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Dear ASG members,

Although I have met with many of you at our ASG Presents monthly meetings, it has been a while since I have addressed myself via such a message. We are going through a significant change of governance in Canada since the election of the Liberal Party in October. For those of you who have not yet read the Mandate Letters for the new Ministers, the key words are: openness, transparency, trust, collaboration and results (first for Canadians). Priorities for foreign relations are clearly the revitalization of relationships with the United States, peace and security, climate change, the Syrian refugee program and the cancellation of visa requirements for Mexican visitors Below are some important “marching orders” which I quote from the Foreign Affairs Mandate letter:

· “Ensure a close link between defence policy, foreign policy and national security.

· Revitalize Canada’s public diplomacy, stakeholder engagement, and cooperation with partners in Canada and abroad.

· Reenergize Canadian diplomacy and leadership on key international issues and in multilateral institutions. This would include:

o in collaboration with the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, making Canada a leader of international efforts to combat climate change;

o working with the Minister of National Defence, to increase Canada’s support for United Nations peace operations and its mediation, conflict-prevention, and post-conflict reconstruction efforts;

o working with the Minister of International Development and La Francophonie, to champion the values of inclusive and accountable governance, peaceful pluralism and respect for diversity, and human rights including the rights of women and refugees; and

o acceding to the Arms Trade Treaty. “
At this point, Africa is not on the new government’s radar screen as such, although it is implicated in the horizontal themes, such as spending ODA on the poorest (Speech from the Throne), peacekeeping, governance and human rights. ASG plans to engage with the new government in early 2016 and the first step will be an ASG Presents meeting with Lise Filiatrault, the Assistant Deputy Minister for the Africa Branch of Global Affairs Canada on February 24, 2016.

The ASG hopes to monitor a series of issues and trends in Africa in 2016 which includes the Africa Rising trajectory, the human rights and good governance theme in many forthcoming elections and referenda, and the progress of African governments and institutions in dealing with the terrorist threat and in putting an end to Africa’s civil conflicts. Recently there have been some encouraging news from Africa including improved elections in Burkina Faso and Tanzania.

In 2016, additional ASG Presents will include Dr. Tom Tieku from Kings University College of Western University on the African Union (Thursday, January 28), Youth Employment in Africa on March 30 with Ottawa University and IDRC presenters, Humanitarian Assistance with representatives from the Canadian Red Cross and Mercy Ships on April 27th and a presentation on “Sexual Gender Based Violence in Post-Conflict Countries” on May 25. We also collaborate with Carleton University (NPSIA/Institute for African Studies) and hope to organize an event in March/April, with African Embassies.

The ASG is open to presenting more events, specially on specific country issues, taking advantage of specialists and visiting Africans. So please, if you would like to suggest a speaker or become aware of an interesting visitor, do contact us.

I want to take this opportunity to thank our Executive Board members who support me in this adventure: Marcia Burdette, Ian Ferguson, Chida Henry, Tapha Kassé, Aubrey Morantz, Victoria Schorr, and Gwen Temmel (en route to Kenya from Mozambique). Also a big thank to our BBQ main organizers, Paul Hitschfeld, and host Ron Rose, as well as Louis Guay who insures our access to St Paul University for our meetings. Volunteers are always welcomed for specific activities, or to serve on the Executive. We meet once every couple of months to plan ASG activities.

Wishing you and your family a joyful 2016 year where we will see more peace, more respect for human rights, inclusiveness, health and happiness for all.