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  2. Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette
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Luncheon with African Country Leaders

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Luncheon with African Country Leaders Attending the G8 Summit in Muskoka

Huntsville, Friday, June 25, 2010

I am very pleased to welcome you to Canada and more particularly to beautiful Muskoka, which in the language of the Algonquin people, one of the First Nations of the Americas, means “the land of red earth.

Africa, in which I have travelled from one end to the other, right to its very heart, is in my blood and in my heart.

I have gone on missions to ten African countries on three different trips, something no Governor General of Canada has done before.

And I have discovered that Africa, this continent of my ancestors, which faces countless challenges, is a place full of promise, one very different from the pessimistic vision we are too often shown.

President Zuma, as the FIFA World Cup is taking place in your country, I am delighted to see in the major national and international media the South Africa that I discovered in 2006 during my State visit: a country that embodies hope and freedom.

During each of my visits, three of which were to countries you represent—South Africa, as I just mentioned, Algeria, also in 2006, and Senegal, which I visited recently, as President Wade will confirm—I saw the determination of the people to focus on the forces of life.

All of Africa's hidden promises—and there are a great many—are embodied in the actions of the women and men from all walks of life, from those in civil society to elected officials, young and old alike, who are responding to the challenges that their communities, their societies are facing with courage, conviction and dignity.

And I am more convinced than ever that it is through women that Africa’s renaissance will happen because I saw how African women carry this continent on their shoulders and its development is dependent on the daily efforts they make.

Women who demonstrate a tireless commitment to the well-being of their community.

Women who play a key role as ministers or parliamentarians.

Women like the President of Liberia, Her Excellency Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, whom I met at an International Colloquium on Women’s Empowerment, Leadership Development and Security, to which she had invited me.

Women, also, who perform essential work in vitals sectors such as health care, education and justice.

Everywhere, I saw how African women mobilize forces and energies to tackle difficult but essential issues such as family planning, the physical integrity of young girls, access to education, food security and many other issues.

They have a great entrepreneurial spirit, they are reliable, they have gumption.

These women are a source of inspiration, and recognizing their contribution has always been an unwavering priority for me.

In all the countries in which I have travelled, it has been clear that there is a genuine determination to end the misery afflicting Africa.

Africa is working hard to achieve good governance, fight hunger and disease, provide its daughters and sons with an education, and finally put an end to the conflicts and violence.

Africans are creative, they can deliver. We need to recognize Africa as a dynamic region of the world that has so much to offer, where the opportunities are many.

You may be sure that Canadians share the African people’s hopes for peace, security and prosperity, as well as their confidence in their ability to take full control of their destiny.

Even though it has borne and continues to bear the scars of history, today, Africa is constantly reinventing itself and making a unique contribution to the wealth and well-being of humanity.

It is to that Africa that I raise my glass.

To its renaissance.

And to the friendship that binds us across the ocean.