Visit to the Membertou First Nation
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Membertou, Thursday, June 2, 2011
My wife, Sharon, and I would like to thank you for your warm welcome. We are delighted to visit the Membertou First Nation on our first official visit to Nova Scotia, and to see first-hand the achievements of your community in recent years.
What you have accomplished has given you and future generations of Membertou the opportunities to succeed in Canada.
Allow me to go back almost 400 years to Samuel de Champlain, a public servant and the first governor—in all but name—of what we now call Canada.
Champlain is greatly misunderstood. He has been portrayed in the history books as a great explorer and negatively as a warrior. But as Pulitzer Prize winning historian David Fisher points out in his book Champlain’s Dream, Champlain was really an innovator who dedicated his life to building a society based on the rule of law, diversity, tolerance, inclusiveness and peace.
I believe Champlain’s vision is just as relevant today as it was four centuries ago, and that we can learn many things from him about leadership in times of change and instability.
For example, Champlain was quick to realize his total dependence on the people around him. As an explorer, he meticulously gathered information on the geography and society of the New World from Basque whalers and fishermen and local First Nations. And indeed, the settlement at Port Royal would not have survived its first winter in 1605 were it not for the generous help of its Aboriginal neighbours.
Chief Paul, you spoke of my pillars, as well as your own core values—that of respect, heart, truth and trust—and how they intertwine with each other. You are indeed correct that our beliefs are similar. I, too, hold these values in the highest regard and they fit perfectly with my own priorities. It is vital that all Canadians show respect for one another; that they care, or show heart, for one another; hear and understand simple truths; and trust in each other to create a better Canada.
Combined with supporting families and children, strengthening learning and innovation, and encouraging volunteerism and philanthropy, we are creating a smarter, more caring nation. And I am pleased to see Aboriginal communities in Nova Scotia contributing to the province in meaningful ways, continuing to celebrate your heritage and traditions, and evolving to meet the needs of your people.
In fact, today’s visit allows me to focus on one key area that your community has excelled at: education. In adapting to changing circumstances, you have succeeded in offering a brighter future to your children.
The Membertou youth have more opportunities than ever, not only to learn about math, science and history, but also to learn about their own culture and language, as well as how to respect the land that you call home. They learn about the 400 year history of the Membertou, your struggles, your triumphs, the issues of the day and how they can contribute in the future.
Education is an ongoing process that begins at home, continues at school and carries on throughout your life. I am amazed how much I am learning every day, about our history, our culture and our people. It is visits such as this that offer me the opportunity to further my understanding of Canada and our Aboriginal heritage.
When Her Majesty The Queen came to Nova Scotia during the Royal Tour last year, she remarked that “Canadians have, by their own endeavours, built a country and society which is widely-admired across the world.”
Your community is playing an important role in Nova Scotia’s future and you are helping to create a smarter, more caring nation.
In 2017, our country will be marking the 150th anniversary of Confederation. Aboriginal communities across Canada have contributed so much throughout our history, but I want you to consider the questions I have been asking Canadians across the country: What is the country you desire? What goals should we set for ourselves in the next six years and how can we achieve them?
I have often spoken of the importance of neighbours helping neighbours, which is evident in a community like the Membertou First Nation, and this dialogue is an opportunity to broaden that concept. It is a chance for Aboriginal communities to speak with each other, with the provinces and with non-Aboriginal communities. It is a chance for Canadians to speak up with new ideas and innovative thinking that will take us to 2017 and beyond.
Young people, those who are studying today, who will have a big role in the future, providing their own views on how we can create the Canada of which we can all be proud.
Sharon and I thank you for what you continue to do for our country and for the support you offer to your children. After all, the smart and caring nation we seek resides in each and every one of you.