The Viceregal Lion
  1. The Governor General of Canada
  2. Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette
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Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards

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Presentation of the Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards

Rideau Hall, Friday, April 30, 2010

In the days after the January 12, 2010 earthquake that devastated an entire portion of Haiti, my good friend, Dany Laferrière—a writer of Haitian origin who very happily escaped unharmed—said that even when everything else is destroyed, culture remains.

I witnessed this once again when I returned to the island of my roots, an island that is so close to my heart, but is suffering so greatly these days.

Even amid the ruins and desolation, culture is still a place of possibilities, a space of memory and creation, of reconstruction and life, that allows hope to clear a path, from one heart to the next, through the rubble.

Because—with their brilliant words, their songs, their dance, the characters they create and who communicate with us in a way that extends beyond that moment on stage—artists have the power to find real meaning, below the surface, to touch our very humanity and show us that there are different ways to see the world and to feel its vibrations.

To tell us, essentially, that nothing is ever finished. That everything must still be invented.

Yes, art rebuilds.

When some of the values that unite us over time and beyond borders seem to be crumbling.

When we feel our points of reference shattering.

When marketability and profitability take precedence over humanity.

When consumption becomes a way of life that defines who we are.

When individualism triumphs, to the detriment of solidarity.

When we focus on the things that separate us.

Artists are there, like beacons in the dark, to question and guide us. They help us to feel, think and see the world in a different way. They give meaning to how we interact with the world.

What they are doing is generously inviting us to take part in a dialogue. A dialogue that open us up to ourselves and to others, and helps us to better understand who we are.

I cannot say it any clearer: a society that does not work to promote the emergence of its artists is a society at risk of losing its very spirit and its ability to renew itself.

That is why I am so pleased, dear artists, to honour you tonight, you whose creative act, which takes a lifetime of practice and learning, is a visionary force and a selfless gift.

I am also pleased to honour all those who support you and ensure that works survive and more are created.

I would like to thank the Governor General's Performing Arts Awards Foundation for its unwavering commitment to you.

And I would like to highlight the National Arts Centre’s commitment to creating synergy—in a spirit of reciprocity—between the laureates’ wisdom and the talent of artists in the midst of their careers, thanks to the Mentorship Program created two years ago.

Dear laureates, tonight I would like to sincerely congratulate you and express our affection and gratitude.

May nothing ever come between you and your passion or cause you to veer off course, as your art is a promise of the renewal and hope that our world so desperately needs.