The first Estonian elected to the House of Commons, the Hon. Peter Van Loan, is retiring as a Member of Parliament today. The Estonian Central Council in Canada (EKN) congratulates Peter on his accomplished parliamentary career representing York-Simcoe over the past fourteen years. Already an EKN Gold Medal of Merit recipient, we sincerely thank him for all he has done for the Estonian community in Canada. Our community is losing an important supporter in Ottawa.
Peter has been an effective advocate for issues close to our hearts. Always proud to talk about his Estonian roots, he is a strong promoter of democracy, freedom, and human rights. Peter is one of the most vocal parliamentarians against Russian aggression in Europe. He did not go unnoticed by the Kremlin for long before he was sanctioned and banned from Russia.
Relations between Canada and Estonia are closer because of Peter’s political leadership. He was instrumental in removing a large irritant when his hard work towards visa-free travel between Canada and the Baltic states was successful in 2006. As Trade Minister, the Canada-Estonia Youth Mobility Agreement was implemented under his direction. It provided youth the opportunity to live and work in the other country. Peter also laid the groundwork for the free trade agreement now in place with the European Union. In addition, while he was in government, Canada contributed funding to the NATO Cyber Defence Centre in Tallinn to purchase new hardware for cyber defence exercises.
Peter was the first government minister in over a decade to visit Estonia in 2010. His efforts in 2013 also ensured the State visit of President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, marking the first State visit of an Estonian President to Canada.
We are grateful for Peter having acted as a key link between the Government of Canada and our community. He issued awards recognizing volunteer work within the community, consulted Estonian-Canadian business leaders for the federal budget, and hosted Baltic Evenings in Ottawa. He is likely most known for his regular attendance at Toronto Estonian events (despite a busy schedule) and delivering countless greetings on behalf of the Government.
We wish Peter all the best in returning to the practice of Municipal and Planning Law at Aird & Berlis.