Presentation of the Governor General’s Awards in Commemoration of the Persons Case
Rideau Hall, Thursday, April 21, 2016
Today, we honour those who carry on in the spirit of the Famous Five.
Today is also the 90th birthday of another great woman who has greatly influenced our country: Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. So many have been inspired by her dedication to service and duty, and by her love of Canada. Sharon and I would like to take a moment to send our heartfelt congratulations to Her Majesty on this special day.
Like The Queen, the women receiving the 2015 Governor General’s Awards in Commemoration of the Persons Case have shown true leadership.
They’re educators and advocates.
They help our communities thrive and they raise their voices on behalf of the disadvantaged.
They’re role models not only for women and girls, but also for all Canadians.
They’re making this a better country.
There’s nothing we can’t do in this country when we work together—but everyone must be able to participate equally in our society.
This award is given in celebration of great achievements in equality for women, but as all of you know, many hurdles remain.
One of those barriers lies in the acknowledgment and celebration of women’s accomplishments.
Last February, I was in Washington during the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, where I met with a number of women of influence in the sciences.
And a few days later, back in Ottawa, I presented the Gerhard Herzberg Canada Gold Medal for Science and Engineering to Dr. Victoria Kaspi.
It was the first time this prestigious award had gone to a woman.
Such recognition was long overdue.
As you know, female scientists are not recognized or celebrated to the extent that their male colleagues are.
And this gap of course exists in many other spheres, too.
That’s why it’s so important to highlight the accomplishments of women, and to push for that equal recognition.
Such recognition can lead to greater participation, and that has to be a priority for all Canadians.
Without women’s involvement in science or in community building or public service or any other sphere, the results are dismal:
Our innovation is halved.
Our ingenuity is halved.
Our accomplishments are halved.
Progress has been made, but not enough. We cannot be complacent, and that’s why I’m so grateful to all of you, who are true leaders.
We must all do our part to recognize women who have helped build our country.
That’s what we’re doing here today.
This year also marks a very significant milestone: the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in Canada.
Women first achieved the vote in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, with the other provinces and territories following thereafter.
It’s astonishing to think it was 100 years ago. It was a major milestone for Canada, which women have built upon—and continue to build on every day.
The women here with us today have made great strides in promoting and advancing women’s rights. They are examples to all of us, and they deserve to be recognized for all that they do for Canada.
And let me leave you with one really ambitious and world-changing thought:
What if every girl everywhere on the globe had the same opportunity for education and to reach her full potential as every boy?
Now that would change the world!
Congratulations to all of you on receiving this well-deserved honour.
And thank you for all that you do.