50th Anniversary of the Canadian Coast Guard
Victoria, British Columbia, Thursday, July 19, 2012
It is an honour as governor general to be named honorary chief commissioner of the Canadian Coast Guard. I accept this title with the humbling knowledge that it is you, the men and women of the Canadian Coast Guard, who contribute to our country in diverse ways, who protect our waters and who save lives.
I have had the privilege, during my mandate, of meeting with members of the Coast Guard and of discovering how they help this country succeed.
Canada has a long history on the water, from the days of discovery with Samuel de Champlain and the establishment of Port Royal, to the creation of Kingston, Ontario, near the mouth of the St. Lawrence River, an ideal location for defence and trade. And today, the seas offer us new and exciting opportunities, of which Canadians are taking full advantage.
Let me make three observations key to your work as you mark the 50th anniversary of the Canadian Coast Guard and as you contemplate your next half century of service.
First, one of the great changes in human history occurred when human beings moved from being nomadic hunter/gatherers to agrarian settlers. As they learned to farm and mine the land, their prosperity dramatically changed.
In the 50 years of your history, we have made the same transition from land to sea. We have learned to farm and mine the sea—we hope in a sustainable manner. And it is the Coast Guard that is at the leading edge of this tipping point in history.
Second, as you well know, Canada has the longest coastline in the world. Moreover, whichever country best creates and uses the knowledge to cultivate, manage and mine the seas sustainably will have enormous advantages, as well as responsibilities. Perhaps, then, we should change your name from the Coast Guard to Sea Stewards!
Third, Canada’s motto has changed—“from sea to sea” has become “from sea to sea to sea”. We have rediscovered our North and all the promise and responsibility that lies therein. Now we see the full extent of our land and our seas.
Looking back at our history and looking forward to new possibilities, I hope that you will take into consideration the importance of building into your vision for the next 50 years the responsibility of seeing things whole.
Let me now turn from opportunity to service.
I often speak of the importance of service to others. This year, in fact, we are celebrating the dedication to service by Her Majesty The Queen on the occasion of her Diamond Jubilee.
And in honouring her service to the Commonwealth, we are also honouring the service of so many Canadians who have made great contributions to this country. Canadians like you. And that is why it is my honour as well to present the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal to deserving recipients who have contributed so much to the organization and who have served Canadians.
Service to others takes so many forms. All of you here today have served in one capacity or another, making a real difference in your communities and bringing great honour to Canada.
I was quite amazed to learn that every day, on average, you save 10 lives. You also participate in search and rescue missions, manage ship movements, assist scientific research and escort ships through the ice. And that is still only part of what you do each day.
As a result, thousands of people every year are thankful for the work that you do and the professionalism that you show on behalf of this country.
In showing extraordinary courage, resolve and ingenuity in difficult conditions, you exemplify the ideal of service to country.
That is why the Coast Guard’s role is so vital.
As you celebrate your 50th anniversary, I have no doubt that you will continue to uphold the values of this country, to contribute to our growth and to safeguard lives.