Visit with the Community Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador
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St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, Thursday June 23, 2011
Thank you for that kind introduction. My wife, Sharon, and I are very pleased to with you today.
Public service is very important to me. And I am sure you would agree when I say that it starts at home. As we look for causes right in our own backyards. As we teach our children the importance of getting involved. As we set an example that it not enough just to talk about problems in our communities, but that we all must roll up our sleeves and actually do something to solve them.
In 2017, Canada will be celebrating its 150th Anniversary. As we approach this milestone, I am inviting Canadians to envision the country they desire. How do we go about this?
First, I believe we have to get back to the basics. The first principles of community service, if you will.
We have to identify the commonalities that unite all Canadians regardless of where they live, the languages they speak, and the unique challenges they face. Notwithstanding our differences, we are all Canadians.
We must build trust between our foundations and the people we serve. To inform Canadians about the communities of which they are a part, inspiring them to get involved to help foundations achieve their targets and their goals.
And, we must always remember why we are involved in the first place—to love our neighbours as ourselves. To put into practice St. Augustine’s description of love, when he wrote, “Love has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men.”
Second, we have to assess the tools we have to achieve our goals and do our work.
Technology is certainly one. It is drawing our country closer together, removing the barriers that Canadians in remote and Northern communities have faced for the better part of our history. It is ensuring that no community, and no Canadian, must live in isolation any longer.
Let me give you an example of this. In February, Sharon and I had the privilege of visiting the Yukon. The original itinerary had included a visit to Old Crow, Yukon’s most northerly community. To get to Old Crow, however, is no easy task, which we discovered when our visit there was cancelled due to bad weather.
Technology allowed Sharon and me to beat the weather, and chat with students and educators in Old Crow via video uplink. A virtual visit, if you will. We would never have seen the incredible contributions the people of Old Crow are making in their community, and to our country, without this.
Socio-economic and environmental indices are very helpful as well. Let me highlight just one. The Canadian Index of Wellbeing, based at the University of Waterloo, seeks to improve the lives of Canadians by identifying key factors that influence our quality of life. It is giving community foundations a powerful tool for action, by gauging Canadians’ democratic engagement, educational status, health, and the vitality of their environments.
And third, we have to act, capitalizing on the potential of our communities, overcoming their deficiencies, and closing the gaps.
I hope that my wife and I, during my term as governor general, will do all we can to help Canada be a smarter, more caring nation. Everywhere wego, we will call on individuals and organizations to partner with us by focusing on three pillars, all of which I believe play a vital role in ensuring that our communities thrive.
Helping families and children to ensure community continuity;
Strengthening learning and innovation to create community knowledge; and
Encouraging philanthropy and innovation to cultivate community development.
We can be encouraged that Canadians are a caring people. Since William Alloway gave the first gift of $100,000 to create a community foundation in Winnipeg in 1921, Canadians have been building a legacy of service and giving that has gone on and on and on. Consider this.
Each year, 12 million Canadians spend over two billion hours volunteering. Two billion hours! In food banks and shelters, hospitals and community centers, youth organizations and seniors’ homes, Canadians of all ages are displaying heart in a multitude of ways.
In 2010, Canada’s community foundations received $259 million in new gifts, up $194 million from the year before. Last year alone, the combined assets of Canada’s community foundations totalled $3 billion dollars.
But we can, and must, do more. We must continue to motivate Canadians to care even more, and address their communities’ needs each and every day.
We must empower community foundations to be even smarter in their work, harnessing innovative approaches and technologies, such as social media, to spread their message and get Canadians involved.
And we must encourage Canadians and their organizations to continue setting goals and priorities for our communities, our provinces and our country on the road to 2017.
On behalf of all Canadians, I want to commend, congratulate and thank you for the valuable work you are doing throughout Newfoundland and Labrador. I know you are not content just to revel in what you have already achieved, but are determined to continue to do more.
After all, like all Canadians, the people of Newfoundland and Labrador have imagined what could be, and then have worked hard to achieve it. Envisioned new possibilities and then set out to make them happen. Have done what George Bernard Shaw intended when he said, “You see things and you say ‘why?’ But I dream things that never were and say, ‘Why not?”