Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

Complete list of 8,000+ Thatcher statements & texts of many of them

1983 Sep 26 Mo
Margaret Thatcher

Speech to the Canadian Parliament

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: Speech
Venue: Chamber of the Canadian House of Commons, Parliament Hill, Ottowa
Source: Thatcher Archive: transcript
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: MT began her speech at 1600. Her next appointment was at the National Press Club only fifty minutes later.
Importance ranking: Minor
Word count: 2640
Themes: British Constitution (general discussions), Parliament, Commonwealth (general), Conservatism, Defence (general), Defence (arms control), Defence (Falklands War, 1982), Industry, European Union (general), Foreign policy (Americas excluding USA), Foreign policy (International organizations), Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states)


Madam Speaker, Mr. Speaker of the Senate, Pierre TrudeauMr. Prime Minister, honourable members of the Senate, members of the House of Commons.

En ce premier jour de ma visite au Canada j'ai le grand honneur de m'adresser a vous, et surtout de le faire ici dans cette chambre historique.

Vous-meme, madame le President, comme mon hote, monsieur le premier ministre, vous faites partie tous les deux de cette communaute francophone qui a tant contribué a faire du Canada le grand pays qu'il est devenu aujourd'hui.

Half your title, madame speaker, has a familiar ring, if the other half does not, that is because Canada has set a trend of emancipation in speakers which we have now established with Prime Ministers.

The last time we met was when as Minister for science and technology in Canada you came to see me as Minister of Education and Science in Britain. That was eleven years ago. Who would have predicted then that together we would achieve this double first.

I know that some of your parliamentary practices differ from ours. Question time is clearly a different experience for the Prime Minister of Canada if, as I believe, he can pass any question he likes to another Minister for answer. That must keep the Cabinet up to the mark. My colleagues do not even have to be in the chamber. But it is less the differences than the familiarity of your Parliament, which strike a British visitor. This chamber recalls all that we have shared together- [end p1]

—a sovereign

—a long history of friendship in times of trial as well as success and jubilation

—a parliamentary tradition at the heart of our national life.

It is because our countries hold so much in common and mean so much to each other that I was delighted to accept the Prime Minister's invitation to visit Canada.

The Canada act

Last year in the British Parliament we had Canada very much on our mind—and, I heard, vice-versa. I am proud that my administration was so closely associated with a successful outcome to the process of patriation of the Canadian constitution. Together we have successfully stored our last piece of colonial furniture in the museum of history.

A constitutional link has, quite properly, been severed. The effect of that is not to weaken but to strengthen our common heritage. We can look freely to the future. For there will be much for Canada and Britain to do together.

We are linked in so many important ways:-

—we believe in the same high and honourable ideals

—we stand ready to defend our free and independent way of life

—we agree on the great purposes which we must pursue in the wider world. [end p2]

Common ideals

First, the common ideals-

Madam speaker, people of my generation lived through a period when the fundamental values of Western civilisation were questioned. The doubters sought to portray them as moribund. They claimed to find more vigorous, more progressive ideas in the Communist world. Constantly seeking utopia, they fastened on one false creed after another, avoiding always the least fashionable solution—the reassertion of traditional values. We have been told that the West has no ideology, that Britain, in a famous phrase, has lost an empire and failed to find a role, that the young lack a sense of purpose and the old cannot provide them with one.

Madame speaker, it is not true. The ideals which our two countries share are the answer to all the doubters. For centuries we have striven first to win, then to preserve, that freedom and justice without which life has neither dignity nor meaning. We have learned by experience that the only political system which protects and perpetuates these values is parliamentary democracy.

It does so because it allows thought and expression to flower and because the good sense of a mature people is brought to bear on the excesses of governments and of individuals.

These are not the panaceas of political theorists. They are ideas that have worked. Overwhelmingly, our electorates wish to preserve them. Wherever people have been free to choose, they have chosen the path of freedom.

The crowded island of Britain and the wide open spaces of Canada are traditional havens for refugees from political persecution and for those seeking a new start in a land of liberty. The number of Canadians from central Europe bear witness to Canada's generosity towards the oppressed. [end p3]

The Western democracies are not short of ideals. We have values and a way of life which are the envy of those who have never known them. I wonder whether we take them too much for granted.

For the preservation of freedom and justice needs constant unremitting effort. As Goethe wrote in “Faust” :-

“he only earns his freedom and existence who daily conquers them anew.”

There is a battle of ideas to be won, a battle in which we are better equipped than our adversaries—for our ideas are better. The propaganda campaign to sap the morale of the democracies is relentless. We must meet it by puncturing each spurious argument, and by destroying every myth that emerges.

We must constantly proclaim our ideals, to our own people at home, to young countries who have yet to choose, to those who live in the shadow of tyranny. It is time for freedom to take the offensive.


Canada and Britain, Madame speaker, share not only common ideals but also the will and capacity to defend them.

At home we recall with gratitude the valour and sacrifice of Canadian troops in two world wars: we remember their achievements and their courage with thanksgiving and admiration. We stood together. We prevailed.

Last year, during the Falklands crisis, Canada was staunch … [three words corrupt.] we were deeply grateful

—for your resolve to uphold the rule of law

—for the good wishes and encouragement which we received from so many individual Canadians [end p4]

—for the wonderful generosity you showed to our wounded servicemen, widows and families in your many contributions to the south Atlantic fund.

Canada realised, as we did, that there was a fundamental principle at stake, with application far wider than the south Atlantic—that aggression must not be allowed to pay. It did not. And today I thank you for helping to ensure that it didn't.

Democracies long for peace, for a world free from conflict and threats. But the reality is that our way of life is threatened. As fellow members of NATO our clear duty is to assess that threat accurately and to ensure that we are able, if necessary, to resist it. The threat is not one of superior ideas—we have nothing to fear from the bankrupt ideology of the Soviet Union. The combination of political repression and economic failure is plain for all the world to see.

The threat comes

—from the proclaimed goal of Soviet Communism to spread its system throughout the world

—from the fact that the Soviet Union is engaged in a remorseless military build-up going far beyond the needs of defence

—and from the evidence that that country is prepared to advance its aim by the use of force or by the threat of force beyond its borders—in East Germany in 1953, in Hungary in 1956, in Czechoslovakia in 1968, and recently in Afghanistan and in Poland. More widely it is seeking by proxy to further its aims in Africa, in the Middle East, in Asia and in Central America. For any who doubted the nature of the Soviet system, its willingness to resort to force careless of the human consequences, the shooting down of the Korean airliner has come as a most terrible and tragic reminder. [end p5]

There is no comparison between the United States, that great citadel of freedom and justice, and the Soviet Union.

The United States long possessed overwhelming military superiority over its rival. History will show that no country in that position has ever used power so responsibly.

Democracy itself curbs the irresponsible use of power. When democracy is absent, when an unfettered executive lives in isolation from the free world and from most of its own people, when this is combined with enormous military strength, there is the real danger to peace.

Arms control

But we must constantly seek ways of making the world a better and a safer place. The task of reaching genuine agreements on arms control and disarmament is long and painstaking. Nevertheless we must persevere in the hope that we can secure reductions which are balanced and can be verified. Then our defence would still be secure but at a lower level of armaments and expenditure. In this task, in which Canada and Britain are honestly engaged with our NATO allies, we are constantly faced with misleading Soviet propaganda. In the last year or two we have seen a massive attempt to bend the will of Western governments by working on the minds of our electorates with bogus arguments. In country after country that attempt has failed, yet the propaganda continues. Every few weeks there is a further statement from Moscow designed to give an appearance of flexibility. But so far when these public statements are checked at the negotiating table—the real test of truth—flexibility disappears. The question, Madame-speaker, is:- are the current generation of Soviet leaders ready to negotiate as earnestly as NATO to make the world a safer place?

Or are they so much the prisoners of their system and their history, so wedded to military might that they are unable to rise to the opportunity? [end p6]

Our policy must be based on a clear understanding of the people we are dealing with and the system they have shaped. Otherwise, we shall get it wrong.

That system was founded and sustained by force. It is structured to resist all political change. We have to live with it not as we would wish it to be but as it is.

The task of members of NATO is to ensure that our way of life is never compromised. That means that we must be strong.

Strong in capacity-

there must never be an imbalance in any range of armament that leads to the conclusion that aggression against us might succeed.

Strong in will-

the other side must never be tempted to believe that it could win a war against the West.

We in NATO threaten no-one.

We come together not to attack others but to defend our own.

We shall engage in the battle of ideas.

We intend freedom and justice to conquer.

Yes, we do have a creed and we wish others to share it. But it is no part of our policy to impose our beliefs by force or the threat of force. That, Madame speaker, is the great distinction. And that is where the facile comparisons which we sometimes hear made between the two super powers founder. [end p7]

Even now, as the moment for Cruise and Pershing deployment in Europe draws near, it is in Moscow's power to ensure by accepting the zero option that not a single missile of this kind is put in place. Otherwise, to restore the balance on which our security depends, deployment will begin at the end of this year. Our nerve is being tested. To falter now would be fatal. But that is not the end of the story. NATO has made other radical proposals for reducing the number of these weapons. We await a serious Soviet response.

Now, and for as far as we can see, it must be plain to moscow, that the Western democracies will not be seduced by propaganda and will not be cowed by threats. Our desire for disarmament is profound. But it is matched by the unshakeable resolve that our way of life shall be secure.

The wider world

Madame speaker, in the wider world there are other great tasks for Canada and Britain in the years to come. Our shared values and traditions and the close and living links between us promise continued co-operation for our own benefit and the benefit of others.

Those living links are strong. Tens of thousands of British families have a close relative in Canada. Around a million British and Canadian visitors cross the Atlantic each year. There are Canadian assets in Britain of over a billion dollars. And Britain is the second largest investor in Canada. Canada has provided a host of distinguished names in British public life and commerce. It has sometimes seemed that half our press is run by Canadians—and the other half by Australians.

I head a government which is deeply interested in Canada and I shall tell you why.

We are both open societies with a world vision born of a special historical experience. The keen interest Canada has taken in the problems of the third world and in the role of the United Nations is proof of a nation with wide horizons. [end p8]

One of the most valuable legacies of empire to Britain has been a world-wide network of interest and of human links so that we could not, even if we wished, become an inward-looking nation preoccupied with our own problems.

At home Britain is changing. Five years ago there was a widespread feeling that our problems were insoluble. That was before we tackled them so vigorously. Now, there is a spreading sense of realism. People are beginning to lose their fear of change. British industry is more confident, more efficient and more productive. The new technologies are flourishing. Jobs have been created in industries which did not exist ten years ago. We have reason to hope that our inventive genius will increasingly be turned to industrial profit. With greater robustness, vigour and enterprise in our society we shall be an even stronger friend and ally.

It is over forty years since Winston Churchillanother British Prime Minister—and I do not have to tell you which one—stood here and spoke about a chicken which refused to have its neck wrung. I am happy to report that that same chicken is alive and well and as resolved as ever to preserve inviolate that self same area of its anatomy.

In 1983 we are better able than we were to work with you to pursue our common aims in the wider world.

As founder members of the Commonwealth we have a special opportunity to join with that unique gathering of nations to preserve and extend the heritage of ideals which are the essence of the Commonwealth—freedom based on the rule of law, always under assault somewhere, even in the Commonwealth, but essential to the survival of the civilised world. As members of the economic summit, Canada and Britain again share a distinctive responsibility—to apply the energy and experience of the world's most advanced and successful economies to the serious economic and financial problems which face so many countries.

—to preserve and extend the world's free trading system

—to bring to the developing countries aid, advice and help as they tackle their own formidable difficulties. [end p9]

As founder members of the United Nations—that organisation which has so often disappointed expectation but without which the world would be a worse place—we shall both continue to take a special interest in world security, and in peace-keeping and the work of its specialised agencies.

You on this side of the Atlantic, we in Europe each have our own special relationships. Just as we rejoice in and welcome the strength of the friendship between Canada and the United States so we ask you to see the vItal importance of the European Community. The process of making a Community causes problems not just to its members but to its friends like Canada and some of its policies have led to sharp disputes. But the Community has an enormous contribution to make to the maintenance of international free trade and to the promotion of our common ideals. In a dangerous world it is a vItal area of democracy and stability which Britain is firmly committed to maintain and extend.

Madame speaker, Canada and Britain seek a better, safer, freer and more prosperous world. We do so because we are protagonists of the timeless values of freedom and justice, because we are both great Western democracies, the privileged beneficiaries of a political, social and economic system which is the best which man has devised and which has incomparably more to offer to the human spirit than the false ideologies of the unfree world.

But let us then proclaim that truth, together. Let us tell the world that freedom is on the march. The democracies have the duty to lead.

—we are strong in belief

—we glory in our freedom

—we hear the voices of the oppressed and seek for them the justice and the liberty which are our own.

Should future generations have cause to remember us, let it be not only because we helped to stop the spread of tyranny, but also because we left the human race one step closer to its greatest hope—that one day men the world over shall be free.