Melsbroek Military Airport, Sunday 11 March, 12.30 p.m. The government plane took off for Canada, with Their Majesties King Philippe and Queen Mathilde on board as well as Rudi Vervoort, the Minister-President of the Brussels-Capital Region and his colleagues of the other regions and communities. They were accompanied by the Belgian Minister for Foreign Affairs and the State Secretary for Foreign Trade, as well as the rectors of various universities and university colleges, hundred CEOs and thirty journalists.
As is often the custom during a state visit, the country’s capital serves as the backdrop for a host of ceremonies and formal meetings. The State Banquet by the host country was one of the highlights. Other events included meetings with Julie Payette, the Governor General of Canada, and the President of the Senate, a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a visit to the National Gallery and a concert offered by Belgium as part of the state visit.
Two amazing performances stood out during this concert by the two most prestigious Brussels orchestras. The Quebec singer Marie-Nicole Lemieux blew everyone away with her talent. Lemieux won the famous Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels in 2000. Filip Jordens, meanwhile, was especially convincing in the role of Jacques Brel. And what better way to end an evening with people from Brussels and Canada, than with a thunderous rendition of Jacques Brel’s “Bruxelles”!
Minister-President Rudi Vervoort also took advantage of his visit to Ottawa to give the keynote speech at a tourism seminar on the theme of “Brussels and Wallonia, a destination with multiple faces”.
On Wednesday 14 March, the delegation left for Toronto, the country’s economic capital for a fast-paced programme, which included meetings with the political authorities of Ontario, a visit to a children’s hospital, an academic event, a round-table of Belgian and Canadian CEOs and a visit to a start-up incubator, the MaRS Discovery District. There the delegation met with a few of the most successful start-ups, after which they attended talks on CETA and a panel discussion on the revolutionary blockchain technology.
As Quebec is a long-standing and privileged partner of the Brussels-Capital Region, Minister-President Vervoort took advantage of the fact that he was in Montreal to meet with Quebec’s Prime Minister, Philippe Couillard, and the Mayor of Montreal, Valérie Plante, discussing the continued intensification of the collaboration between Brussels and Quebec.
On Thursday 15 March, the delegation visited Mirabel’s SONACA plant in the large suburb of Montreal. This factory builds airplane wings for several North American aircraft manufacturers. The Brussels company Roadfour, a partner of SONACA, also presented its ambitious project for an ultra-efficient drone to combat forest fires, called the Hydrone. What nerve inthe country of a world-famous company like Canadair!
In the afternoon, attention turned to Artificial Intelligence, which was the hugely topical theme of an event organised at the Canadian Centre for Architecture by Hub.Brussels and Brussels International together with Montreal’s Digital Spring. After a talk by Professor Bersini of the Université libre de Bruxelles and interventions by a panel of experts, the audience witnessed a confrontation of the achievements of companies and artworks, using artificial intelligence. The Brussels foundation Gluon selected the artists and eight works, which were exhibited under the title, “A.I. Between Humor Fear & Utopia”.
As is the case during any state visit, many Belgian-Canadian partnership agreements were signed, including between the Port of Quebec and the Port of Brussels, the National Police Academy and Brussels Prevention and Safety, between Besix and Baffinland for the construction of a quay in Grand Nord and several Brussels universities and their Canadian counterparts.
After the audiovisual seminar “Welcome to the country that co-produces faster than its shadow… Belgium”, which was co-organised by Screen.brussels at the Musée Grévin, the state visit ended with a concert by the young Montreal artist Alice and Lara Fabian, the most Belgian of all Quebecois and the most Quebecois of all Belgians.