The Viceregal Lion
  1. The Governor General of Canada
  2. Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette
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Inaugural Presentation of the Operational Service Medal

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Rideau Hall, Monday, December 6, 2010


I am honoured to welcome you to Rideau Hall for the inaugural presentation of the Operational Service Medal.

Her Majesty The Queen approved the creation of this medal a few short months ago, adding it to the Canadian Honours System. I am proud, as governor general and commander-in-chief, to present this award for the very first time.

Since my installation, I have travelled across the country. Wherever I have gone, I have taken the time to visit with members of the Canadian Forces and with those who serve Canada.

They have all impressed me with their commitment, with their fortitude and with their candour. I have seen our troops in Afghanistan, fighting for our ideals. I have inspected and visited guards of honour and regiments across the country. And, closer to home, I have seen the dedication of my RCMP detail, who protect me and my family wherever we go.

The creation of this medal came from wanting to honour those men and women of the Canadian Forces and Canadian police forces, as well as civilians who work with these two groups, who have supported non-combat missions around the world. Anytime Canada is called upon to serve abroad, we have done so with the support of an amazing array of talented and selfless people.

Robert McClure, a medical missionary, once said: “One felt that the things that differentiated a true person as a human being was the reliability of their dedication to serving others.” His words could have been directed to all of you being honoured here today.

The medal you will receive is not only an acknowledgement of what you have done for your country, but also a responsibility to inspire others to service. I hope that Canadians will see your dedication and be motivated to take steps to help others. Not necessarily overseas, as you have done, but rather in their own communities, volunteering and giving what they can to help their neighbours—barn raising, if you will. A Mennonite barn raising is people who gather on the scaffold of a new barn, bringing their diverse talents and energy to help a neighbour in need.

You are the quintessential example of how we can use barn raising, not only locally, but also globally.

I speak often of creating a smart and caring nation. In your service abroad, you highlighted an important part of this as ambassadors of Canada—no matter where you were, people saw that you cared, that Canada cares.

Whether it was in Sierra Leone, Haiti, the Middle East or the Sudan. Whether it was helping to keep the peace between nations or helping after a disaster. You have shown the world that Canada stands firm on its commitments to help those in need.

Too often, it seems, disaster—be it man-made or natural—strikes. It is then that we call upon the talents and skills of Canadians like you to wade through the hardships and uncover the better quality of life that we know should and can exist. And you answer that call. In every instance, in every circumstance, you rise to accept the challenge. Alongside our global counterparts, you bring dignity, security and essential supplies to people who would otherwise go without.

You sacrifice your own well-being, and your family sacrifices as well, to create a better world. You put your trust in your comrades and they never waiver. Some of you here today may have served together; others are meeting for the very first time. But every man and woman here, who has worked closely on overseas campaigns, has brought great honour to Canada. That is the common bond you share, which can never be broken.

The Spanish philosopher George Santayana said: “A man’s feet should be planted in his country, but his eyes should survey the world.” You are all proud Canadians, but you have travelled the globe to help others.

I thank you for what you have done for our country, and I congratulate you on being the first Canadians to be honoured with the Operational Service Medal.

Thank you.