities across the country – mosques, church and synagogues - raising funds and sponsoring individual families. The Canadian society as a whole believes that we have a responsibility to reach out and help and welcome refugees fleeing from terrible situations such as the one in Syria. We welcome immigrants, students, tourists and businesspeople from around the world.
Does Canada consider Pakistan an important partner in the war against terrorism?
Pakistan has been greatly affected by terrorism in recent years. Many civilians have lost their lives and have been injured. The security forces have also lost many of their members in the campaign to combat terrorism. Canada too has been affected by terrorism, though not to the same degree but we have had terrorist incidents. We see terrorist incidents happening virtually around the world. Every country must do its utmost to combat terrorism within the context of the rule of law. We have to do a better job of working with our neighbours and
with our partners around the world. The terrorist networks these days are international. They don’t respect borders and we, representatives of the governments and the people of the world, have to ensure that we are working as collaboratively as possible and supporting each other so that terrorists do not take advantage of borders to get away with their deeds.
Canada is a great advocate of human rights. How do you see the human rights situation in Pakistan?
Human rights is at the centre of Canadian values. They are at the heart of our foreign policy, our development policy and also our domestic policy. At our high commissions and embassies around the world, we seek ways to work with the host governments and civil society to promote universal human rights values. This means that every man, woman or child, regardless of religion, race, language, disability or other difference, is treated with respect and not discriminated against. In the six months that I have been here in Pakistan, I have been impressed by the strong commitment of many Pakistanis to human rights. I have had the pleasure of meeting many human rights defenders and activists. They are doing great work promoting human rights values. We also have an ongoing dialogue with the Pakistani government on human rights issues. I believe the Government of Pakistan at all levels shares the commitment to promote human rights values.
Politics in Pakistan have remained topsy-turvy. Are you satisfied with the progress of democracy in Pakistan?
In any country the building of democracy takes time and it is an incremental process. In Canada, we have a quite mature democracy since our country was founded in 1867. Our institutions and democratic traditions are well-established. In Pakistan there have been very positive sitive developments. The country has seen a democratic transition sition from one party to another which is a very important step in any country’s evolution towards consolidating g its democracy.
What more can Pakistan do to strengthen democracy?racy? In order to strengthen and consolidate democracy, racy, free and fair elections are obviously very important. . But other features of a strong democracy include the rule of law, respect for human rights, and transparency and accountability in government. In any democracy, whether ether Pakistan or Canada, there needs to be ongoing commitmentment by all to strengthen and maintain these principles and practices. Active citizen engagement is also a key ey to building a strong democratic culture.
In what areas could Pakistan and Canada cooperate erate further?
In economic relations, trade and investment, I am encouraged to see that the volume of trade between ween Pakistan and Canada is growing. In 2015, it exceededed 1 billion CAD for the first time. In 2016, we are waiting g for the final figures but it is probably around 1.5 billion CAD. So it is moving in the right direction. I think the potential ential is much greater and it is one of my priorities as High Commissioner to encourage more trade and investment ent and economic partnerships between the private sectorsrs of the two countries. There are sectors in Pakistan n where I think there is scope because in many of these e areas, Canada has great experience and expertise. For example, Pakistan already has a very solid agricultural sector but I think there is potential for increased valueaddition in food processing and the export of a range of agricultural products. Another is renewable energy. Canada has a very strong history of renewable energy in everything from hydroelectric power to solar energy. You might have seen that some Canadian companies are exploring opportunities to invest in solar energy in Pakistan. Another interesting sector is mining. Canada has 100 years of experience developing technologies to exploit minerals in a responsible manner. In ICT too, Canada is very strong. I think there is potential for increased partnerships in all of these sectors and a part of my role as High Commissioner is to help identify opportunities in Pakistan and bring them to the attention of Canadian companies
Is there any other aspect Your Excellency would like to comment on?
I will come back to the question of students in Canada because it is one of the really good news stories in our relationship. More than 4,000 Pakistani students study in Canada. It is one of the fastest growing groups. And I think the reason they come to Canada is because we offer high quality education and a wide range of programs. The cost of education is competitive in Canada as compared to other destinations. As I have said before, we are a multicultural society. Students from all parts of the world come to Canada and integrate very easily and feel at home. We are a bilingual country with English and French. So it’s a good opportunity to study in Canada and pick up the second international language which is French. The other thing is despite what you might hear about Canadian winters, the fact is most students go to Canada, embrace the winter and take up skiing or other sports like those born in Canada. They learn to enjoy and appreciate our four seasons including our winters.