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  1. The Governor General of Canada
  2. Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette
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Order of Canada Investiture Ceremony

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Order of Canada Investiture Ceremony

Rideau Hall, Friday, June 18, 2010

If there is one function I hold dear as Governor General of Canada, it is that of paying tribute to the women and men whose creativity, daring, commitment, tenacity and knowledge are this country’s greatest treasure.

You know, today’s ceremony coincides with the official reopening of one of Rideau Hall’s heritage rooms, the Tent Room. I am very pleased that a number of you will be taking part in the opening this evening.

During the time I have lived and worked in this residence where we are gathered this morning and where, as you can see, our past is ever present, I have become increasingly aware that we are a part of history and that history will continue to exist beyond our lifetimes.

History is made up of encounters, of all these traits of civilization that unite us.

This Ballroom contains a number of signs of that rich heritage we share.

For example, take this painting, born of the generosity and talent of one of our greatest artists, Norval Morrisseau, a member of the proud Obijwe Nation.

It is a window onto the sensitivity, spirituality and connection with the world of our Aboriginal brothers and sisters, who are our deepest roots in this vast land we call Canada.

You can see how this monumental work hanging above us initiates a dialogue with this very European architecture, and also with the very personal and moving portrait of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh created by the famous Quebec artist, Jean-Paul Lemieux.

As we leave the room, our gaze is drawn to this portrait of the royal couple, whose arrival we are awaiting. With Parliament in the background, it speaks of the building of our political system.

And as we open the door into the Reception Room, we are greeted by the works of William Kurelek, an artist of Ukrainian heritage, which evoke experiences common to so many immigrants who came to Canada in search of a better life.

Together, these different images remind us of the journey that characterizes us.

Indeed, we are continuing, in our own fashion, the work begun by those who came before us.

And this work, which will have been enriched by our ideas, convictions, discoveries and commitments—in short, our lives—will be carried on by those who come after us, in different forms, in a different time.

That is how humanity moves forward and sows promises of a better future.

Internationally renowned Montreal contralto Maureen Forester—who was made a Companion of the Order of Canada in 1967—is a brilliant example of this.

She left us on Wednesday, at the age of 79, but her unique and extraordinary contralto voice will forever continue to resonate in our hearts. Maureen Forester will remain, for generations to come, a model of excellence in the vocal arts.    

Time marches on, times change, but what remains is the dream of a country that lives up to our aspirations, as so rightly reflected in the motto of the Order of Canada, Desiderantes meliorem patriam, or “They desire a better country.”

And what does this country we desire look like? Your own fields of endeavour provide a good idea.

We dream of a country where the difference of some is a treasure for others.

We dream of a country where individual interests encompass the interests of the wider world.

We dream of a country where women and men, the young and not so young, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people all have equal rights and opportunities.

We dream of a country where research and scientific and technological advances serve the well-being of humankind.

We dream of a country that recognizes the important, indeed vital role of our artists and how they touch the soul of our society.

A country seeking to excel in all fields.

And a country where the solitudes I’ve spoken of so often, which continue to condemn far too many of us to distress and exclusion, are finally broken down to make way for sharing, solidarity and compassion.

A country synonymous with hope for the entire world.

Thanks to you, we have the conviction that this country is not a Utopia.

That, rather, it is an ideal.

An ideal to which we can all freely aspire.

Provided that we give the very best of ourselves, and that we seek by every means possible to improve the lives of those around us, as you so eloquently have reminded us today.

You work in a wide range of disciplines, but what unites you is the creative, combative spirit that makes you want to have a hand in humanity's progress and to leave your own mark on the world.

I believe that the strength of history also lies in the opportunity it gives us to recognize your contribution.

To you who are joining this august society of merit called the Order of Canada, I say thank you, thank you from the bottom of my heart for being who you are and for each of your actions.

And know that Canada would not be what it is today without you.