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Cultural Evening on the Occasion of the State Visits to Ukraine and Norway

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Cultural Evening on the Occasion of the State Visits to Ukraine and Norway

Rideau Hall, Wednesday, April 15, 2009

This is it: in exactly one week, we will be setting out on our 10th and 11th State visits, this time bound for the outer reaches of the European continent, first to Ukraine in the east, then on to Norway in the north.

Two countries with a rich and storied past; two countries that have made an invaluable contribution to the heritage of humanity.

We can see examples of that contribution right here in the Reception Room, in the paintings by William Kurelek, a Canadian painter of Ukrainian heritage, whose vivid images recount the epic Ukrainian migration to Canada, from the famine and repression in their homeland to their settlement in western Canada.

Further examples can be found in the posters of the Artscape Nordland project, which seeks to fill the spectacular landscape of the County of Nordland with sculptures that are integrated into the environment.

These are but two examples of how essential the arts are to civilization and to inspiring reflection on major issues.

It is a great privilege for us to be able to meet some of the people—women, men and youth— who form the backbone of these societies, which are so different from each other, to meet them, to engage with them, particularly at this point in time when the serious financial crisis that we are all facing demands greater solidarity.

Even more so between countries that are friends such as Canada and Ukraine, and Canada and Norway.

The bonds of fellowship between us are bridges that span the ocean and reach across borders.

Consider for example the fact that Canada is home to the largest Ukrainian population in the world outside of Ukraine and Russia.

Consider also the northern geography that we share with Norway, which has made us sisters and brothers of the North.

On December 2, 1991, Canada became the first Western country to recognize Ukraine’s independence, and we are committed to supporting every effort by the people of Ukraine to adopt the democratic values and principles of a country based on the rule of law.

We also fully support Ukraine’s aspirations to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, of which Canada and Norway are founding members.

Canada and Norway are also proud partners in the Arctic Council, which will be hosting a meeting of foreign affairs ministers during our visit.

Canadians and Norwegians are working hard to find a fair balance between developing resources and protecting the ecosystems that so are vital to the health of our planet.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the creation of Nunavut and an important step in Canada’s recent history.

We will be celebrating that great adventure toward self-governance when we travel over 400 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle, to Tromsø, to exchange perspectives with the Sami people, whose contribution to the heritage of Norway and to the wonderful diversity of the peoples of the North is an inspiration.

My husband Jean-Daniel Lafond and I believe that sharing knowledge and experiences is what these State visits are all about and is part of what we like to call cultural and human diplomacy.

A diplomacy that emphasizes the need to weigh the interests of some against the needs of others.

A diplomacy that is not indifferent to the lives of the people and encourages civic engagement, the meeting of people and the sharing of their ideas, aspirations and accomplishments.

In the course of this friendship tour, we will be accompanied by a delegation of Canadians who represent several key sectors of our society, from the arts and culture, diversity and social initiatives, harmony, to the promotion of civic life, youth reality in the Far North, sustainable and human development.

It is with the assurance that together, we will be strengthening the strong ties that already exist that we are undertaking these State visits.

The success of these visits depends in large part on the highly dynamic and invaluable collaboration of His Excellency Ihor Ostash, Ambassador of Ukraine to Canada, and His Excellency Tor B. Naess, Ambassador of Norway to Canada, to whom I extend my heartfelt thanks.

To that spirit of solidarity filling the air this evening is added the presence here of artists who, through the enchantment of their art, will help to put us in a festive mood!

Long live the unbreakable friendship between Canada and Ukraine, between Canada and Norway! And now, let’s celebrate the arts!