The Viceregal Lion
  1. The Governor General of Canada
  2. Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette
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Opening of the Governor General’s Canadian Leadership Conference

Whistler, British Columbia, Friday, June 2, 2017


I acknowledge that we are gathering today on the traditional territory of the Squamish and Lil’wat First Nations.

And I’d like to thank our First Nations hosts. This Cultural Centre is certainly a jewel here in Whistler!

I hope you will take the time to explore this place and to hear the traditional stories being told, see the art on display, learn about the innovations these communities made and continue to make.

It’s wonderful to be here among so many talented and dedicated individuals. Today, this place has become a hub of Canadian leadership!

The 150th anniversary of Confederation is an occasion to reflect on our history, while at the same time looking forward to the future. I begin therefore with a story about another hub of leadership and innovation from our past—one with a familiar protagonist.

Alexander Graham Bell—who immigrated to Canada as a young man—is, of course, credited with the groundbreaking invention of the telephone, but we wouldn’t remember him today were it not for his great leadership abilities. 

You see, though he was a creative genius, Mr. Bell was also well aware of his limitations. He was, for example, lacking skills in electrical engineering, having instead a background in speech pathology.

So he gathered around him a team of knowledgeable experts, people who contributed their experience and ideas and expertise to his discoveries. You could call it one of the most significant innovation hubs in history!

I like this example because it shows us a few things not just about innovation, but about leadership as well.

First, it shows us that leadership requires us to recognize and acknowledge our weaknesses.

Second, it shows the importance of gathering around you the right people to do the job.

And third, it shows us that diverse peoples—from a variety of fields—can give us extraordinary things when they work together.

This brings me to all of you.

The Governor General’s Canadian Leadership Conference has gathered some of this country’s best emerging leaders and experts.

You are here because you’ve shown yourselves to be great leaders in your own right.

You’ve been successful in your careers because you know what leadership means to you. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t more to learn.

Like Alexander Graham Bell gathering experts around him and changing the world, we’ve brought you all together in Whistler. Who knows what revelations you may have?!

I urge you to listen carefully and take inspiration from the speakers you will hear. They come from all spheres and are eager to share their knowledge with you.

But they’re not the only ones with lessons to teach.

Take inspiration from the places you will visit and the people you will speak to.

There is so much we can learn from people across the country, if we only take the time to listen, to ask questions, to share.

As you travel this nation, you may find that you don’t know Canada as well as you might think.

This has been my experience. I always knew we lived in a good country, but I never realized how great it was until I became governor general and had a chance to travel widely.

Seeing the country as you are about to is a transformational experience. It will colour how you do things, how you think and what you consider to be important. It’s a wonderful opportunity.

Given that we are celebrating the 150th anniversary of Confederation, there can be no better time to hold this conference.

Because you are the leaders who will drive us into the future.

We’re living through an extraordinary moment in time.

One of profound globalization, technological changes, demographic shifts and changing expectations.

We live in a time of change, and we need to rediscover and reaffirm basic values in relation to this new context.

The most fundamental value is that of trust.

As you begin this conference on leadership, I also encourage you to think about trust as an essential part of leadership.

Trust is being challenged by those same profound changes that are taking place in our nation and the world.

It is the responsibility of leaders to find ways to restore trust—in our organizations, with the public, in society.

Wherever you come from—academia, government, businesses, non-profits—I encourage you to work together to address challenges.

Embrace new ways, better ways of doing things.

And ask yourself one important question as you embark on your journey: what do you want our Canada to be?

This is my third such conference as governor general, and I’ve always been impressed by the ideas and discoveries that have emerged.

As leaders of today and tomorrow, you have great influence on how successful we will be.

It’s our job to support you, and to open doors that will let you open your minds to what leadership can and should be.

I wish you the very best on your journey and welcome you to the opening plenary of the Governor General’s Leadership Conference.

I look forward to seeing you again in Ottawa.

Thank you.