The Viceregal Lion
  1. The Governor General of Canada
  2. Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette
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Opening of the National Honours Exhibit

Ottawa, Thursday, May 17, 2012


Welcome everyone to this unique space. Here, we will learn how Canada honours our very best, those who have made an impact on our smart and caring nation.

Here, we will see the stories of those people who changed society, or who changed just one life. Here, we will learn how national honours have instilled Canadians with pride and how they have helped to build our national identity.

Here we will discover a distinctive part of our history.

In 1967, Her Majesty The Queen approved the creation of the Canadian Honours System. In that same year, and to coincide with Canada’s centennial, the Order of Canada was created. Since then, more than 5 000 Canadians from all walks of life have been appointed to the Order. 

And, like the snowflake that symbolizes the Order, each member is unique. They are artists whose words, art and music have touched our hearts. They are innovators whose buildings, inventions and designs have left an indelible mark on Canada. They are researchers and big thinkers whose discoveries have saved lives and improved our society in myriad ways. They are neighbours whose work in the community has helped so many in need.

And yet, there is so much more to our national honours.

The accomplishments and contributions of Canadians to our country have been extraordinary. They are creative, courageous, valiant, caring, dedicated and loyal.

And, since 1967, more than one million Canadians have been honoured with awards, medals and decorations—those who have made this country, and the world, a better place. 

Here you will learn of their stories—stories such as Medal of Bravery recipients Marc Patterson, who saved a child who was being attacked by a cougar in British Columbia, and Tamsen Lahnalampi, who was able to save two people from drowning while on a visit to Costa Rica.

Or the story of Leslie Palmer, who traversed treacherous waters and terrain during a blizzard in British Columbia to rescue two stranded fishermen—for his actions, he was awarded the Cross of Valour which is just under the Victoria Cross in the order of precedence. 

You will read stories of valour from the members of our Canadian Forces, such as Petty Officer 2nd Class James Anthony Leith, one of Canada’s most decorated soldiers, who received the Star of Courage for dismantling an explosive device using only his bayonet in Afghanistan.

Or the story of Lieutenant-Colonel Annie Bouchard, who received the Meritorious Service Medal for deftly commanding a medical platoon that provided critical care to many wounded Haitians after the earthquake.

And it was just three months ago that I presented for the first time, at Rideau Hall, the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal. This medal, created in celebration of the 60th anniversary of Her Majesty’s Accession to the Throne, is the newest addition to the Canadian Honours System. Over the course of the year, 60 000 Canadians will receive this honour.

Like all recipients of Canadian honours, all of the Medal recipients have helped to shape this country.

Another way we build our national identity is through heraldry in Canada, the history of which is an equally important part of this exhibit. Here you can see examples of royal heraldry reaching back centuries, along with heraldic emblems—including royal and First Nations symbols—created by the Canadian Heraldic Authority.

I would like to point out two very special displays in particular. For the first time since 1939, the Royal Banner of King George VI, which flew at Rideau Hall during his visit to Canada that year, is on display to the public. This flag has recently returned to the Rideau Hall collection as part of a generous donation of historic flags by Bishop Ralph Spence of Hamilton, Ontario.

The second item is a newly created tabard for the Chief Herald of Canada, which is worn for formal heraldic occasions. For today only, you can see this garment, which was created in honour of the Canadian Heraldic Authority’s 20th anniversary. I would like to thank the Royal Heraldry Society of Canada for their generous donation towards the design and creation of the tabard.

It is my hope that through this exhibit Canadians will be able to learn about our national honours. And when you see someone sporting the snowflake pin or any other of Canada’s honours, take the time to talk with them, to ask them about their contributions and to thank them for what they have done. Perhaps you will be inspired to nominate someone you know, a Canadian deserving of praise. Or perhaps you will be inspired to contribute great things yourself.

It is my sincere hope that these medals and symbols, and the stories behind them, will give you a glimpse into the heart and soul of Canada.     

No matter where they come from or what they have done, let us honour and salute the men and women who have made this country a smarter, more caring nation.

Thank you.