Ceremonial Meeting with the First Nations Leaders
Rideau Hall, Friday, January 11, 2013
I am so pleased to welcome you to Rideau Hall, the home of the people of Canada.
Let me begin by acknowledging that this gathering is taking place on the traditional territory of the Algonquin Nation, which spans the provinces of Ontario and Quebec.
I would also like to take this opportunity to say a special welcome to Chief Theresa Spence and to say how concerned I am about your health and that of Raymond Robinson and Jean Sock. My deepest wish is for the well-being of all Canadians, and for dialogue to always take place in a safe and healthy manner.
One year ago, we came together at the Crown-First Nations Gathering with the hope of renewing that dialogue and addressing important issues facing First Nations and Canada.
At that gathering, I was deeply honoured to be presented with a sacred gift of friendship and diplomacy in the form of a wampum belt, which we have with us in the Ballroom today.
I want you to know that this wampum belt occupies a central place beside my study in one of our main meeting rooms here at Rideau Hall.
The work that began at last year’s gathering continues, and I remain inspired and hopeful at our ability to create a brighter future for our families and communities.
Without a doubt, there remains much hard work to be done. In a country as vast and diverse as Canada, our differences are many, and sometimes they can overshadow all that we have in common as people. As mothers and fathers, as Elders and grandparents, sisters and brothers and aunts and uncles. As children.
Our differences can also make it easy to forget that diversity is one of our country’s true strengths. I have always believed that our greatest potential lies in what we have yet to learn from each other, and I am confident that by working together in a spirit of respect, we can create the conditions in which Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people can thrive equally, according to their hopes and dreams.
And we know that we learn best with open minds. As I am fond of saying: minds, like parachutes, work best when open.
I would like to take this opportunity to say how much my wife and I have appreciated the visits we have made to your communities across the country in the past two years, and how magnificently we have been welcomed.
Given our special interest in families and children and in learning and innovation, we look forward to making even more visits in the year ahead to those First Nations communities that are leading the way in strengthening families, improving mental health and innovating in learning, so that we can share these stories with others and inspire all Canadians by their example.
Allow me to end with one word: trust. Let us all strive to build trust each day and in every way—and to encourage our colleagues to build with us. By seeking ways to build trust and continuing our work with open minds, we can balance our needs with our responsibilities toward each other. We can strike a balance between diversity and unity that will strengthen us as nations and as a nation.
With this in mind, let us reflect on the promise of this land that we share, and reaffirm our collective commitment to working together on behalf of those we serve.