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Cultural evening organized a few days before leaving for
the Republic of Slovenia, the Republic of Croatia and
the Hellenic Republic
Rideau Hall, Tuesday, October 13, 2009
In a few days, a delegation and I will be leaving to visit three countries in southeast Europe, a region of world also known as the Balkans, at the crossroads of several great civilizations.
We will start in the Republic of Slovenia and then head to the Republic of Croatia.
Both countries are emerging democracies with an irrepressible willingness to open themselves to the world and to look to the future, and Canada would like to encourage the brave political, economic and social changes they have started making in this regard.
Both countries are young States with an extremely rich history and heritage, and both have resolved to take the necessary steps toward reconciliation and reconstruction.
After years under the iron rule of communist dictatorships and a period of conflict that created numerous divisions and exclusions, these societies are working in the hope of restoring confidence, tolerance and stability in the entire region.
In a country like Croatia, which is recovering from a devastating war, solidarity and understanding are absolutely essential to building peace. A society cannot move forward if it focuses on hatred.
Moreover, I am absolutely delighted to have this opportunity to continue our trip to the Republic of Slovenia—which we unfortunately had to cut short in December 2008—and to reaffirm our commitment to strengthening the ties our two countries have established throughout history.
Afterward, my husband Jean-Daniel Lafond will be joining us in the Hellenic Republic—Greece—the cradle of democracy and beacon of the Olympic spirit.
We will visit Olympia, where the Olympic dream was born, and Athens, where we will take part in the ceremony to pass the Olympic flame to Canada in honour of the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games taking place in February and March 2010.
This ceremony will help make the upcoming international gathering of sports and culture a reality, and it is with great emotion and enthusiasm that we look forward to this event.
We are also visiting Greece in a spirit of solidarity, as its population has suffered a great deal lately because of devastating wildfires and the fallout from the financial crisis.
Throughout our visit—which will take us from the Julian Alps to the banks of the Adriatic—we will be practising diplomacy at the human level; that is, will be meeting with the women, men and young people who are the backbone of these societies.
We will be meeting with leaders, of course, but also with people working in their communities, artists, thinkers, academics and those who ardently defend their heritage and culture; in short, people from all walks of life who will share their experiences with us.
We will then share their experiences with you here, in Canada, in part in the words of the members of our delegation through their blogs, which will be posted on our Citizen Voices Web site.
Tonight, I would like to thank the embassy representatives for their unfailing support in helping us plan and organize these State visits.
It is through arts and culture that people propel themselves through time, out into the world, into the imaginary and into the very real; it is a means of sharing a part of themselves and their spirit with others, of expressing their originality.
In this era of unprecedented openness, when we are asked to redefine the ties that bind us, I believe we need arts and culture more than ever to invent new ways of living together, establish a bond of solidarity and evoke a feeling of belonging in all of humanity.
I will now turn things over to the artists, whose presentations tonight are also invitations to explore the cultures we are so anxious to discover.