- Around the year 1,000 the first Vikings reached the shores of Northeastern Canada. They travelled from Greenland and they were the first Europeans to reach North America. Traces of their settlements have been found at L’Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland. Traces have also been found of trade between Inuit and the Vikings making them the first Europeans to trade with the population of Canada.
- Many centuries later, Danish sea captain and explorer, Jens Munk, led an attempt to find the Northwest Passage in 1619. The attempt failed and he was forced to overwinter close to present day Churchill in Hudson Bay. In spite of having lost all but two of his men, he managed to make it back the following year.
- In the last century, from 1921-24, the Danish explorer Knud Rasmussen travelled from Northern Greenland through the Canadian North to Nome in Alaska. On the way he collected large amounts of data which even today forms the basis of understanding the history and culture of the Arctic people.
- Not too many years ago, up to the 1950’s starting from the 1860’s, many Danes immigrated to Canada. It was mainly farmers and mainly to Canada’s West. Today, more than 200,000 Canadians have Danish roots. I think at least a few of the Canadians here tonight could probably identify a Danish branch in their family tree.
I believe these historical events, in part, form the foundations for the strong and warm relationship that we enjoy today between our two countries.
This autumn Canada celebrates the 150th anniversary of the Charlottetown Conference, which was the first step towards the confederation of Canada, achieved three years later.
Over the years Canadians have had to devote huge resources and much attention to developing their own country. Despite this, they have had the strength and will to play an important role in world affairs.
This is demonstrated by the centenary of the outbreak of World War One and the 70th anniversary of D-Day which eventually led to the liberation of Denmark and the rest of Europe.
Since then Denmark and Canada have worked together on a large number of international issues – in NATO, the UN and the Arctic Council. One recent example is Afghanistan, where Denmark and Canada have worked alongside each other. Another is the Arctic, where Denmark and Canada are close partners.
Commercially, Canadian and Danish companies cross borders to forge new business relations. And this visit is a good case in point.
Culturally, we convene around modern cooking, architecture, design as well as music and film. Tomorrow we will watch the screening of something as exotic as a Danish Western, ‘The Salvation’.
All these ties between Canada and Denmark are centred on events or issues. They are – of course – supplemented by the multitude of personal ties that exist between Danes and Canadians.
This official visit provides an opportunity to further strengthen the excellent relations that exist between our countries and people. Denmark and Canada share a long history of political, cultural and economic cooperation, dating back centuries. And I am happy to note that our partnership is growing even stronger.
It is my hope that our visit will provide the business delegation with valuable contacts and productive discussions with our Canadian counterparts. I am convinced that a result of increased trade and investment will be of great value to both our countries.
With these words let me propose a toast to even stronger ties and the creation of new prosperous ones between Denmark and Canada.