Israeli president Shimon Peres is in Ottawa Monday, starting his first official state visit to Canada.
Governor General David Johnston welcomed Peres during a formal ceremony at Rideau Hall, which featured a military guard of honour as well as schoolchildren waving Israeli flags.
The car carrying the Israeli president was escored by Mounties on horseback. A band played Hatikvah, the Israeli national anthem, as an artillery salute boomed out.
Peres arrived Sunday night, when he was welcomed by Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird.
A spokesperson for Baird tells CBC News, the Israeli president’s visit “comes at a time when relations between Israel and Canada are strong and getting stronger.”
Peres, a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, has planned a five-day state visit which will include stops in Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal.
The purpose of the trip is the promotion of greater collaboration between Canada and Israel with respect to trade and innovation, particularly in the areas of science and technology.
“I look forward to welcoming President Peres to Canada. He has played an eminent role in the history of the State of Israel,” said Gov. Gen. David Johnston in a statement ahead of the Israeli president’s arrival.
“I will take this special opportunity to discuss with him how we can strengthen research and educational collaboration between our countries,” said the Governor General.
Peres is expected to meet with Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Monday before attending a state dinner hosted by the Governor General at Rideau Hall Monday evening.
On Tuesday, Peres and the Governor General are expected to talk about innovation and education before a Memorandum of Understanding is signed between the Royal Society of Canada and the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities.
The Israeli President will also meet privately with the leader of the Official Opposition Thomas Mulcair and interim Liberal leader Bob Rae.
In the evening, Peres will give a “major” speech at a reception to celebrate 64 years of Israel’s independence hosted by the Embassy of Israel in Canada at the National Gallery in Ottawa.
On Wednesday, Peres will travel to Toronto where he will meet with Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, attend a roundtable discussion on brain research, and take part in a public event hosted by David Frum and organized by the United Jewish Appeal federation of Greater Toronto.
Peres will wrap-up his state visit in Montreal on Thursday where he will meet with Quebec Premier Jean Charest and attend an event organized by the Jewish community.
Speaking at the American Jewish Congress in Washington, D.C. last Thursday, Baird said “Israel has no greater friend in the world than Canada.”
Peres is the second high-profile Israeli politician to visit Canada in recent weeks — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Ottawa in March.
Israel’s president is a ceremonial role, though Peres, now 88, has served as the country’s prime minister in the past and is a highly influential figure.
In March, Netanyahu came to Ottawa looking for support for the idea of a pre-emptive strike to blunt Iran’s ambitions to have nuclear weapons.
But Harper, a staunch supporter of Israel, used toned-down language, expressing the desire for a peaceful solution.
Peres in the past has taken a softer stand on Iran.
Baird and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty toured Israel in late January, for talks focused on both security and trade issues.