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Wednesday, 20 March 2019 09:44

June 16, 2008

Prime Minster Donald Tusk's Letter to Polonia

The Right Honourable Prime Minister of Canada

Honourable Members of Parliament

Honourable Guests,

Dear Fellow Poles,


I am delighted to share with you the joy of today’s special occasion when you are gathered at the Parliament of Canada as representatives of the nearly one million-strong Canadian Polonia to commemorate three important milestones: the 150th anniversary of the first settlement of Kaszubs, the 100th anniversary of the Polish diaspora in Windsor, and the 75th anniversary of the Canadian Polish Congress.

The presence of Prime Minister Stephen Harper at this celebration, attests not only to recognition of the historic contribution Polonia has made to building your beautiful country, but also bears witness to the growing role Canadians of Polish descent play in developing a modern, multicultural, Canadian society.

In order to realize how strong a presence the Polish people have had in Canadian history it is worth recalling at least two inspiring figures: Aleksander Edward Kierzkowski, a member of the first Parliament of the Dominion of Canada in the year 1867, and Kazimierz Gzowski, an engineer, builder of bridges, ports and railroads, and late in his life, in 1896-1897, also the acting Lieutenant Governor of Ontario.

There is a clear link between the present dynamism in Polish-Canadian relations, and an enhancement of Polonia’s political position in Canada. Canadian Polonia has proven that the more integrated it is and the stronger is its leadership, the better its visibility and effectiveness. Indeed, the stronger the Polish community in Canada, the more dynamic are the relations between our states. Likewise – as more areas for cooperation between our countries arise so does the potential to strengthen the position of Polish diaspora as well as its ties with the land of its ancestors.

I remember when in the difficult period of the nineteen-eighties as we Poles were fighting for the right to live in a free society, Pope John Paul II speaking exactly 19 years ago in Gdańsk gave us reassurance in calling upon us to "bear each other’s burdens.”  Today I recall these words of our great Compatriot in order to thank the Canadian Polonia for support we received from you not only then, but whenever our Motherland was in need. You helped us bear this burden and we have won - not only have we regained the free and independent homeland, but we helped our neighbours to shake off the yoke of communism as well. We have won a better and  more secure world for ourselves and for others. Such was, and still remains, the power of solidarity. Solidarity, however, should not cease when victory follows, but ought to continue to endure.

Today, I would like to paraphrase the words addressed by the Polish Pope at the Baltic coast in 1987 and encourage you to "rejoice in each others' happiness." In Poland it gives us great pleasure to learn that being Canadians of Polish origin is a source of pride. That while mindful of the beautiful traditions of your old homeland, you have become fervent and energetic citizens of a new one. May you find it gratifying that Poland, an ever stronger member of the European Union, is a country of successful democratic and economic transformation, a country with a new start, and new perspectives. May you take pride from the fact that Poland is a reliable member of NATO.

Together with Canada and other allies, we are carrying out the difficult, but much needed mission in Afghanistan. Polish-Canadian cooperation in this country evoke great traditions of the brotherhood-in-arms dating back to the Second World War. Polish and Canadian soldiers jointly won the Battle of Monte Cassino. As an integral part of the 2nd Canadian Corps the First Polish Armoured Division commanded by General Stanisław Maczek liberated Belgium and the Netherlands. We hold veterans of this war in great respect both in Poland and in Canada as we owe them gratitude.

I believe that the decision made on the 1st of March 2008 to lift short-term visa requirements for Polish citizens - for which I would like to again thank Mr. Stephen Harper – will bring excellent results for further development of our  relations. While this decision has a very practical dimension for many Canadians of Polish origin, it also holds a deep symbolic meaning – it marks recognition of the basic fact that Poland is a country of success.

I would like to make use of this moment to recall the visit of Prime Minister Stephen Harper to Poland last April and the conversation we had in Gdańsk. That visit confirmed that there are many issues that bind us and that there is a lot we may do together for the sake of our mutual relations at  and on the international stage, especially in terms of strengthening the democratic transformation in Eastern Europe.

I would like to express my appreciation to many of our Canadian friends, including members of the Polish-Canadian Parliamentary Friendship Group, who have contributed in no small part to the growth of the political significance of the Polish community in Canada. Thanks to these parliamentarians, Polonia is able to meet at the Parliament in Ottawa for the third time, establishing in effect a tradition of celebrating every year its Canadian-Polish identity.

Words of praise are in order to all of You and to the entire Polish community, which in an organized way, under the leadership of the Canadian Polish Congress, and in harmonious cooperation with Polish diplomatic and consular missions, is able to strive so successfully for worthy place in a multicultural mosaic of Canadian society.

I extend my best regards to all of You.

Donald Tusk