Youth Dialogue in Slovenia
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Youth Dialogue on Civic Engagement and
Peacemaking in your Community
Ljubljana, Slovenia, Thursday, October 22, 2009
How are you this afternoon?
It is such a pleasure for me to join you at my first Youth Dialogue in Ljubljana.
I had planned to visit Slovenia last year during a series of State visits in Central Europe; however, circumstances were such that I had to return to Canada to resolve a constitutional crisis.
Although I only stayed for a few hours, I had the privilege of meeting with President Türk, enough time to engage in an at-length discussion with him.
Let me tell you also that I was so captivated by your alpine country that I felt compelled to return to discover more and, of course, to meet with the women, men and youth of Slovenia.
Yes, the youth of Slovenia, your perspective is important.
As governor general and commander-in-chief of Canada, carrying out the duties of head of state, I often undertake State and official visits overseas.
Through these journeys abroad, I seek to pursue a form of diplomacy that places people-to-people relations at the heart of international affairs.
I believe that this approach, which I like to call “diplomacy on a human scale,” is paramount in this time of almost unprecedented economic turmoil, which requires that we embrace a more compassionate and human form of foreign relations.
That we pursue new and more effective modes of international cooperation within a global ethic of sharing and solidarity.
And that we transcend the boundaries of ethnicity and nationality in favour of a more universal understanding of our responsibilities as citizens of our respective countries and as citizens of the world.
Yes the stakes are high.
An increase in global hunger is threatening the lives of millions of people around the world.
Climate change is putting in peril our very survival as a species.
Ethnic, linguistic, and religious extremism continues to fan the flames of hatred, armed conflict and terror.
Even in this part of the world, the spectre of violence and hatred continues to raise its ugly head, requiring sustained vigilance against all forms of prejudice and discrimination.
Like much of South Eastern Europe, Canada is home to several ethnic, religious and cultural groups.
Over the last four hundred years, our history has been shaped by the fruitful encounters of different civilizations and peoples.
This began when the indigenous populations encountered and intermixed with European settlers.
Soon, dozens of Africans, who were forcibly transported there as slaves, intermarried with the European and indigenous populations.
The mingling of peoples was further enriched by successive waves of immigrants and refugees hailing from every corner of the globe.
From these encounters were born our unique cultural and historical experience, whose deep diversity constitutes the very essence of the Canadian people.
It was not easy.
We had to learn how to live together in relative harmony.
Injustices committed against the indigenous peoples, the enslavement of Africans, the expulsion of French settlers, discrimination against immigrants from various parts of the world, and other social challenges posed direct threatened to social cohesion.
Yet in the end, we discovered that you cannot build a nation on division or hatred.
Canada had to be built on the premise that national unity can only emerge once diversity is recognized and embraced.
For respectful dialogue between diverse citizens can empower a people to see beyond its differences and embrace the values and aspirations it has in common.
It can also help to avoid the pitfalls of sectarianism, fascism, and racism, out of which wars and genocides are often conceived.
I have always said that conflicts of any kind are the outcome of conversations that have never taken place, and encounters that have been transpired.
Just look at the Canadian delegation accompanying me.
Courtney Bragg, Patsy George, Stéphanie Lapointe, Chris McDonald, Nelofer Pazira, Louise Sicuro, Kevin Walker, please stand.
In true Canadian fashion, they are engaged citizens, whose work embodies the very spirit of compassion, solidarity and openness that the world is now craving.
Today, these representatives from various segments of civil society will share with you their perspectives on the vital role of youth engagement.
Because countless young people around the globe are using the arts, new information technologies, and sport, to articulate new and more inclusive approaches to bringing social change both locally and globally.
I find their vision and determination both inspiring and indispensable.
It is thus to celebrate the positive effects of youth engagement that I have convened this Youth Dialogue.
I am also anxious to learn about your perspectives on diversity, civic participation, and related issue in Slovenia.
Do Slovene youth confront civic apathy?
If so, how are you working to counteract indifference among young people?
What steps are being taken to promote intercultural exchanges among youth?
Before I close, I am pleased to let you know that today, the Government of Canada signed a Youth Mobility Agreement with the Government of Slovenia.
The historic agreement will provide greater opportunities for exchanges between young Canadians and Slovenes, further strengthening the bonds of friendship that unite out two great nations.
In that spirit of reciprocity, I would like to thank you for having me, and I encourage us to make this unique moment special.
Now enough of me: let us begin our conversation.