The Viceregal Lion
  1. The Governor General of Canada
  2. Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette
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Keynote Address to the Members of the Sea to Sky Community Foundations

Vancouver, British Columbia, Thursday, March 3, 2016


Good afternoon and thank you for that very warm west coast welcome.

What a pleasure to see so many smart and caring Canadians in one room!

I’d like to begin by acknowledging that this gathering is taking place on the traditional territory of the Squamish Nation.

I’d also like to draw your attention to this beautiful theatre.

It’s the result of a very generous donation by Mrs. Kay Meek—a founding member of the West Vancouver Community Foundation—as well as a unique collaboration with the West Vancouver School District.

What a wonderful example of what becomes possible through partnership!

Some of you may recall that I was in Vancouver five years ago for the biannual Community Foundations of Canada Conference.

At that conference, I issued a call to action to build a smarter, more caring nation as we approach Canada’s 150th birthday in 2017.

Well, we’re a year out from that milestone, and in the past five years, the Community Foundations of Canada have answered that call in so many remarkable ways.

The six community foundations in the Sea to Sky Region are no exception.

Let me highlight some specifics that I’ve recently learned of.

On Bowen Island, a new Youth Council has been set up with the support of the local foundation. From gym nights to business mentorships to cooking classes, this program is having a real impact on young people in that community.

Another initiative I learned of is taking place on the Sunshine Coast, where the local foundation has helped to fund dialogues and an action plan on community health.

The local foundation on the North Shore is also focused on health issues, and has supported the building of residential care centres for people with addiction issues.

In Squamish, the foundation is building capacity among non-profit agencies focused on a range of important priorities.

In Whistler and the neighbouring community of Pemberton, people are working together to harvest crab apples in the town centre! Why? To reduce human-bear interactions—an activity that has a wonderful side effect: crab apple jelly!

And right here in West Vancouver, you’re supporting agencies that deliver hot meals to senior citizens. You’re giving a helping hand to marginalized teens. You’re providing bursaries to students in financial need. 

I could go on and on!

Let me just say this: you are exceptional in what you have been able to achieve. You have strengthened your communities in so many ways—socially, environmentally, culturally and economically.

You have helped to create a smarter and more caring Canada.

Each of your communities is unique, and this entire region has unique strengths and specific challenges.

Your region is home to a quite wealthy and well-educated population, but this prosperity isn’t available to all residents.

Your region is home to a beautiful and precious natural environment, but it faces all the pressures of a growing population.

Your region is culturally diverse, and its rapidly changing demographics represent both a challenge and an opportunity.

In short, while the Sea to Sky Region is one of the most beautiful and prosperous parts of Canada, we can’t afford to be complacent.  

Each of you gets this.

Indeed, that’s why you’re here today: because you know there’s always more we can do, and we must do.

When I consider your priorities, I feel a great sense of hope for Canada.

You’re focused on welcoming newcomers and celebrating cultural diversity.

You’re committed to reconciliation and to better engagement with First Nations.

You’re sensitive to the great need to connect with elderly citizens who suffer from loneliness and isolation.

And you know we must find ways to better support vulnerable and marginalized youth.

For all the good fortune of people who live in your communities, gaps exist in these and other areas.

Those gaps mustn’t be ignored.

By addressing these challenges, you are helping to increase the store of hope in each individual and each of your communities.

And perhaps that’s the greatest gift of all you can make to Canada—to create hope. Because hope, as the ethicist Margaret Somerville once put it, is “the oxygen of the human spirit.”

That really is what you’re doing here, isn’t it? You’re lifting the human spirits in each of your communities, helping them thrive to their fullest potential. 

A few months ago, I was in Oakville, Ontario at a gathering of the local community foundation, and the word “hope” also came up at that time. It was in the context of a discussion about welcoming Syrian refugees—something that I know you’re busily responding to in this region.

I was sharing some comments Conrad Sauvé of the Canadian Red Cross made about refugees.

He said:

“We’re dealing with people who are fleeing war. Nobody wants to leave their home. They’re leaving because they don’t have a choice, because they’ve lost hope.”

But he added:

“Their hope now is Canada.”

But, like any nation-state, Canada, of course, is only as strong as its people, as its communities.

People don’t just live in Canada, they live in West Vancouver, on Bowen Island, in Whistler, on the North Shore, in Squamish and on the Sunshine Coast.

People live their daily lives in communities.

Communities are where the rubber hits the road, so to speak, and that’s why your efforts are so crucially important to building the smarter, more caring Canada we aspire to.

I’m delighted to see all of you from the community foundations of the Sea to Sky Region working together. You’ll have a greater impact that way, and I hope you’ll take advantage of this gathering today to strengthen your network and look to the future.

Canada is turning 149 years old this year, and the 2017 milestone will be a moment to remember in our country’s history.

Seize this opportunity! I’m so grateful for your efforts, and wish you the very best with your important work.

Thank you.