Order of Canada Investiture Ceremony
Rideau Hall, Thursday, November 17, 2106
I’d like to start by acknowledging that this gathering is taking place on the traditional territory of the Algonquin peoples.
DESIDERANTES MELIOREM PATRIAM—“They desire a better country.”
That, of course, is the motto of the Order of Canada, but what do we really mean when we say “a better country”?
This is a good time to ask that question. We live in a time of change, and in less than two months, we’ll mark Canada’s 150th anniversary year which, incidentally, is also the 50th anniversary of the Order of Canada.
In attempting an answer, let me hearken back to something Her Majesty The Queen once said about the Crown while visiting Canada.
“The Crown represents the basic political ideals which all Canadians share. It stands for the idea that individual people matter more than theories; that we are all subject to the rule of law.”
I want to borrow that notion and suggest that the Order of Canada stands for a similar idea or value: namely, that the well-being of individual people matters most.
People—always people—are what matter.
So, when we say that we desire a better country, what we really mean is that we desire a Canada in which every individual is able to lead a meaningful, dignified and secure life to the greatest extent possible.
If we achieve that, we will have achieved the better country of which we speak.
I don’t need to tell you we’re not there yet.
But, thanks in part to the efforts of those whom we invest into the Order of Canada today, we are closer to living in that country.
The variety of your work is remarkable, but you share a common dedication to the individual, the specific, the particular challenge.
You see the big picture, but you never lose sight of the all-important details, because you know that’s where progress is achieved and felt.
Progress resides in the lab.
In the studio.
In the classroom.
In the courtroom.
At your desk.
On the ground.
In the field.
You have all worked so very hard, with your eyes fixed firmly on the future, and the sum of your visions has helped us build a better Canada.
This honour is to thank you, to congratulate you on your remarkable efforts, and to inspire others to follow your lead.
And it is also to encourage you to keep going. There is so much more to do.
It is my hope that next year, as we reflect upon and celebrate Canada’s 150th and the order’s 50th, we also look ahead to the country we aspire to build.
Consider this honour and these anniversaries as moments to rededicate yourselves to Canada and to making contributions that—through a ripple effect of learning, of caring, of insight and imagination—will improve the lives of every one of the 36 286 425 people who call it home.
Every single one of them matters. That’s why the Order of Canada exists, and that’s why we’re here today in this ballroom.