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  2. Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette
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Art Matters Forum - Literary Awards

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Art Matters Forum held in Conjunction with the Presentation
of the 2009 Governor General’s Literary Awards

Rideau Hall, Wednesday, November 25, 2009

My husband, Jean-Daniel Lafond, and I would like to welcome you to this, the 43rd Art Matters forum, the fourth held in conjunction with the Governor General’s Literary Awards.

We are delighted that you, our laureates, have agreed to abandon your selfless solitude to enlighten today’s discussion on the uniqueness of “Canadian” writing and literature, which is the theme of this Art Matters forum.

To get to the heart of the matter, I would like to draw your attention to this place, to this room where several elements of our Canadianness are brought together, reaching out to one another and to us. First, this painting, which places us under the favourable auspices of the Thunderbird and of all living creatures and species that have gathered together and are interrelated.

As authors, you create out of the spotlight. Thank you for coming into the light to help us define the specific nature of “Canadian” writing and literature.

You, authors, writers, are given very few opportunities to meet the people who read your words and share your ideas.

It is important to us that this forum be an opportunity for you to share with your readers and the publishing and literary world. That is why we opened this dialogue to the public, and I thank them for answering our call in such great numbers.

As Carol and Barbara said earlier, this Art Matters is also a celebration, as this year marks the 50th anniversary of the Canada Council for the Art taking over the financial and managerial aspects of the literary awards created by my predecessor, Lord Tweedsmuir—also known by his pen name, John Buchan.

The very existence of these literary awards, the Council’s unfailing commitment—a half-century long and counting—the number of categories presented, both in English and in French: that, I believe, shows just how prolific and diverse literature is in Canada.

We have two incredible panellists with us today: Serge Bouchard, writer, communicator, lecturer, and one of Jean-Daniel’s collaborators with whom he has had great discussions on the radio; and Noah Richler, also a writer, producer, host, book reviewer and experienced journalist.

Thank you both for your generous contribution; it is certainly appreciated.

Throughout the evening, an amazing moderator, Roseann O'Reilly Runte, will suggest paths for reflection, given her vast literary knowledge, her academic experience and her creativity. We sincerely thank her for being here.

I would like to turn things over to Jean-Daniel, the filmmaker, philosopher and ardent defender of arts and culture who is responsible for adding dialogue to the celebration of the Governor General’s Awards through the creation of these Art Matters/Point des art forums, which we hold not only here, at Rideau Hall, but also when we travel across Canada and abroad.

And now, for the 43rd time, Jean-Daniel . . .