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The Canadian Foundation for the Americas (FOCAL) is no longer in operation. This website documents FOCAL's activities and accomplishments throughout its existence. Thank you for your interest in the work of FOCAL.
Québec and the Americas: A natural partnership
With the publication of the new Québec International Policy in May 2006, the Government of Québec stepped up its engagement in the Americas. In addition to pursuing an active, sustained participation in the proceedings of the Organization of American States (OAS) since 2007, the Government has intensified its bilateral relations with Haiti, Mexico and Brazil.
Organization of American States
In its multilateral relations, one of the Government of Québec’s priorities has been to actively take part in the work of the OAS, through the Government of Canada, in areas pertaining to Québec’s jurisdictions and on matters involving its specific interests. By participating in the primary multilateral forum of the Americas, the Government of Québec has been pursuing a two-fold objective. First, it seeks to promote the interests of Québec and ensure that they are taken into account in the development of international instruments. Second, it seeks to contribute to hemispheric co-operation on transnational issues, leveraging Québec’s expertise in sectors such as public security, justice, education and culture.
The Government of Québec has established a working relationship with the Canadian government, which allowed it to take part in the regular proceedings of the OAS including the General Assembly and Inter-American Ministerial Meetings, through its Head of Multilateral Affairs in Washington, as part of Canadian delegations.
The development and reconstruction of the Republic of Haiti are vital concerns to Québec, explaining the government’s collaboration with the OAS actions in this country. It is worth noting that Québec’s contributions are tied to several OAS priorities in Haiti, including work to modernize the register of civil status. To this end, Québécois experts have been contributing to the Modernization of Haiti’s Civil Registry Project as a result of an agreement between the OAS and the École nationale d’administration publique of Québec, whose funding is provided by the Canadian International Development Agency. The objectives of this project are to modernize the legal framework surrounding civil status, to train civil servants and ultimately to provide Haitians with an identity card that will enable them, in particular, to exercise their right to vote.
Further examples of Québec’s special relationship with Haiti can be seen in the area of bilateral relations. Centred primarily on solidarity and developed many years prior to the January 2010 earthquake, this relationship is nurtured by a shared language, geographical proximity, and the presence of a sizeable Haitian diaspora on Québec’s territory. The Government of Québec has thus established direct ties with the Haitian Government, which have since been strengthened by the implementation of the Haitian Governance Enhancement Project (PARGEP), whose objective is to facilitate the transfer of expertise from Québec’s public administration to Haiti’s civil service. The government has also been financially supporting Québec-based NGOs dedicated to providing aid in Haiti. In particular, Haiti has been the leading beneficiary of the Québec International Development Program since its inception in 1997.
In North America, relations between Mexico and Québec have steadily deepened and diversified since the inauguration of Québec’s Government Office in Mexico City in 1980. Since 1982, Québec’s relations with the Mexican federal government have developed around the Québec-Mexico Working Group, a joint committee responsible for co-ordinating co-funded projects in culture, education, economy, science and technology. Québec also maintains active ties with the states of Guanajuato, Jalisco and Nuevo León. Among recent achievements that illustrate this reality, it is worth noting the participation of Québec as guest of honour at the 2009 Cervantino International Arts Festival.
Finally, in keeping with its desire to strengthen ties with South America, the Government of Québec has concentrated its efforts in Brazil and Chile. Notably, in 2008 Québec established a permanent representation in São Paulo, mandated with accelerating access to new markets, attracting foreign investment, recruiting skilled workers or foreign students, and facilitating the development of its political and institutional ties with certain key stakeholders in Brazil. Furthermore, Québec continues to pursue collaborations with South America in the fields of culture, education, and science and technology.
Since the publication of Québec’s International Policy, several ties have been developed with the OAS, taking into account Canada’s foreign policy, while at the same time enhancing relations with Haiti, Mexico and Brazil. Aimed at furthering co-operation around mutual interests, these partnerships have naturally enhanced the influence of Québec society in its home region and made a practical contribution to increasing Québec’s engagement in the Americas.
Monique Gagnon-Tremblay was Minister of International Relations and Minister responsible for La Francophonie from 2003 to 2008, and was again appointed to these offices in August 2010. As a candidate of the Québec Liberal Party, she was re-elected Member of the National Assembly for the riding of Saint-François (Estrie region) for the sixth time during the general elections of 2008.