ON the occasion of Canada Day, it gives me great pleasure to celebrate 127 years of Canadian history as a nation and to pay tribute to close ties that bind the people of Canada and Hong Kong. Canada and Hong Kong have deep and long-standing human and commercial connections that date back well over a century. The Canadian Commission in Hong Kong is our second oldest in the world, having opened in 1928. From its earliest days as a colony, trading vessels from Hong Kong crossed the Pacific Ocean to Canadian shores, just as today the container vessels leave Hong Kong for Vancouver harbour and airlines carry passengers and cargo in both directions every day. Early in its history, Canada welcomed thousands of young Chinese from the Pearl River delta. These Chinese came to help in the building of our nation's infrastructure. Many of them chose to stay on and make their homes in Canada, just as their successors continue to arrive in considerable numbers in Canada today. Canada was also an ally of Hong Kong in time of war. During the battle of Hong Kong in 1941, 2,000 Canadians stood with Hong Kong and more than 500 Canadians gave up their lives in defence of the freedom of the territory. Their sacrifice is commemorated every year in a ceremony at Sai Wan cemetery where many of them were laid to rest. Today, the links between Hong Kong and Canada are stronger than ever before. Chinese-Canadians make up one of the fastest growing communities in Canada and Chinese is now the third largest language group in Canada after English and French. One in every seven new Canadians now comes from Hong Kong and Hong Kong is by far the largest single source of new immigrants for Canada. Last year, the commission issued more than 31,000 new immigrant visas in Hong Kong. There are 17,000 Hong Kong students in Canada, while Hong Kong alumni of Canadian schools and universities exceed 80,000. Tens of thousands of Canadian citizens live in Hong Kong, one of the largest expatriate populations in the territory. Hong Kong celebrated its close ties with Canada in various ways last year, including during the visit in May of Canada's Governor General and Mrs Ramon Hnatyshyn. They met Governor Chris Patten and members of the Legislative Council and took part in a number of events that reflected the strong human and commercial ties between Canada and Hong Kong. The Governor General also spoke to a major Hong Kong-China-Canada trade conference in the territory and Guangzhou. Over the past year, we have also seen a tremendous flow of senior representatives of the Canadian Government and the Canadian private sector through Hong Kong. The appointment of Hong Kong-born Raymond Chan as Canada's new Secretary of State (Asia-Pacific) in the new government of Prime Minister Jean Chretien was also an important event. Hong Kong-Canada trade is substantial and growing. Many Canadian companies have regional headquarters in Hong Kong, while more than 100 Canadian corporations have offices in Hong Kong. Another 450 are represented by agents. The Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong is the largest Canadian Chamber overseas. Two-way trade totalled more than $12 billion in the past year. Canadian imports from China routed through Hong Kong amounted to another $12 billion. Canadian firms are active in almost every sector of Hong Kong's economy. The territory is Canada's fifth most important trading partner in Asia, while Canada is Hong Kong's eighth largest export market. Major Canadian exports to Hong Kong include newsprint, aluminium, plastics, precious metals and hi-tech machinery. The amazing pace of economic growth in China, led by Hong Kong entrepreneurs, also opens new horizons for Canadian firms to work together with their Hong Kong counterparts, drawing on each other's expertise and resources. Many of these Hong Kong entrepreneurs also have Canadian citizenship and are working for the benefit of Hong Kong, China and Canada. Canada's commitment to Hong Kong's future is solid and unequivocal. As the Governor General said during an address to the Legislative Council on his visit: ''Canada's hope and aim is to promote a smooth transition in 1997, one that preserves Hong Kong's autonomy, prosperity, integrity and stability and to ensure that Canada and Hong Kong will continue to enjoy a special relationship after 1997.''